8

I'm a 1800 chess player.

I know pretty much all the basics in every fields of the game.

I know the main lines of openings, I know tactics, I know end game. Average in all of it (=1800 player). I would say I'm a little bit more of a tactic player though.

I know that I need to study to get to 2000 which is the dream for me.

My question is:
What would be the best things to train to really get to 2000 ELO without too much work?

Should I become a tactical beast and just learn easy openings?
Should I dig deeper in all openings (which is a pretty big work)?
Should focus on finals?

I know all of this important, but it's a lot of studying for these 200 points I'm missing. I really wonder if there's a shortcut to reach just 2000, I don't plan to become a master with all the knowledge needed for that.

  • 1
    There are some missing details in the information you're giving. For example: Are you the kind of player who plays well when you have a good position, and just collapses when you have a bad position? Then, you may need to start playing against strong opponents more than you are doing for the moment, so that you can practice defending bad positions. I'm mentioning this specifically because I know that many players below 2000 Elo have this issue with their chess. – Scounged Nov 12 '15 at 17:26
  • I might want to start to pay attention to that, yes. I'm the kind of player that fight til the end, but I sometime loose faith and tend to go "all or nothing" spirit. Interesting. – Sebastien FERRAND Nov 12 '15 at 21:03
13

The best thing to train is (almost) always calculation:

  • Get a set of maybe 1000 3-5 move combinations and go through those problems until you basically know them by heart. That's to enable pattern recognition.
  • Apart from that set, concentrate on calculating long variations in your training instead of just seeing tactical shots. The Yusupov books are a good source.
  • Maybe try to learn to play blindfold. That demands a lot of concentration and improves your visualisation

The next best thing to train is positional understanding:

  • Play tournament games against strong players.
  • Analyse these games with strong players.
  • A big part of positional play is connected to typical opening setups. So if you spend time on the opening, spend it by learning about typical ideas.
  • This Aagaard book I liked.

I wouldn't worry too much about the endgame or the opening. Good endgame play builds on strong calculation, good opening play builds on positional understanding. Just learning stuff by heart without having this foundation is not going to benefit you much. And the essentials you'll probably pick up anyway.

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    Any suggestion on resource about play blindfolded? More systematic treatment, rather than single-page website or 5min youTube video if possible please. – jf328 Nov 12 '15 at 11:23
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    There is a rather big book about blindfold chess: blindfoldchess.net – BlindKungFuMaster Nov 12 '15 at 11:32
  • @BlindKungFuMaster My understanding (from their webpage) was that the book is about blindfold players, more historical in nature than a practical guide of how to do it. Did you read it and/or could you verify that? – 11684 Nov 14 at 7:09
  • I didn't read and you might be right about the focus, but the description also says: "Hints for playing blindfold chess, the benefits of playing blindfold, and a readable summary of psychological research on blindfold chess ability are also included." – BlindKungFuMaster Nov 14 at 16:43
7

One important thing is to identify possible weaknesses in your play. It depends a lot on you. A coach can sometimes identify serious weaknesses, which, if corrected, can result in a bumb up in results.

I would disagree with BlindKungFuMaster about ignoring the opening and endgame. Endgame study has a high time invested-to-wins ratio. Your chance of getting an endgame you have studied over the board is low, but if it happens your chance of winning will be way, way higher. Most endgames cannot be calculated, you have to know ahead of time what to do. Opening study pays off too, especially if you play sharp openings.

In Soviet Russia players studied opening motifs, meaning standard patterns, a lot as part of their training.

Just solving a lot of problems or practicing will not help you improve if you have plateaued. If you can discipline yourself to analyze in a more structured way, it can help, but most people find it mentally exhausting to do this.

  • Turns out I just found a colleague that turn out to be a very good chess player willing to play with me, she might give me good pieces of advice and help me to work on my mistake :) Otherwise I guess I'm condemned to study every fields of the game, according to you .... – Sebastien FERRAND Nov 17 '15 at 21:41
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    If you do not study openings and endgames, you will lose to players that do. – Cecil De Vere Nov 17 '15 at 21:59
5

I remember the jump from 1900 to 2000. It was over a summer, and I did a lot of things to get better. I'd play blitz chess or hit a tournament over the weekend, and during the week I'd piece together the games that gave me trouble.

I also think studying openings is the least productive of the three ways. It doesn't give you enough back, because you will eventually hit a hole in your opening repertoire and you won't know why. I also ran into a problem of "this has to be right, I have a slight edge, how can I expect to do better?"

Though I think falling on your face in the opening against other players helps: you need to learn to fight from behind, and I found that when I memorized stuff, I wound up saying "But I SHOULD be winning" instead of focusing on taking chances. And you'll know what you need to work at, or against. It's trial by experiment and experience, instead of reading theoretically critical lines you may not understand yet.

One big thing I wished I'd realized was understanding how many errors 2000+ players can make. Computers bear this out, and if you understand they make mistakes, you won't feel you have to understand things perfectly. Have your computer analyze your best and worst games. It's hard to face the mistakes you made, but on the other hand, patterns reveal blind spots. You can also just look at an old game if you only have a few minutes. GM games are great, but they can't point to your individual style. This means, of course, notate your longer games ASAP--at least the ones that can be recorded.

I agree that endgames are quite productive to study or learn. I felt guilty being able to scoop out a win in the endgame, but truth is, it's important to focus on--you can learn how a few pieces work together, which helps you learn how even more work together.

One thing I didn't have was a powerful computer to analyze what I did wrong. Even in games against people rated 400 points below me, I learned a lot. I thought I played solidly and cleverly, but I kept making mistakes that weren't obvious. In a way this is painful, but in a way it keeps you grounded. So I think the keys are

  • if you play blitz, note openings that trouble you, and when, and why you're lost. Quit playing blitz if it becomes more about woodpushing and waiting for an opponent to hang a pawn than actual ideas.
  • after a tourney game, write down stuff that confuses you. If an opponent suggests a longer strategic idea, ask them about it, but try it out against a strong computer when you get home. An example might be letting your opponent place a knight on e4/e5 and seeing why it can't be dislodged, or even ruining your pawn structure. Note moves you didn't have the guts to play and moves you feared. See if your fears were valid. Also pay attention to what your opponent could've done but didn't. It may reveal other weaknesses.
  • play imbalanced openings when you can, if there's not a lot of risk. While it's useful to know/learn how to win a pawn up in static positions, I find chess can get stale if you go too technical too fast--and the lessons learned from dynamic positions can often include useful ones for static positions. It happened for me. You always want to question piece value and activity and make sure you are not playing by rote.
  • find a chess tactics site and play at it. Especially one with comments. Why didn't move X work? Why can't I shuffle the move order? I know I tended to skate with chess puzzles saying "Oh, I made the right move, yay!" and I forgot to look into side lines, or I guessed that this tactic was right because it was a puzzle.

Cecil De Vere's comment about plateauing is one I can relate to. If you feel like you are, or you're doing everything right, but... you may be better off taking a break and maybe playing a different opening to try new stuff.

Of course, this may be moot and you may've made it by now. If so, congratulations! But if not, I hope this helps someone else.

4

A number of chess coaches strongly recommend work on endgames. This is for several reasons:

  1. When you get a similar endgame, you will save a lot of time figuring out what to do, and this often happens when you don't have much time to spare, nearing a control. This is very handy, and potentially winning in a clock race just because your opponent's clock is running down much faster than yours.

  2. Endgames depend more heavily on accurate, long calculations than any other part of the game. If you can practice and improve your competence in the endgame, your calculating ability will come along with it.

  3. Endgames require knowing how to coordinate your pieces to accomplish a goal. You learn to be much more economical about moves, to find the most efficient way of doing things, and to focus on finding ideas that will win.

  4. You also develop better board vision, because there are fewer pieces and the line pieces' range is maximized. You have to always notice when a piece is having an influence on the other side of the board. The endgame is a particularly strong influence on learning to see backward moves, and bounce moves of queens and bishops (2 moves to cross the board using only 2 diagonals, and "bouncing" off the edge on the way). These are almost non-existent moves in the middlegame; you need to play endgames to become good at finding them.

  5. You learn how to use your pawns more effectively, especially in combat with other pawns.

  6. You learn how to redeploy pieces more efficiently. Finding the shortest routes, using checks in transit to earn tempi, keeping lanes clear, and getting pieces out of the way quickly are all skills you develop more in endgames than in other parts of the game.

  7. You learn to appreciate how strong pawns warp the piece value scale, and how the effect is amplified the further up the board they go.

  8. You learn to steer towards endgames where your pieces and position will offer the greatest advantage, and avoid those that will benefit your opponent more than you.

Many of the top chessplayers also dedicate a portion of their time to solving endgame compositions. They are fully aware that no similar position will ever actually appear on the board. What they benefit from is the stretching of the imagination that's required to solve the most challenging puzzles. That's readily transferable to an actual game. Kasparov in particular used to swear by this kind of training.

1

When I reached 1900 I rebuilt my game from the ground up starting with the endgame, then middle-game and then openings.

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