On February 13th one of the more interesting events of my chess career came to an end.
The Quality Chess Book Challenge started by an offhand comment by my friend, NM Richard Martin, that QC’s products were so good that it should be possible to improve greatly using nothing by their materials.
So I decided to give it a year. The one thing that I refused to be dogmatic about was not using anything when no QC product existed.
So for example, lacking much material on endgames I used Minev’s book on rook endings when I wanted to study them. I also used a lot of online and book resources to work on tactics.
So how did things go? What were the successes? Failures? And where do we go from here?
The first, and most obvious, thing to look at would be rating. My rating started at 1804 and ended at 1761. So no real measure there. I don’t consider a 43 point rating loss a failure, but nor would I consider a 43 point gain to be any real mark of improvement.
The reason why I don’t consider these small types of moves to be much of anything is a situation like in my final game at my most recent tournament. I lost a game that had I won would have made more than a 30 point swing. Losing that game put me at 1761, while winning that game would have left me at 1793. I don’t see long term success and failure as measured by the results of only one or two games.
Things I though went well:
I think that my approach started out more disciplined. Knowing that I was limited in what I could use to study, I tended to put more focus into one thing at a time instead of flitting from thing to thing.
Sadly, that didn’t last, and by the end I was reading a few pages of one book before switching off to something different. Yet for the first eight or nine months I was definitely more focused.
So if I can tap in to that focus and keep it going I think that only good things can happen.
Another thing that I felt went well is that I developed more of a taste for solving that I used to have. Solving is a very important part of improvement as it’s the closest one can come to replicating game conditions while not playing.
What didn’t go well:
I was hoping that this challenge would give me more drive to push through and increase my study time. My friend Susan Polgar has said things along the lines of champions train when others are sleeping or watching TV.
Unfortunately I didn’t really study any more than I already do. On a great day I’ll get two hours. Typically that might be on a Saturday morning. On a good day I might get an hour. On a typical day it’s less than that. Maybe 30-40 minutes.
Partially this is due to being married. I’m not going to come home from work and tell my wife “Hi, bye, gotta go study chess now.” Which means that I typically don’t get to start working on chess until after she goes to bed.
So 10:00-10:30pm is usually my start time. As I get up at 5:15am to go to work I can’t push the envelope too far. Of course this means that I’m not exactly at peak performance when I do study.
So where do we go from here?
The first thing that I am going to do is set myself a new challenge. I plan on reading books two and three in the Yusupov series this year. Sure, that’s not much, but it’s easily doable.
The second thing that I plan on doing is starting to spend at least one hour going over the openings of each game I play. I need to learn more theory than I currently know, so I’ll do this in bite size chunks.
The third thing that I’m going to do is to work on making the study time I do have more efficient. Primarily I’m not going to spend my evening study time working on tactics. My plan to keep on working on tactical acumen is to just solve a few here and there throughout the day on my phone. That should give me the 15-30 min a day I’d like to spend, and still leave my evening time open for other things.
My goal this year is to exceed my all time peak rating of 1896.
Til Next Time,