Time Waits for No One

One of the most challenging parts of any study plan, regardless of how it is formatted, is how to properly allocate the study time that you do have.

If you’re like me, time for chess is limited.  Improving at chess is important to me, but I have a job and I have a wife and I will not continuously neglect either of them for the sake of improvement.

This means that in the typical day I get around one good hour to work and parts of another hour more often than not.

On the weekends I can usually get an extra hour each day over and above the weekday time.  So in a good week I’m getting 10 quality hours if I use them all.  So how to use them properly?

Well, one thing that you should know about my chess schedule is that it includes a rated club game every Thursday.  This means I typically know who my opponent is at least a couple of days in advance.  So it would seem that opening prep should be a natural part of what I do.

Well, it is, but lately not in the way that it used to be.

Until recently I would prep for my next opponent.  So if I was White this Thursday against a QGD player I might work on some 5.Bf4 stuff for a while, but then next Thursday I wind up Black against someone who plays the Spanish so I wind up working on the Breyer for a bit or whatever.

The problem with this is that it started to become very disjointed.  It never felt like I was digging deeply in to the openings I play because I was always rushing off to study the line for next week.

So lately I have changed that up quite a bit.  Now I work on openings a couple of days a week, and I just work on whatever opening I’m working on.  My idea is that I can work on the specific opening for the game I just played when I analyze that game.  Otherwise, I want my opening time to revolve around the same one so that I can dig much deeper than I have in the past.

I am currently waiting on the first Yusupov volume, and my plan for when I receive it is to do the following.

Two days a week I will spend at least an hour on openings.  In a more perfect world it would be more like 90 minutes.  This would mean that roughly 30% of my time is spent on opening work.  That’s a bit high for my tastes, but I’m playing catch up here since I’ve never studied openings at all until recently.

One day per week (likely Friday) I will analyze the game I just played that week.

The rest of the time will be devoted to Yusupov.

Now since I play on Thursdays this leaves only six days per week to study (and less than that during weeks like this one where I have a weekend tournament coming up.)

In order to maximize my efforts I intend to not work on openings at all on the weekend.  Instead, all opening work will be done during the week.  The primary reason for this is so that I’m not spending the longer amount of time I get on the weekend each day on openings, but rather on the item that should pay off the most, the Yusupov.

In theory this breakdown should mean that in a week with no weekend tournament (and since I only play one every couple of months, this means most weeks) I can work on openings for three hours, game analysis for two, and Yusupov between five and seven.

Jacob Aagaard told me that he thinks that if I push myself I can get through one Yusupov book each month.  I honestly don’t know if 20-30 hours per month will be enough for the Yusupov, but that will be my intention starting out.

So we’ll see what happens.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

6 thoughts on “Time Waits for No One”

  1. Being single I have about 3 hours a day to study chess if I want. I only started monday to do so, but then 2 hours instead of 3 and this on monday-thursday. Friday is my chess club day on which I play lets say on about 55-65% of the year an official game. Saterday is a rest day and sunday mornings I give lessons to adults of our club.

    Our National team championship runs from oktober to april and during those months we have to play 11 official games for that championship. More locally, provincial team championship runs from january to april on which we have to play nine games for that championship. After that, in april six games minimum for club championship, in july the international tournament of Gent. That are the certainties for me during the year. And if I have time and am not to tired I compete in day rapid tournaments and in Zuiderkempen (7 rounds, 2 hours KO games, on a friday in period oktober-december).

    I dont believe much in studying openings, that gets important if you are 2000+ rated, but at our, well atleast mine, patzer level you can play any opening you want. You dont have to be stacked up with the latest theory.

    I only have to learn to analyse my games so that I can find out my weaknessess. Find it the least pleasent thing to do. So, at the moment, I just focus on tactics, endgame and positional chess.

  2. “I dont believe much in studying openings, that gets important if you are 2000+ rated”.

    But, what if you are playing people rated at least 2000?

    Or, do you avoid that like the plague?

  3. @Dean Arond: The openings that I play I have learned by playing them, over and over. For example, the London system and Coll-Zuckertort I thought I had invented myself until a club mate pointed out that there were plenty of books about it.

    I just use the three golden rules if I have to play an opening I dont know namely 1. one pawn in the centre not more then two, 2. develop pieces, 3. King safety.

    Overall best win is against a 2308 rated player, last year best win was against a 2015 player with me white playing Scotisch opening, an opening I didn’t know but my opp was also in the dark.

    Maybe I get more points if I study openings, but God has placed the middlegame after the opening and there it is that the battle of the game takes places, not in the opening. The opening is just the time where you place your pieces to get start the battle.

    This year, I admit, I have only played lower rated players. But that is due the fact that I only have played in team events this year and then you dont pick your opponents. But even then, you have to win and sometimes that isn’t easy, certainly not against youth that is underrated. But I may not complain, I have 3,5/4 so far. Only drew a 1513 rated youth player who went on to draw a 2020 player the next game he played.

    So I say, first learn to play chess (which I am still doing after 28 years of playing in a club) before you even bother to study openings. 🙂

  4. Uh, I think the expression is that God put the opening before the middlegame! Depending on who you are playing, the right opening can give you better chances and there are openings where you can crush people just from the opening preparation.

    For instance: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.O-O Nf6 5.d4 tends to be deadly against players rated under 1800.

    On the other hand, if you just want to at least draw a higher rated player with Black, then:

    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Nxe4 has almost never let me down.

    If you are Black against a Queen’s Gambit player and don’t mind having a winning position in 10 moves or less against people rated over 2000, then:

    1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ne4 usually does the trick.

    Good luck!!

  5. A Yusupov book a month is quite aggressive considering 5-7 hrs /week(3 days if I counted your schedule correctly).
    I have a rating similar to yours (1850 USCF) and am in the 3rd orange book. It takes 30-60 minutes to go thru the reading the way it is rec’d in the book and then a minimum of 45 minutes to do the 12 problems and than another 15-30 to go thru the solutions until I am satisfied I understand them.

    There are occasional chapters that are easy(quickest was maybe 45 minutes total for reading, problems, answer review) but some were hard(4+ hrs for whole chapter).

    All to say, with the time limit you have and assuming roughly similar ability(as judged by similar rating), 3 chapters a week seems to be reasonable which will be 2 months a book if you truly aren’t doing anything else with the time other than as outlined.

    1. So it’s typically going to be 60-120 minutes four times a week (Mon-Wed, then Fri as I play on Thursdays) but then on the weekends I can usually get an extra hour or two. So call it 10-12 hours per week realistically. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

      I will be spending roughly an hour a week of my time working on tactics and another couple hours on analyzing my games. That leaves me somewhere in the seven to nine hour range for Yusupov. Once I receive the first book and start working through it, I can adjust as needed.

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