Self Improvement Plan

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Self Improvement Plan

Post by kramnikstudent on October 5th 2016, 11:53 am

Hello All,

The following is how I am planning to start my chess studies starting next week

Do let me know what you think

Self-Assessment:
I am purely a hobby player and I have a new found drive to improve my chess understanding
I have learned the game purely by reading a few books. My play in the opening phase is purely mechanical and out dated. I have never studied endgames and very little knowledge on endgames. All the knowledge assimilated is by playing through annotated master games and watching games online for commentaries of games. I have a vague idea on what principle applies in a particular position and my play is based on general ideas. Thus I am weak in every area of the game.

Materials to be used:
Opening Phase: Grandmaster School Opening Repertoire + Chessbase Opening Encyclopedia
Middle Game: Grandmaster School Core Course + Practical Chess Course
Endgame: Fundamental Chess Endings by Karsten Muller (since this is comprehensive and engine checked. Hence should be relatively error free)
Practical Gameplay:
Saturday: Play 15 minute rated games with Chess Master 10000 using a custom character which is slightly higher than my own rating
Sunday:  Play 15 minute games online with any random human opponent
Analyze and annotate both the games irrespective of the result

Time Frame to improve my game: 1.5 years to 2 years. I do not intend to rush here. The time frame is not a rigid one and it is perfectly okay if I stay in one topic for too long. If I were to get stuck in one area I shall either stay on it till I grasp it or I shall move to the next topic and re-visit the topic later depending on how difficult the topic is

Action Plan
Unlearn everything I have gained over the years and approach chess learning with a fresh frame of mind.

Time to be spent on Chess
Weekdays: 1 Hour per day
Weekends: 2 Hours per day (1 Hour to study and 1 Hour playing games online trying to apply what I have learnt)
Total: 9 Hours per Week

Time Spent on Chess:
Detailed Breakdown
Mon, Tue and Wed – Study Endgames
Thu and Fri – Study Middle games
Saturday – Study Middle games and play 15 minute games with Chess Master 10000 (custom opponent). Annotate the game a few hours after it has been played to be objective in analysis.
Sunday – Study Openings and play 15 minute games online. Annotate the game a few hours after it has been played to be objective in analysis.

kramnikstudent
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Re: Self Improvement Plan

Post by PawnCustodian on October 5th 2016, 12:26 pm

Looks good.

Since you have the Practical Chess Course on you list I'd suggest you set aside Fundamental Chess Endings and stick with the endgame videos ICS provides - they are excellent! FCE tends towards simply pushing reams of analysis without a lot of instructive value. I've said elsewhere that I like Endgame Challenge by John Hall, it is active "training" and introduces all of the essential endgame fundamentals.

Also, you might want to consider reallocating your time budget to achieve a 50/50 split between training and study. Training being playing training games and game analysis (yours and other games from the databases, particularly with your openings). This follows the recommendations of ICS as well as GM Smirnov in his courses.

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Re: Self Improvement Plan

Post by kramnikstudent on October 7th 2016, 5:38 am

Thank you for the suggestions.
I intend to unlearn everything, I thought approaching the endgame as well as every other phase of the game from scratch from a good source would help. I did browse through the Practical Chess Course and the endgame course seems to be a bit fairly advanced. If the basics are shaky then what one learns later wont be absorbed properly
I will check out the endgame challenge in the next couple of days. Also will try for a 50-50 split between the games and study

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Re: Self Improvement Plan

Post by PawnCustodian on October 7th 2016, 8:39 am

Good luck!

One other source for endgame study is the Theory problems on ChessTempo.com. No instruction, but some free practice playing out the basic endgames. My problem with the problem servers is that they can quickly become addictive so if you go that route be careful.

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Re: Self Improvement Plan

Post by fiveredapples on October 12th 2016, 4:14 am

Hi Kramnik,

You certainly seem serious about improving.  I'm just an intermediate player myself, but here is my advice.  Do with it what you will.

1) Learn checkmate patterns.  A computer or books are great for this.

2) Learn tactics.  Books or an online chess site is good for this.  I recommend lichess.org because they give you unlimited puzzles without charging; whereas chess.com limits the number of puzzles you can do per day unless you purchase a membership.

3) Don't play anything less than 1-hour games if you plan on analyzing your games.  When you play longer games, then you can think through your position and moves, so when you analyze later, you can make progress by noting what you overlooked.  If you play shorter games, then you might play poorly because of time pressure and then your analysis might not tell you much of anything.  Basically, you want to factor out 'time' as a cause for your poor moves.    

4) I wouldn't play a computer.  They play like, well, computers.  Play people -- they play differently and they're whom you ultimately want to play and beat.      

5) You don't need much opening knowledge to get into the middlegame (without too much damage done) against beginning or low-intermediate players.  Just try to apply opening principles.  Of course, when you start to play better players, some will kill you with their openings, which is no fun because you're basically done for right out the gate.  You should slowly build a repertoire: one opening for White and maybe two for Black (against d4- and -e4 players).  And you don't need too go too deep.  Just learn the first ten moves of the mainline and maybe one side variation.  That's it.  If you're almost equal after 10-12 moves, I think your opening knowledge has served you well.  Don't focus too much on openings.  In a sense, it's not chess.  It's just rote memorization.  At some point you too will need to remember several openings and several variations, but for now I think you just want your opening knowledge to get you into middlegames somewhat safely.  

6) Find a partner to learn with or to follow your learning course with.  You will motivate each other.

7) Find a chess hero.  As grownups we are typically at a great disadvantage in that we don't idolize people anymore.  But most grandmasters tell of stories of pouring over the annotated games of their childhood heroes.  Having such a hero will motivate you to study his games, study how he thought and why he made the moves he did -- it will get you closer to playing like him, which is the goal.  I might be going on a limb here, but maybe you can study Kramnik's games.

That's all I can think of at this hour.  Good luck.  I just started the ICS program myself.

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Re: Self Improvement Plan

Post by PawnCustodian on October 12th 2016, 10:01 am

fiveredapples wrote:

4) I wouldn't play a computer.  They play like, well, computers.  Play people -- they play differently and they're whom you ultimately want to play and beat.      


This has become a controversial area the last several years as computers have become more positionally competent. In his course "Self Taught Grandmaster" GM Smirnov recommends a 50/50 mix of training games with people and computers, mainly because computers can bring complete objectivity to games. We all bring prejudices to the game and certain types of positions, and the computer will strip those away.

It difficult though, you have to play to learn, not win, against the computer - they have an unfair advantage (they a allowed to consult opening books, and they are allowed to write down their notes in hash files and your are not during the game). However, the computer's near infallibility makes it a great tool to test out your thinking system.

In some cases chess engines can become somewhat predictable, so it's a good idea to mix engines and opening books if you decide to use computers in your training games.

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Re: Self Improvement Plan

Post by kramnikstudent on October 12th 2016, 10:30 am

To clarify when I said I will be playing an engine , I had said "Study Middle games and play 15 minute games with Chess Master 10000 (custom opponent)"
Chessmaster allows us to choose a character against whom we can play the game. My plan is to choose a custom character, someone who is slightly more than my playing strength.
Based on my experience the engine usually makes weak moves in the opening , sometimes sacrifices a piece for 2 pawns and gives the human player a winning position. However in the middlegame and endgame it plays strong moves which makes it difficult to convert the advantage. I have lost many games where the engine says + 2.00 or + 3.00. Usually the engine sets up some cheap tactics which one has to avoid and more often than not , one always manages to fall into it.
I believe this would help one improve ones ability to win a won game

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Re: Self Improvement Plan

Post by kramnikstudent on October 17th 2016, 6:37 am

Week 1 Update:
I started training on Monday, 10th Oct and went through a few endgames.
I had some dental issues and had to get an extraction done which is still bothering me, hence didn't focus much on learning new stuff.
I Went through the first 2 pdf files of the chessmaster core course
While playing games online , I constantly pushed myself to think outside my natural "instincts" while playing blitz. Taking a few seconds extra to reconsider my decisions. While playing long games I forced myself to calculate more lines than I usually do. However I managed to lose two totally winning positions in the last week both of which were quite painful.
I usually play banter blitz on chess24. Out of all the people I play with I had marked kingscrusher as my first target because rest of the people hosting banter blitz are IM's and GM's. I was hoping that I was not unrealistic with my goals.
Over the past 7 weeks I have a score of 0 against KC out of 5 games.
I analyzed his openings and playing style for a few days and I played him on Sunday. Finally I managed to win a game against him with black Smile
The next target to start consistently beating him and equalize my personal score with him over the next few months. (1-5)
I do feel that updating on a weekly basis would become tedious. Hence will try to update my progress as and when I make some progress.

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Re: Self Improvement Plan

Post by kramnikstudent on October 29th 2016, 3:16 pm

Unfortunately I havent been able to study much from the ICS since the last update. Work had been a bit hectic. During the weekends I managed to have some training sessions with a user on chess24. We analyzed endgames with the White pawns on f3 and h4 , White king on g1 , White Rook on g5 , Black has a rook on a2 and King on f6. The position is a draw as per theory and tablebase but it was difficult to achieve it in a practical game. We played a few unrated games taking each side and then analyzing it with an engine. During the last weekend I again played Kingscrusher in Banter blitz , he had a win then I had a win and ultimately the game was a draw. So over the last 2 weeks I managed not to lose to him and hence seems like I am playing okay. I do still hang a piece occasionally and that is still an area of concern in my play. Its festive season in India and hence will start working seriously in a couple of days

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Re: Self Improvement Plan

Post by kramnikstudent on April 21st 2017, 7:07 am

After a long time I am writing again. Unfortunately my work circumstances on has made me move away from learning chess. I haven't yet started the Chess Course Sad which makes me sad.
Even though I could not formally study chess, I found that there has been an improvement in my playing level (I can feel the difference!)
Over the past few months , I managed to get the following results on online Banter blitz games against pretty good players. During the period August 2016- Jan 2017 I was a kind of a pushover for the strong (IM players) having almost 0 chance of winning or drawing games against them, however over the past few months I have been getting into equal positions against IM's and even GM's. There has been a few disasters here and there but overall there has been a jump in my level of play and understanding. I managed to draw and win against an IM which seemed like an impossible for me 6 months back.
The reason for the jump which I have analyzed is as follows:
1) Working on Tactics Training : During work breaks I would open my app and solve a few problems. I realized that in many cases even though I got the answer right , I did not manage to calculate all the possibilities for the defending side. This was one area I worked on. Taking a few extra minutes to calculate further lines rather than thinking that there is only one main line leading to a win. Also when at home I would work on a few positions here and there when I could find some time
2) Endgame Studies: I attended Training Sessions on Chess 24 where in many cases the trainer would show us some studies to solve. I could solve 0 positions but it helped me to drastically improve my calculation abilities and ability to find resources in the positions.  I have come to the realization that many of us players have underestimated the value of solving chess studies and what it can do to ones chess
3) 0 Work on openings: I have stopped focusing on studying the openings of late. My opening knowledge is outdated (20 years old) but over the past few months my focus has been simply to get into a playable position and then take it from there
4) Stop making impulsive moves:Previously when there is a position where I am not sure what to do , I used to lash out and tried to make things happen. These days however I have become a bit more sober. I try to avoid making any move which will create a permanent weakness in my position.
I really hope I can start something from the ICS Course and I really hope I reach 2200-2300 level sometime in the future.

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