8

I'm about 1700 ELO, and I've recently started playing regularly in tournaments. I love playing, and I love the competition. My main goal is to be a 2000+ player.

I got to 1700 by simply doing tactics problems and playing as carefully as I can to not make dumb tactical mistakes in my games. I can beat weaker players this way, but I usually get outplayed against stronger players who just don't make obviously bad moves. I must study stuff other than tactics if I want to get better.

Thing is, I feel there is just too much to study. I can spare 3-4 hours a day on chess, but I cannot do anything constructive because I'm trying to learn everything: books on my most frequently played opening lines, books on pawn structures, books on planning, books on endgame studies, books on instructive master games, books everywhere! And then there is practicing my calculation and analysis by playing solitaire chess, and analyzing my own games to figure out my weaknesses, and improving my board vision. I can go on, but you get the idea.

If I was focusing on any one of those things I would be fine, but doing all of them is overwhelming. So the best way to figure out what to do is to ask people who are already at the point I want to be. 2000+ ELO players, how was your daily training (when you were not playing at some tournament)?

Obviously there are different ways to train, but I'd like to hear about these different ways so that I can have an idea about how to get started on making my own custom program that I can stick to.

  • Playing different pawn structures is a good idea. – magd Aug 4 '15 at 12:34
10

First of all, there is no method that will just make you half an Elo point stronger each and every day. Chess improvement usually happens in leaps and bounds with long phases of seeming stagnation in between.

The reason you feel overwhelmed is that you focus on the result instead of the process. And you realise that between the desired result and your current state there is still so much work to do. And where to start?

The answer is that it doesn't really matter where you start. If you immerse yourself in chess for several hours a day, you will get better. It is not so much what exactly you do that is important, it is the attitude of mental activity and joyful exploration. Otherwise you will just lose motivation or never really get started.

Personally I played through lots and lots of books, basically what ever chess book I could get my hands on. But I know other people who got over 2000 Elo just by playing many tournaments (like rapid tournaments basically every weekend).

I also always solved a lot of puzzles. Played against myself (trying to find nice combinations), played against a board computer, probably didn't play enough tournaments.

My personal advice would be: Play as many tournament games as possible. Playing chess is a practical skill. In between tournaments do tactics and stuff that is fun for you. Go and get just one book at a time. If you need something really structured, do the Yusupov books.

4

My advice is 2 fold:

  1. Work on the middle game and endgame principles you struggle with the most
  2. To identify your weaknesses, either analyse your games or work with a coach for a few hours a week (preferably both)

Explanation for point 1:

From your post you sound like you've hit a wall with tactics, and now you need to learn positional play. Say that you find that you allow your opponent too many chances for counterplay. Use your existing books to study prophylaxis, the art of stopping your opponent's plan. This increases the likelihood of them making a tactical mistake, which you already know how to win.

Explanation for point 2:

This is quite self explanatory - working on your weaknesses improves your game most effectively. Having a stronger player direct you and help explain the concepts, then direct your self study will help you become really strong.

P.S.1: It's tempting to spend a lot of time studying openings, but this would be a waste of effort. I'm rated almost 2058 elo and my opponents come out of book at move 5 more often than not. The problem is is that these are not sufficiently large errors to win straight away. There is still a lot of chess (middlegame and endgame) before you win

P.S.2: Don't buy more books or resources. Switching between lots of different resources can be quite confusing.

P.S.3: I'd be remiss to not mention the openings at all. My advice is to keep your repertoire simple. For example, I always open with 1. d4, because I like it and I feel I understand it quite well for my level. I have one response to 1. e4 (the Caro-Kann), and one against 1. d4 (the Slav). Again, they're in my style, and that's all that really matters for openings, as long as they don't lose on the spot!

2

I would advise the following: try not to not spend too much time studying openings, but find some solid openings that suit you, and stick with them rather than moving around. Play as many tournament games (or at least serious games) as possible; work hard at the board, and analyze your tournament games afterwards. Play more than you study, and don't try to study too much (either time-wise or material-wise): emphasize quality of study time (focusing and putting in some effort) over quantity of study time (studying on autopilot doesn't help much, no matter how much you study). And try to remember during the entire process that chess is supposed to be fun.

I just want to emphasize that playing in tournaments and playing against stronger players is the most important thing. No one gets strong from studying alone. Most of my actual studying time involved only a handful of books (The original Encyclopedia of Chess Middlegame Combinations, a collection of Paul Keres' games, Keres' Practical Chess Endings, and a single volume of games from Informant). However, the correlation between the amount of time I spend studying and my rate of improvement was not very high. Instead, my rate of improvement was greatest during the time periods I was most active as a tournament player: that is, the last three years of high school, and the two years immediately following my graduation from college. In fact, my only two periods of substantial improvement corresponded rather precisely with the periods in which I played the most tournament chess. Although I sometimes studied chess in periods when I was not an active tournament player, this studying did not seem to have a very significant impact on my overall chess strength.

1

From 1700 to 2000 I

Changed around my openings a lot. 1.e4 -> Trompowksy and Pseudo-Trompowsky -> different 1.e4 lines. Sicilian Sveshnikov -> Nimzowitch Defence. Nimzo Indian-> Chigorin. The tactical ability should stay and moving openings around should improve your positional understanding.

Studied basic endings - Essential Chess Endings by James Howell.

Played blitz online to keep in shape and regular league and tournament chess.

  • I forgot and read Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy by Watson which almost improved my strength overnight. – magd Aug 4 '15 at 12:39

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