Some Thoughts About Improvement

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A common theme that I continue to see in adult improvement content is that, for some unknown reason, many people have decided that improvement cannot be fun and must be a grind.

From my point of view, neither of those are necessarily true statements.

The internet is full of folks who are several hundred (even 1,000+) points below whatever rating level is being discussed, but they are speaking definitively that “The only way to get to ____ is to ____.” e.g., “The only way to get to 2200 is to spend at least five hours a day studying for ten years.” or something along those lines.

The main problem here is how would they know.

Let’s use me as an example here. My rating is currently 1848, and I am trying to get to 2200. I can speak pretty definitively on what it took for me to get to 1800, but I can’t tell you a thing about what it takes to get to 2200. I can tell you what my plan is to get there, but I can’t tell you if it will work. Along the way, over the years of my journey, I have made several changes to what I am doing as I learn what works and what doesn’t for me.

The key takeaway in that sentence is the last two words. “For me.”

However, my journey started a dozen years ago. I was just under 1500, and my current peak rating is 1898. So I can speak about how I gained those 400 peak-to-trough points. Did I do it by grinding away for hours every single day on things that I hate? Absolutely not.

Mostly, what I have done to this point is just to spend *some* time on chess almost every single day. Sometimes that looks like me spending a couple of minutes on Chessable knocking on an opening line or some tactics. Sometimes it looks like me spending several hours on analyzing a game of mine or playing through GM games, etc.

The point is consistency, not pain. Sure, sometimes I spend a lot of time taking the pain. This has been illustrated in my recent work over the past year or so on openings. In general, I don’t like studying openings. But I will not consistently beat the players I need to beat to get to 2200 if I don’t stop getting horrible positions out of the opening. Yet, if I decided that I was going to grind openings to the detriment of everything else, then how would I possibly be able to keep my head in the game?

I don’t think I could. To study chess with an eye toward improving, I am convinced that it needs to be enjoyable. At least, that turns out to be the case when I am the improver.

Therefore, I split the time as best I can. Today, perhaps I will work on lines in the Caro. Tomorrow, maybe I solve some puzzles. Then, the day after, I could decide it’s time to play through some GM games or read a bit more of Reassess Your Chess.

Again, I can’t pretend to be able to speak with any authority on where I am trying to go. But I can speak that way with where I am now.

Since you made it this far, here’s a puzzle to solve. The solution is at the bottom.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott