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A little bit of background: I started playing chess when I was almost 20 years of age, my first FIDE tournament was when I was 25 and my first FIDE rating was in the low 1900's.

At first, I thought, I could reach IM if I dedicate myself, which in hindsight is such a ridiculous belief. In these 6 years I played mostly online or with friends, never studied the game actively, but only passively watching videos and using the analysis board, so my thought was that if I apply myself it would come easily -- this was very wrong to believe.

A couple of years later (also didn't play through the covid era) and I am fluctuating between 1920 - 1980 FIDE and can't seem to get past the 2k mark. I do sometimes work on calculation and openings, but I mostly play a lot of longer games online and maybe a fourth of that is OTB. My highest online ratings (lichess) in bullet, blitz, rapid and classical were 2500, 2350, 2440 and 2400. I do seem to fluctuate between 2300-2400 in all categories. I understand OTB is very different.

I also want to mention my most glaring weaknesses (of which there are many, I probably do not even understand where I am weak at): 1.) Time management, 2.) Opening knowledge 3.) Endgames.

I calculate a lot and I do see a lot, but can't make up my mind on which direction the game should go which leads me into time trouble, this is also connected to a lack of opening knowledge where I need to spend a lot of time calculating in order to be sure to get a playable position and not lose immediately. I can play endgames, but I do not know theoretical endgames. My last three OTB games I play the last 20-30 moves on 1 minute and lost good positions.

I would appreciate tips on how to avoid this. With that being said, lately I am very frustrated and do take losses a bit harsher than other people, especially if it is OTB (recently on a losing spree), so I want to ask the chess community if anyone was in a similar position and/or how did you get over 2k FIDE? Any specific tips?

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    it's already very impressive to reach 1900 rating when starting as an adult with more responsibilities
    – qwr
    Mar 28 at 2:44

2 Answers 2

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my most glaring weaknesses ... 1.) Time management

A number of thoughts on this which center on your physical being and consequent state of mind..

  1. I used to have time trouble problems. My clock would go under 5 minutes and I would start blundering. Basically I couldn't handle the heightened state of my nervous system. What I did to fix this was start playing rapid tournaments where I wrote down the moves. In a 10+5 this was until my clock went under a minute. In 20+10 until it went under 30 seconds.

The effect of this was break up the tension and excitement of the Zeitnot with a physical action which took attention away from the board and broke the mental tension. It helped generate calmness amid the mental storm. It broke the bad habits.

This wasn't a case of playing one such tournament and done. Building up habits takes time. So does breaking them down.

  1. FIDE banned substances are basically central nervous system stimulants (Do FIDE rules ban stimulants? Which ones?). They help you stay awake and alert in you are sleepy. One of them, the study drug Modafinil, is actually prescribed for narcolepsy. If your problem is staying awake and being alert then unless you have a medical condition the solution is lifestyle - get enough quality sleep and eat and drink sensibly - not prescription drugs.

There was some research published a few years which was mentioned here (but I can't find) looking at whether/how these substances could improve performance at chess. The conclusion was that overall it was a wash, nos significant change in performance. Specifically they found that the drugged players made fewer mistakes but lost on time more often. Basically they struggled to make up their mind when faced with several equally good move choices.

If this is you then cut out or reduce the stimulants like coffee. Instead fix your lifestyle - sleep, diet and exercise.

Note also that your brain can get its energy from both glucose and ketones (BHB = BetaHydroxyButyrate) but ketones provide a smoother ride. If you spike blood sugar then you spike insulin and your blood sugar crashes, you have to take more sugar and you slowly destroy your waistline and health. The best solution is a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet (one where your body manufactures ketones from fat - not possible when insulin is spiked) but which you can also get by consuming foods high in MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) particularly coconut oil.

my most glaring weaknesses ... 2.) Opening knowledge 3.) Endgames.

As I'm sure you know, these are both due to a lack of study and preparation. If you are familiar with a particular type of endgame then your calculation gets a jump start. You are not aiming for checkmate or a (nonexistent) material advantage, you are aiming for a position which you both know is winning but also know from previous study how to win.

One excellent book for you is English GM, Jonathan Hawkins' "Amateur to IM" which as well as studying a number of important endgames also teaches you how to think during the endgame, what approach to take.

On openings, you need to have a repertoire of openings you know well. This doesn't mean just memorising a bunch of moves. It means being familiar with the patterns of pieces and plans for both sides, knowing what you are aiming for. This also feeds into your time management problem. Knowing where you want to get to simplifies and speeds up your calculations.

My last piece of advice would be to stop playing online and play more OTB. You appear to play for the adrenaline rush rather than improvement. Particularly cut out the bullet, blitz and fast rapid. Play more OTB where you write down the moves. Then you can analyse your games at home and identify weaknesses and problems. That doesn't just mean failures in calculation. It means mental problems associated with other pressures at the board.

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    Awesome answer. A lot of the things you mentioned were spot on with me. Particularly the sugar crash and the nerves. I would also get heart palpitations from time to time due to the nervousness. The book you mentioned is on my reading list! Anyway, thanks for your truthful answer.
    – sfsm
    Mar 26 at 19:11
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I'd recommend you check out Mark Dvoretsky and Arthur Yusupov's School of Future Champions, also to improve your endgame knowledge you should take a look at Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual which is the go-to book for anyone above or near 2000 FIDE. Also remember that it's crucial to analyse your games to understand your mistakes, 'if we do not learn from our mistakes they're doomed to repeat themselves' - some wise person. Goodluck with your journey!

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  • I find those books a bit intimidating, but maybe I'll give it a go. Thank you.
    – sfsm
    Mar 26 at 19:12

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