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Measuring Improvement

Measuring Improvement

Hikaru Junction

Measuring Improvement

Today I’d like to talk about improvement, and how it is possible. For all of us. Not only is it possible, but, especially in chess, there are measurable results. Not only in terms of rating, as is clear, but in terms of tangible performance in games against the same opponents. I’d like to examine four games to discuss how I improved from one to another, and what yardsticks we may use to determine whether we feel success has been achieved. To that end, here is the first– it started with a Two Knights, but I’ve skipped a little ways in, as the opening wasn’t anything special. I played this opponent when he was six, one of the best in the U. S. for his age, I believe.

HikaruShindo–L. F-Y. Anderson CK 2014



I played him again, nearly a year later, in February 2015, in a six-game tournament (in round two, having lost the first game.) He was rated 1773, and, (again, I think) the best 7-year old in the country. Interestingly enough, the tournament fell very near my birthday.

HikaruShindo–L. F.-Y. NY Schol. Champ. 2015 (J.H. Var.)



I remember being particularly proud, because the win on time was in a dead won position anyway, with mate coming in several moves– and that the time control was 60 minutes with a ten-second delay, long by my standards at the time, but I had 50:10 left at the finish to his 0:00. The reason I was proud of this was both because I thought it was funny, but because my moves had been fairly effortless. I had won without using much time because I had managed to think during his, and my moves had then been obvious. I won the third game of the day without much incident, and moved on to Sunday.

But what changed from the first game we played to the second?

First of all, I was better prepared out of the opening. I was able to get a position in which I felt comfortable and work from it without memorizing too much theory (if any.) Secondly, my tactics were superior– I didn’t blunder any pieces in this game, at least, and was able to manage a few less straightforward moves (Bd3, Ng5.) And thirdly, I looked for my opponent’s ideas, and then tried to stop them. Fairly basic, but these three concepts marked an improvement in my game which I have still not revisited. And now to Sunday.

I lost both round four and round five on Sunday, leaving me with ⅖ going into the sixth and final round. I chose the opening I was most familiar with again, the Morra Gambit, against his Sicilian, and managed to get a good position.

HikaruShindo–F. H. NY Schol. Champ. 2015 (J.H. Var.)



I finished with a 3-3 score, though against opponents rated 239.5 (math!) points higher on average. A record high (I think) 89 points gained from this tournament, caused by the preparedness I had. And this was caused by persistence,like last week. Even when I missed a move which would put the game away, I made sure to keep setting problems for my opponents. And to close the blog out, I then played them again three months later in April. By then, the gap in ratings had shrunk from 238 points behind to 48 points, and it was an interesting, balanced game.

F. H.–HikaruShindo Marshall Open 2015



This post is to inspire improvement, and to illustrate how there are more ways than Elo to measure improvement– opening preparation, performance against the same opponents, and sticking to the same planned mental model: one that allows for persistence, creating threats, not blundering, That if you feel like you’re getting better, though your rating doesn’t show it, you’re still a better player. And to reassure myself of these things– my rating is slightly worse OTB than it was a year and a half ago, when that last game was played. But if we keep drilling the fundamentals, and practicing, we improve our chances in games, and for it to all come together.

–HikaruShindo

No post next week (Sorry– I’ll be on holiday and won’t be able to use a computer.)

Discussion thread: Thread 169695

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Last Post 10 Sep '17
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