Study I

by zenquaker

The way I have been studying is not really working out. This is not a big surprise. I knew when I created the plan that it was perhaps overly detailed and probably more than I could chew. But I thought it was a good plan, and I figured that the best way to find the problems with the plan was to try and actually implement it. So here I am, two months down the road. I think I understand the problem with the plan, and it’s not the one I expected.

The plan is to study flashcards on the bus, study tactics after dinner, and then study various other parts of the game after studying tactics. That’s about an hour and a half of work on Chess each day. I’m not really having that much of a problem putting that much effort into it, and while there were some minor problems with the details, it wasn’t a problem of there being too many of them. The problem is, when the hell am I playing Chess? According to the plan, I played one game a week. That amounts to less than 5% of my study time.

I had thought playing my correspondence games would fill in that role. But I don’t really spend that much time on my correspondence games. That was by plan, back when I didn’t feel I had that much time to spend on Chess. I limited myself to games where I only had to make a move every three days or less. That way I could take a day or two off and not worry about it.

Also, one of the perennial questions in Chess is “will playing blitz hurt my long game?” (blitz is games that take 10 minutes or less, long is games that take two hours or more). I thought about it and came to the conclusion that the answer is yes, but the question is biased. Before you ask yourself that question, you have to ask yourself if you care about your long game. Playing any time control is going to hurt your performance at other time controls, compared to spending that time working on those other time controls. You should pick the time control you want to play, and concentrate on that. Not that you can’t play other time controls for fun, but any time you think of as “working on your game” should be spent on the time control you are aiming for. If you want to play blitz, it is irrelevant how blitz affects your long game.

I decided early on that I wanted to shoot for rapid time controls, where the game is over in about an hour at most. So while it’s not a problem playing correspondence time controls for fun, that shouldn’t be counted under “working on my game.” And while I’m spending 1/3 of my time on tactics because it’s one of the most common things you are advised to work on, the other most common suggestion is to actually play Chess. So it seems like I should be spending at least 1/3 of my training time on playing Chess at rapid time controls.

So that’s what I’m going to start doing. I’m going to keep the study on the bus and the tactics training, but instead of the other stuff I’m going to try and play a game of Chess at rapid time controls every day. On the weekends I will read up on stuff that I am having problems with in my game, and use that to inform my bus studies.

I’m hoping that one side effect of this new plan will be to help my test anxiety. I do much better at correspondence than I do OTB (over the board). I think that is because I have some sort of test anxiety when playing the game live. I do notice the adrenaline running big time when I’m playing. It’s very odd, because when it comes to scholastic tests I am one of the last people to suffer from test anxiety. But I think the conflict involved in a Chess game and the nature of conflict in my childhood combine to make me anxious about Chess. If that’s true, it leads to some odd possibilities about my obsession with games in general.