Been in the Bunker for a While

It’s been a while I posted here.  This isn’t because I’ve lost interest in chess and improving, it’s because I’ve been busy with many chess-related projects which have taken some time away from being able to blog.

For those who subscribe to American Chess Magazine, you may have noticed that I am now an Associate Editor there.  My first piece ran in the most recent issue (a profile of the Webster University team) and I spent a lot of time finishing up my second piece, which will run in the next issue.

I am also working for the first time as editor on an upcoming chess book.  That hasn’t taken a ton of time yet, but it will over the coming weeks.

Playing wise I’m finally back on the upswing.  I seem to have this pattern which repeats where I gain a ton of points, drop 150, then go 100+ past the prior high water mark before repeating.  If that’s the case here, then hopefully this will be the surge that eventually takes me over 1900.

I also plan on setting up a plan to get to 2000.  I’ve been researching the process of learning itself so that I can hopefully put together a training plan in a proper way.

One thing which I have been doing for a week or so now is I saw this class by IM Danny Rensch where he gave the tip that if a student has a plan, like say “Today I’m going to do 30 minutes of tactics and then 30 minutes on rook endings” that he recommends you develop the discipline to finish what you have planned before allowing yourself to move on to the next thing.

As an example, let’s say you’re working on the 30 minutes of tactics and you get several in a row wrong and you’re frustrated and want to say “forget this” and move on to the endgames.  Under Rensch’s methodology this isn’t allowed.  You have to develop the discipline to finish the first thing before you can move on to the next.

What’s interesting with this philosophy is that it drove home the point to me that I waffle a lot in my study.  I start out intending to do one thing, then wind up doing many things that weren’t on the list originally.  This really made me see how unorganized my study has been.

I think that perhaps the issue I’ve been having of late is that it’s easier to get away with unfocused study up to a point.  Since you need to learn approximately five times less to go from 1500-1600 than you do to go from 1800-1900 it’s easier to get there even while more or less drifting through study sessions.

So far I’ve had sessions that consisted of:

30 minutes of tactics, followed by playing through an annotated game in a line I play.

30 minutes of tactics, followed by playing through the Game of the Century

30 minutes of tactics followed by playing through an annotated game in the most recent New in Chess.

120 minutes of tactics

30 minutes of tactics followed by 60 minutes on rook endings.

As you can see, I’m still working heavily on tactics in my study routine.  It’s interesting because I’ve been focusing on this heavily for the past couple of years, but this week I realized that I like to only do a handful and then just move on to something else in an unfocused way.

That’s not going to work to get to Expert.  And clearly Expert is the next main step on the road to master.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

2 thoughts on “Been in the Bunker for a While”

  1. The international chess school says that a study must be very rigorous and organized, it is a must for serious progress. A piecemeal approach and not following a study plan is the No. 1 mistake of learning.

    1. I agree with that completely Johan. The challenge I’ve had is that I have so many chess related things that take away time from being able to study.

      So it becomes a trade off. I write a lot of articles, and that means less time to study, but through those articles I make friends and connections and the next thing I know I’m in the Chess House in St Louis hanging out with top ten players watching them play bughouse.

      OK, if I never wrote at all that would give me an extra couple of hundred hours each year to study, and there is no doubt I’d be stronger, but I’m never going to be *that* strong. Weak master is my goal here.

      So while I know that I cost myself some chess strength by getting sidetracked, I’ve made some real friends and connections in the process and that gives me better access and enjoyment than a few hundred more rating points could.

      The challenge is not to get so sidetracked that master slips out of reach.

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