Over the last few months while my knowledge of the game has increased my chess skill has not improved. If anything I have suffered a decrease in performance over the last few months. The frustrating part is that I have invested time into my chess improvement plan, and while I feel that both my tactical pattern recognition and strategic knowledge of the game has improved this new knowledge has not translated into increased chess playing strength.
I have a tournament in 1 month and I am concerned about my plateau. I am nowhere near where I wanted to be 3 years into my chess improvement plan.
My Downward Spiral
- ICC standard rating at an all time low of 1330 from a peak of 1663
- FICS rating temporarily increased to 1350, but over the last few weeks it is back down to 1225
- ICC Blitz 5 0 dropped from 1250 to 970, it is now back up to 1170 and on the way up
- USCF rating is the same (1278) I have not played any rated USCF tournaments in several months
- OTB performance in friendly skittles games is the same as 6 months ago, I still ocassionally lose to players who do not take chess as seriously as me
Why I am Not Improving in Chess
- Playing too much blitz versus longer games.
- Not analyzing (not learning from) my games
- Theory based learning versus practical learning
- Faulty thought process
Getting to the bottom of it
I selected several of my latest games and anlayzed them looking for the reason I lost the game, and guess what I found:
Over 80% of the games I lose were because I blundered and not due to knowledge gaps.
Modifications to the Plan
- Focus more on my thought process while I am playing in order to eliminate senseless blunders.
- Begin playing at least 1 non-blitz game every night, which I must analyze before playing any other games.
- Focus my study time around tactics and topics that I need help on based on discoveries during game analysis.
I need to strike a balance between blitz versus and standard games, and I must eliminate blitz play several weeks before playing in a tournament. While tactics will be a strong component of my training, I will be more flexible in my training schedule selecting areas of weakness that I uncover during my game analysis.
The key is to focus on building skills over knowledge, and learning to apply the knowledge I already have. As Dan Heisman likes to say, we need to subtract negatives if we want to get better. I have made the mistake of thinking that studying and reading chess books (adding positives) will make me a better player, and while I am increasing my knowledge of chess this does not translate into improving my performance (because we need to subtract negatives).
I hope that these modifications to my training plan, which will focus more on ‘skill building’ than ‘knowledge building’ will show improvements in my play. I’ll keep you posted…