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I'm rated about 1900 USCF and have been stuck between 1800-1900 for a few years not really knowing how to break through to 2000+. I have a good amount of positional understanding and solid foundation in tactics, i.e. I've gotten quite good at solving tactics problems.

That being said, I lose a lot of games due to poor evaluation, time pressure, and erratic blunders. I think that essentially everything in chess goes back to the skill of calculation, including things like time pressure, which is due to inefficient calculation.

So then, how do I further improve my calculation? More visualization exercises? Playing blitz until I can't see straight? Mental exercises? I feel like my visualization is already decent, as I can successfully play 3 blindfolded games at the same time (that's the most I've tried at least). I just don't understand what I've been missing out on that improves my calculation. And if it matters, I'm 20 years old.

Thanks!

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If you can play three games blind-folded, it is unlikely that your problem is calculation. I dare say that there aren't many 1900 USCF players that can do that.

You say you "lose a lot of games due to poor evaluation, time pressure, and erratic blunders". That also doesn't cry out "calculation problems" to me.

In my experience ratings first and foremost reflect positional understanding. Calculation skills make a much smaller difference, at least above a certain threshold.

To be clear, positional understanding isn't knowledge as much as a good feeling for the position. I.e. whether you can precisely estimate how good your position really is and quickly come up with sensible moves and plans. If you are lacking in that department you tend to calculate a lot without achieving much. That results in time pressure and blunders just as surely as having calculation deficits.

So I would rather recommend a book like Positional Play by Jacob Aagaard. If you can easily solve the problems in this book, you can always go back to pure calculation.

By the way, there is a big difference between training calculation and training tactics. Solving tactics depends on seeing motives, training calculation depends on the ability to think far ahead without confusing yourself. So if you do go back to pure calculation, maybe you should try the Calculation book by Aagaard, or similar books by Dvoretsky.

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Practice, practice, practice. Go on ChessTempo or Chess.com and do as many tactics exercises as you can. Performing calculations over and over gradually builds your intuition. When your intuition improves, your implicit calculations abilities improve (meaning you'll be able to play better without consciously trying).

If you want to go further, pick up the Grandmaster Preparation Calculation book. It's excellent, and designed to train players to improve calculation and intuition. The book is useful for anyone trying to reach up to GM level, but it's also fine for your goals.

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1900 uscf is still too low of a rating for positional understanding to mean anything. Most likely your tactics are still too weak. 2200 should not be a problem for players with sufficient tactical abilities but weak positional understanding.

  • If your positional understanding is severely lacking better tactics just don't help you. You won't get the positions, where there is anything to be gained by calculation. I know that because I started out playing against a board computer getting very strong tactically, but lacking positional understanding. I lost for years against people who where tactically much weaker. You probably can't see that because you take a certain positional understanding for granted. – BlindKungFuMaster Jul 13 '18 at 5:28
  • To give you an example what that means: When I started playing tournaments I routinely outperformed my rating by 200-300 points in rapid tournaments. Because in rapid calculation skills are just much more valuable. Of course that is an extreme case, but almost all young(-ish) players have a mismatch between tactical and positional ability. – BlindKungFuMaster Jul 13 '18 at 5:40
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I'll tell you what I did to go from 2000 to 2200. At least 10 chess tempo tactics a day, completing these endgame books (silmans complete endgame manual, dvoretsky's endgame manual, endgame strategy by shereshevsky), went over a few thousand gm games (1-2 guess the move games a day on chesstempo and 6 games a day on 2700chess.com from classical time control games), and played and analyzed at least 1 15+ minute game a day.

If you're 1900 you likely haven't seen enough middle game or endgame patterns (plans and piece maneuvers ), your evaluation abilities aren't strong enough (feeling who is better in a given position), your tactics aren't up to par, you may have trouble recognizing critical moments, and there are probably holes in your black preparation against e4, d4, or c4.

The regimen above will greatly help fix these issues, but it'll take about 3 hours a day. Good luck.

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I am in a similar situation, so I can't really give advise from the perspective of someone who has been to the mountain top, and seen the promised land, but.. I suspect the key here is that to immerse oneself in chess, pursuing knowledge and skill, trying to find answers to questions etc, rather than this or that study program.

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This sounds like a combination of problems. If you are losing due to "erratic blunders" and "time pressure" you are either lacking focus or are thinking incorrectly (or as you say "inefficient calculation").

You should read "Think Like a Grandmaster" by Kotov

This book teaches you how to enumerate candidate moves and tackle branching variations in the most efficient way.

"I lose a lot due to poor evaluation". And it is your difficulty in evaluating positions that is probably leading to your time pressure. Blitz and tactic puzzles are not going to help your evaluation skills.

You need to read over GM games annotated by the players

Getting GM insight into how they evaluate their games will do wonders for your game! I recommend "Symslov's 125 Selected Games", "Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953". "Fire on Board" by Shirov, etc.

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