Clearly this blog is not brilliantly planned out and not intended to give a clear course in chess improvement. It is simply about topics I have considered along the way, which for some reason are in the forefront of my mind.
But this week I am trying to write a disciplined blog entry; one that I feel I should write. It is a bit like going for a swim in the ocean, rather than lying on the beach watching the girls walk by. It is good for you and you might even enjoy it once you get going, but it is not your preferred choice.
So here come ten possible ways for you to improve your chess. No matter who you are, if you are seeking my advice on anything, you will find at least a few strategies here that will help you along the way.
1. Analyse your own games deeply (and the games of others).
2. Solve puzzles regularly (my advice is six times a week x 20-30 minutes).
3. Understand what type of player you are and adjust your style accordingly.
4. Push your levels of concentration upwards and become a fighter.
5. Play real openings. Throw away the London, c3-Sicilian or whatever rubbish you are playing. If you want to develop as a player, playing main lines is important.
6. Learn by heart all the 222 obligatory positions from Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual.
7. Play through game collections with good comments.
This might vary from player to play; for some the Move by Move stuff from Everyman might be reasonable. But for most readers of this blog, I recommend books written either by great players, or books with a great reputation. For example, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Kasparov, Nunn, Anand, Karpov (the old books), San Luis 2005 and so on.
8. Use your body to the best effect for the game (stop poisoning it, for example).
9. Analyse your openings deeply and find your own systems with your own ideas.
10. Understand the basic principles of dynamics, statics and strategic play. These can be studied indefinitely of course, but you can always improve your understanding.
There are always a lot of ways to do anything. Anyone who wants to sell “the only way” is either selling chess studies or tablebase printouts. In the same way, it is possible to reach the same conclusion by many different thinking processes.
The only real danger here is that you fall in love with one system and become fixed to it. You can be the openings guy, or the endings guy, or the expert in solving studies. My closest-sitting colleague in the office, GM Colin McNab, is the last two. I am not sure if it has given his over-the-board play any great advantage, compared to if he had spread out his studies. On the other hand, he just regained the British Championship in solving (yes, Nunn and two other World Champions were competing)…
If you have to pick only one strategy (could be ‘Number 11’ for all I care), I would recommend to either do the one that excites you or the one you know you have been delaying forever.