“New year, new me” you might say.
But didn’t you say the exact same thing one year ago? If 2022 then proceeded to be an amazing chess year for you, just do more of the same in 2023! It seems that you figured it out.
For many of you, I expect this is more a dream than a reality… Probably you set some nice resolutions but could not stick to them. To avoid that happening in 2023 again, you need some change! Let me help you set yourself up for success in 2023 with these 4 steps:
- Set realistic expectations
- Study only “hell yeah” material
- Learn how to study chess the right way
- Create a simple plan you can really stick to
1) Set Realistic Expectations For 2023
No, I don’t have the blueprint to win 300 rating points in 10 days. If you really want long-term change, you should understand two uncomfortable truths:
- It doesn’t come quick
- It doesn’t come easy
Anyone trying to sell you the above is either selling a shitty product (worst products need the best marketing) or a straight-out scammer.
“A remarkable, glorious achievement is just what a long series of unremarkable, unglorious tasks looks like from far away.”TIm Urban
Chess improvement comes over time and only if you invest some time and energy into the right training. That training often is quite unglorious. But it works. More to what exactly works later on.
If you expect too big results too early on, you will most likely end up quitting again. Be aware that chess improvement is a marathon, not a sprint. Everyone faces plateaus. What distinguishes outstanding players from the rest is that we broke through those plateaus.
So, give yourself time. Use all 365 days of the year. If you improve by 1% every day you will be 38 times better at the end of the year. (1.01365 = 37.78). Don’t worry, you will catch those who sprint in January. Latest by March they will be out of power, and you have full 9 months to overtake them.
2) Study Only “Hell Yeah” Material In 2023
My favorite book is “Hell yeah or No” by Derek Sivers. It is a compilation of blog articles. They all have one goal in common: to help you decide what is worth doing.
My favorite article is the one called: “Don’t be a donkey“. It speaks about the dilemma of wanting to do everything now and then ending up doing nothing at all. Highly recommend checking both the book and this specific article out.
Now to the overarching concept of “Hell Yeah or No”. I do not only apply this in Chess study with my students, but also in everyday life. The application is quite simple. If something isn’t an entire body “hell yeah”, you should probably say no to it.
Well because we have limited time and with every “hmm yeah not so bad” you take away the possibility to have a true “hell yeah”. This applies extremely well to chess study.
There are so many blogs, videos, books, and courses out there. You will only be able to study a fraction of it in your lifetime. So, you need to choose wisely. Every time you read a “decent” book you miss out on the possibility to work with an amazing book and get 3x improvements.
So where do you get these hell-yeah resources from?
Here are some suggestions:
- Chessmood is my hell-yeah online learning platform (Affiliate Link)
- Silman’s Complete Endgame Course is the only hell-yeah endgame book you need (up to 2300 FIDE)
- Lichess is my hell yeah database, tactics solver, and playing platform in one
- If you are 2100+ FIDE all books from Jacob Aagaard are Hell Yeah
- Visit my resources page for a quite comprehensive list
Once you have your “hell yeah” resources, remind yourself of step Number one: set realistic expectations. Even the best training method will need some time to show results. Spend time finding a “hell yeah” resource and then trust the process. What most improvers do is totally different: they just follow the latest trend and never finish anything. In 2023, you won’t be one of them anymore.
3) Learn How to Study Chess the Right Way
Now that you have your “hell yeah” resources, the question is how you can get the most out of them. Here are some basic principles that will help you study chess better immediately. I would like to call it the ABCD of chess:
A) Make the Training at Least as Hard as the Game
How you do anything is how you do everything. You can’t sit sloppily on your sofa and guess some moves when solving exercises and then expect to have 100% focus during a game.
Here are some concrete steps to increase the intensity of your training:
- Use your own head whenever possible; no engines are allowed
- Don’t move pieces when solving exercises
- Always write down your calculation before executing a move
- Ask yourself: would I play this move in a game? If not, force yourself to continue calculating
B) Keep the Training Practice-Oriented
We usually train to show better skills during a game. Yet I see many chess improvers spending a lot of time on things that will never ever happen in a game.
So, whenever you train, ask yourself: does this have practical relevance? It is nice to know how to mate with Bishop + Knight, or to win Queen vs Rook. But those two endgames combined might happen in 1/1000 games. The practical relevance is basically 0!
That means any time spent on such endgames is, in a practical sense, nearly wasted. What happens a lot and is important, you might ask?
- Tactics, Tactics, Tactics
- Plans and ideas of openings you regularly play
- Super basic opening knowledge
- Super basic endgame knowledge
And what about classical games? As cool as it is to go through some games of Paul Morphy or Mikhail Tal, this sort of training also has very little practical relevance. You can check out a full article on this subject here.
Use those games as inspiration, but don’t count it as training. Real training is not only making you better at chess but also helps you show that during your games!
C) Basics Basics Basics
Now we come back to the unglorious tasks. Well, they also apply to chess training. There are a few things that matter a lot, while everything else matters very little in comparison. You can have an amazing positional understanding, know all the endgame theory & have a great opening repertoire, and still suck at chess. You might even lose basically all of your game.
How is this possible?
Well, probably you blunder in every game. You don’t master the basic tactics and thus gift away points left and right in true Santa style. If on the other side you only mastered the basics of tactics, you would “understand” much less of chess, but take home a lot of points.
Throughout my career, I’ve said the phrase “I was so much better than my opponent but just unlucky” way too many times. Obviously, I wasn’t unlucky. I was just relatively bad at tactics & calculation. Outplaying 90% of my opponents did not help because I missed a quite simple tactic toward the end of the game.
So even if it is repetitive and not the coolest training, learning the tactical motifs and solving exercises should be the cornerstone of your chess training. Spend at least 35% of your chess time doing that.
Remember: if you still blunder pieces, nothing else matters.
D) Learn from your Mistakes
I wish I did not have to write these lines. Isn’t it obvious that one should learn from their mistakes?
But knowing is not doing.
I see way too many chess improvers trying to find excuses for not really analyzing their mistakes. But this is where the real improvement comes from! If you solve 1+2=4 ten times without finding out it is wrong, you will have a firm belief that 1+2=4 is true!
The same happens in chess. If you make the same mistakes several times without analyzing them, you will actually get worse. It is better to not know something than to think you know it but you are totally wrong about it.
Unlearning is way harder than learning. So, you should make it a matter of pride to analyze your mistakes. Be it in a real game or during training. Just remember: some things are more important than others. Don’t lose yourself in unnecessary details. Focus on the big mistakes first.
4) Create a Simple Plan you can Really Stick to
We are nearly there. You now know a lot more than at the beginning of this article. But still, failure would be very probable.
Because you don’t have a real plan.
“If you fail to plan you plan to fail”Benjamin Franklin
The ultimate step is to combine what you learned in steps 1-3 into a simple chess training plan you can follow. Simple is really the keyword here.
You can use the One-Third rule to create a great plan:
- One-Third Tactic
- One-Third Playing + Analyzing
- One-Third of Openings/Endgames/Positional Play
Make sure to start reasonably small. Again, high expectations usually led to you giving up somewhere along the journey. That is what you want to avoid.
Remember: you have 365 days in 2023! Don’t rush. You can always increase the number of hours you train throughout the year. Now map out at least your first week and take time every week to plan the following.
Instead of saying “I want to study 5 hours per week”, you should write down the exact days, times & resources you want to study with. Here is an example week:
Sunday 1st January, 15.00-16.00 Tactics Solving on Lichess
Monday 2nd January, 18.00-19.00 Playing + Analyzing 2x 10+5 games on Lichess
Tuesday 3rd January, 07.00-08.00 Reading (actively!) Mastering Opening Strategy by Johan Hellsten
Wednesday 4th of January, 15.00-16.00 Tactics Solving on Lichess
Thursday 5th of January, 18.00-19.00 Playing + Analyzing 2x 10+5 games on Lichess
Friday 6th of January, 07.00-08.00 Reading (actively!) Mastering Opening Strategy by Johan Hellsten
As you can see, you don’t need to be very fancy. Two-thirds of the training is happening on the totally free Lichess. You add one book/course, and you are ready to go.
Do this consistently & with great intensity and you will see big changes In your chess skills & results at the end of 2023.
Want More Guidance?
Starting out and creating your own plans can be tough. You might want to have some more guidance, be able to ask specific questions, and grow with like-minded chess enthusiasts. You will also have practical problems along the way.
To help you even further, I have created my new course ‘Next Level Training – Conquer the Chess information Chaos‘. In 10 Chapters under 10 hours total, I will help you bring your Chess training to the Next Level.
The course will:
- Help you improve your focus
- Show you how to create the right habits
- Show you the best “hell yeah” resources to work with
- Explain to you how to effectively study with those resources
- Guide you to your first chess study plan
- Allow you to ask fellow chess improvers & myself questions
You can find out more by clicking the button below.
I can’t wait to welcome you to our exclusive Discord Server and see your growth over the coming months & years. Here is what some of the current students are saying about the course:
I have only studied the first three videos and am already very impressed!
Olaf, 55, Lichess Rating 1800
What you share with us is pure magic. I can’t stop watching the course.Panagiotis, 24, FIDE Rating 1302
Don’t repeat your same new year resolutions without real change!
- Don’t expect big changes too quickly, long-lasting improvement takes time
- Focus on less material with better quality
- Apply the ABCD of chess training and feel the difference
- Create a specific plan you can stick to
I wish you an amazing 2023 with good health & a lot of happy moments. May your chess goals become reality!