24 January 2016

Exercise the thing you are bad at

From AoxomoxoA wondering:
Most people exercise the things they are already good in and dont want to do any exercise where they are bad and would benefit most. They like where they are good and are good in what they like, they dont like where they are bad and are bad in what they cant do good. Thats an other reason why it is so important to change method and subject of the training drastically from time to time.
The above observation I think is particularly relevant to my own practice and should resonate with a lot of improving chessplayers.

My two principal "bad" areas when I started this blog were tactics and endgames.  Despite having a busy scholastic playing record and periodic tournaments as an adult, I had never looked at studying tactics in a serious, organized way.  I think a large part of it was the mental trap of "playing styles" - I considered myself a "positional" player, to the detriment of my overall game.  While I'm not a tactics genius now, I have a far, far better appreciation for tactical possibilities and attacking play, which has translated into being able to beat stronger players and find additional successful tactics over the board (on defense as well as attack).  This was done by:
  • Doing regular training in chunks of 10-15 minutes at the Chess Tactics Server, for hands-on practical experience.  This has been supplemented by using the tactics trainer at Chess.com, which provides more complex examples but is also a bit inconsistent at times.
  • Going through Understanding Chess Tactics by FM Martin Weteschnik, which gave me a much better conceptual foundation for recognizing tactical ideas.
  • Working through much of Predator at the Chessboard, which is a site (and companion book) by Ward Farnsworth.
As a result, tactics training is now something I should continue to do, but tactics ability is no longer a gaping hole in my overall game.  

Endgames, however, continue to be that way, above all since I don't like them and am not as good at them (getting back to the original observation from above).  I've made several false starts at more comprehensive endgame study for exactly that reason, but have decided that this year will be one of endgame success.  I therefore pledge to finish all the endgame DVDs I have in my possession (Essential Endgame Knowledge by IM Danny Kopec and GM Karsten Muller's Chess Endgames 1, 2 and 3), as well as making it through IM Jeremy Silman's Essential Chess Endings Explained Move by Move (vol. 1), which has defeated me more than once to date.

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