How a Chess Study Plan Can Help Your Game Improve

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How do you get better at chess?  No…seriously….I’m asking.  Do you study openings, tactics, endgames?  For me, right now, my study plan has cobwebs on it.  Right now I have been focusing on school and my once committed chess study has taken a back seat to writing papers and and other various academic tasks.  Because I have diligently studied the game in the past, I figured I would be okay to take a little break while I pursue my educational goals, but I found that most of the gains I made when studying regularly, have diminished.  The old “use it or lose it” saying definitely applies.

When I was studying regularly, I spent most of my time doing tactics puzzles.  Why tactics puzzles?  Because I suck at tactics.  It’s easily the weakest part of my game.  A few years ago , after a tournament, I went home and put a game I’d played into my chess computer for analysis.  I found that I missed a very simple tactic that would have won my opponents queen for a bishop.  Guess what…I lost that game.  Not surprisingly, as I did more and more puzzles, my tactics improved.  My tactics rating rose from a 1500 rating to a 2100 rating after about 6 months.

Positional chess is my forte.  After reading Jeremy Silman’s books, “The Amateur’s Mind” and “How To Reassess Your Chess,”  I fell in love with positions.  Whenever I saw a position with a tactic in it, I would always to a quick mental positional evaluation.  I would ask questions like, what are the material imbalances?  Is one king safer than the other, What does the pawn structure say about the game, and so on.

Oddly enough, my tactics studies really helped me to improve my positional play and visa versa.  Knowing tactics doesn’t always result in capturing material, tactics can be used to achieve a superior position.  Having a superior position often leads to the opportunity to win material using tactics.  The two principles go hand in hand.

YouTube is a great resource that I wish was around when I was a kid.  I think that YouTube has collectively raised the worlds chess ratings by at least 100 points.  I think it is a really great place to start with a study plan.  You can find dozens of grand masters ready to give you information they took years to learn.  They talk about nearly any topic you can think of.  My favorite channel is The St. Louis Chess Club.  Check them out when you get some time and let us know what you are doing to improve your game.

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