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  1. Subscriber Marinkatomb
    wotagr8game
    17 Dec '15 00:01 / 1 edit
    Ok, I need some help here, there is something holding me back from progressing and i can't understand what it is. Hopefully there are some players on here that can help me get to the root cause of my inconsistent play so I can move off of this plateau that I have been stuck on for years.

    I take my chess pretty seriously, I don't play here so much any more as I have spent the last couple of years really focusing on live games in order to improve my mental calculation (RHP left me dependant on databases and analyse board).

    I think my understanding has really come on in the last few years. I've spent a LOT of time playing through GM games (at least 5 a day for a good 4 or 5 years). I have done 45,000 tactics puzzles in the last 3 or 4 years, my tactics rating is around 2000-2200 (based on a couple of sites). My highest chess rating to date is 2150, but that was in 2009 and that was a bullet rating. My blitz rating is around 1800-1900 and has been around that for about 7 or 8 years.

    Now, what's the problem you might ask? Namely, It is inconsistency. This is my graph from the last 3 months..

    http://en.lichess.org/@/marinkatomb

    As you can see, it yo-yo's up and down between 18-1900. I am working on something like a two week peak and troff and no matter what I do I just can't break this cycle. On a good day I can beat 2100-2300 players (i'll lose some too of course). I came third in a Weekly tournament not so long ago, that had some 200 participants. The problem is clearly not a matter of knowledge. Of course there are always more things to learn, but on the strength of these good days, it is not unreasonable for me to be expecting to be breaking 2000 by now. I know many players who manage this with a fraction of the amount f effort that i put in!

    The problem is that every time I have a god day like this, I have maybe a week after where I just can't achieve the same level. This has a strange psychological effect actually. If I raise my rating on one of these good days, the temptation is there to stop playing. Try and wait for the right moment to play on as I have been trying and trying and trying for so many years to break 2000 in a normal time control. In the past I have stopped playing for weeks (or just practised chess in some other way). No matter what happens, if my rating is over 1900 when I start playing, that's it, i'll just free fall until I quit in disgust. It happens again and again and again. I am honestly on the verge of quitting the game altogether as it is really just depressing me.

    What should I do? Today has been a bad day, i think I have lost something like 25 straight games, after yesterday winning almost the same. When i look ver the games with an engine after, I often have a clear advantage, but over look a simple move. One from today my opponent put me in check, I could simply take it! But I just didn't see it, i didn't even see it until the engine pointed it out, it was two squares away!! This is in a position the the engine evaluated as +2 for me, a position that I had slowly manoeuvred to achieve over some 20 moves. It just doesn't make sense, in that game at least I was playing really well actually, but then to over look the fact that I can just take a piece (and then follow up with a rook on the 7th and a very dangerous attack). By not capturing and moving out of check all of a sudden my opponent is just handed a decisive attack on the spot. This sort of blindness has just plagued my game forever and I want to either sort it out or go and ply something else. Any help?
  2. Standard member bill718
    Enigma
    17 Dec '15 10:20 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by Marinkatomb
    Ok, I need some help here, there is something holding me back from progressing and i can't understand what it is. Hopefully there are some players on here that can help me get to the root cause of my inconsistent play so I can move off of this plateau that I have been stuck on for years.

    I take my chess pretty seriously, I don't play here so much any ...[text shortened]... gued my game forever and I want to either sort it out or go and ply something else. Any help?
    Hello - I know you'd prefer feedback from (strong players). I was once an 1800+ OTB player, so maybe I qualify. I used to go through many of these same things. A few things you might consider:

    1. Don't play in any OTB event unless you feel 100% comfortable with the preparation you put into it, the physical playing site, your schedule, and you are free of any nagging issues with your personal life. All these things can affect your results.

    2. Consider taking some time off: Sometimes too much chess leads to burnout. Get away from the game for a few weeks, or even a month or two. Give yourself time to let the psychological wounds heal.

    3. Take some time to reevaluate your preparation: Your post here is a good start, but also ask strong players what they do to prepare for an event. Keep a journal of preparation ideas, and write out your preparation strategy. Remember as chess as in business, all successful people think and plan on paper, don't try to keep all these ideas in your head.

    4. Tactics! I know you've heard this before, but you might consider withdrawing from your OTB schedule for awhile, and reviewing your material on intermediate and advanced tactics. There is no substitute for a good understanding of this vital area of chess.

    5. Try to enjoy the process of playing, rather getting too attached to the outcome. I know this sounds like psychobabble, but it seems like you put a lot of pressure on yourself to perform at a required level. This is fine up to a point, but too much of this can have a negative effect on your results.

    6. Use correspondence chess as a training tool for your OTB play. A number of Grandmasters including Boris Spassky advised OTB players to do this, taking the time to evaluate positions very deeply in correspondence chess will improve your OTB results because you'll have a better understanding of them.

    7. Choose your OTB events carefully: Planning your OTB schedule in advance is a smart idea. Try to choose events you feel comfortable with, or events you've had good results with in the past. This will help ease psychological pressure.

    8. Goals; You said "there is something holding me back from progressing" What is it you are trying to progress to? A rating? A result in a given event? Something else? Write down your goal(s) and begin a long term strategy toward reaching them.

    I'm sure you won't use all these ideas, but there may be a few that will help.
  3. 17 Dec '15 21:24
    Originally posted by Marinkatomb
    Ok, I need some help here, there is something holding me back from progressing and i can't understand what it is. Hopefully there are some players on here that can help me get to the root cause of my inconsistent play so I can move off of this plateau that I have been stuck on for years.

    I take my chess pretty seriously, I don't play here so much any ...[text shortened]... gued my game forever and I want to either sort it out or go and ply something else. Any help?
    have you attempted a thorough analysis of your games and attempted to determine how you handle each phase?

    YouTube : FIDE training Seminar
  4. Subscriber Marinkatomb
    wotagr8game
    18 Dec '15 01:42
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    have you attempted a thorough analysis of your games and attempted to determine how you handle each phase?

    [youtube FIDE training Seminar]BpzSDTYXx2M[/youtube]
    The thing isn't really to do with technique. 50% of the time my technique is reasonably good, for an amateur. It is hard to pin down.

    When I am in the right frame of mind, the board just seems to have abundant potential. I play my openings, which aren't really that scientific, but I have established certain lines that are definitely favourable. If i play into one of these lines I really know well when I am playing well, I feel pleased with the position. But if i'm not so sharp, or am having a bad day, the exact same position can feel dull and lacking in potential. I have caught myself feeling like this a few times now.

    I am coming to the conclusion that although I know a fair bit about the game, I am really play mainly by intuition and if that is misfiring a little then I don't have a proper foundation to fall back on. Even on a bad day, I may make 30 accurate moves and then just lose the thread completely. When I look over it after it's like I have just switched off, often mixing up a simple plan into something that gets convoluted. Take the same position on a good day and i'll just know what to do, the pieces will flow naturally.

    My play feels a bit Jeckle and Hyde, if I could only stabilise a bit, I know that I can play good chess, I have plenty of games that I'm really satisfied with. I just can't seem to raise my standard so that I perform more consistently. When my grade spike and drops like that, I think my rating performance can vary from an unstable 1700 player one day to a decent 2000ish player the next. If I could maybe maintain a rating over 1900, that would be real progress in my book! It's so tantalisingly close as well but I just can't keep my consistency.
  5. Subscriber moonbus
    Uber-Nerd
    18 Dec '15 06:15
    The best way to play consistently is to think consistently. Intuition is fine for suggesting a candidate move, but, as Lasker said: “when you find a good move -- wait, don’t play it. Keep looking and you may find a better one.” To keep looking requires a guided search schema, and I don’t mean a search tree like “I go here, he goes there; I go here, he goes there...” I mean a guided search through what Steinitz called the elements of a position: look at strong and weak squares, having (or obtaining) the bishop pair, having (or obtaining) open files, having (or obtaining) a passer, etc. Soviet chess training consisted in drilling people to go through a mental checklist of such elements.

    I recommend the following book, which goes through the elements of positional analysis systematically and forms the basis of a guided search schema:

    Chess Strategy for Club Players: The Road to Positional Advantage Paperback – 10 July 2009, by Herman Grooten
  6. 18 Dec '15 08:24 / 5 edits
    Originally posted by Marinkatomb
    The thing isn't really to do with technique. 50% of the time my technique is reasonably good, for an amateur. It is hard to pin down.

    When I am in the right frame of mind, the board just seems to have abundant potential. I play my openings, which aren't really that scientific, but I have established certain lines that are definitely favourable. If i ...[text shortened]... l progress in my book! It's so tantalisingly close as well but I just can't keep my consistency.
    I see. so you have never made an objective study of your games so as to gather scientific data on what could be the problem? Thats ok neither have I or for that matter probably the majority of amateur players. Yes we analyze our games but not in a systematic way so as to gather data! If you go to a doctor will he examine you on the basis of some generality? Will he look at you and say, hmmm, i think you have the cold after you explain that you are feeling under the weather? No he will physically examine you and make some tests. This is the point, we need to gather empirical scientific data and the only way we can do that is by taking the time (two weeks min) to look at our last twenty games with black and our last twenty games with white and subjecting them to a full and rigorous analysis. This will tell us many things that we could not have possibly known without doing it.

    I tried to download your games collection form lichess because i was really interested in having a look myself but there is some bug that is preventing me, if you download the file and send it to me just as an experiment i would like to try to look through your games just to see if there are any patterns that can be identified, because chess players are creatures of habit.
  7. 18 Dec '15 10:29 / 2 edits
    You play and analyse 25 games a day?!
    There is your problem. Even if you only do this once or twice a week, that kind of session is not conducive to learning. Fatigue kills learning, and it is a rare player that isn't fatigued by 25 games of chess. Your description of playing well then coming unstuck by a simple oversight screams fatigue.

    Cut down. Do something crazy, for the next month play a maximum of 5 games a day each game separated by a minimum of 20 minutes.
  8. Standard member DeepThought
    Losing the Thread
    18 Dec '15 11:38
    Originally posted by Marsan
    You play and analyse 25 games a day?!
    There is your problem. Even if you only do this once or twice a week, that kind of session is not conducive to learning. Fatigue kills learning, and it is a rare player that isn't fatigued by 25 games of chess. Your description of playing well then coming unstuck by a simple oversight screams fatigue.

    Cut down. Do s ...[text shortened]... r the next month play a maximum of 5 games a day each game separated by a minimum of 20 minutes.
    I think that these are blitz games, even so I think you are right it's too much chess and the lessons aren't getting through.
  9. Subscriber Marinkatomb
    wotagr8game
    18 Dec '15 12:39
    Originally posted by moonbus
    The best way to play consistently is to think consistently. Intuition is fine for suggesting a candidate move, but, as Lasker said: “when you find a good move -- wait, don’t play it. Keep looking and you may find a better one.” To keep looking requires a guided search schema, and I don’t mean a search tree like “I go here, he goes there; I go here, he ...[text shortened]... y for Club Players: The Road to Positional Advantage Paperback – 10 July 2009, by Herman Grooten
    Thanks for the reply Moonbus. Yes i am familiar with Laskers quote. I do try and do this (as long as I have time) but the issue is really to do with the quality of my observation. Some days I am in something of a flow state. I would describe this as a mental state where ideas come naturally and my intuition leads me to find stronger moves, often straight away. When I am in this flow, I can beat players right up in the 2300's. I definitely have the ability to decide on strong moves consistently enough in one game to beat strong amateurs.

    On bad days however, it doesn't matter how long I look at a position. I just lack the correct decision making completely, often over looking elementary details. I mentioned a position earlier where I failed to see I could capture a piece as It put me in check. I looked at that position for at least a minute (in a 5 minute game) which is a LONG time to think over one move. I had a decisive advantage, if I take it then I win on the spot, regardless of whether I find the most direct plan or not. I just couldn't see. In my eyes this is a problem that is not directly related to chess, it is a recurring mental state that I repeat over and over. Maybe it's a left brain / right brain thing?

    I don't know if anyone has played Star Wars Battle front, but in that game you run around as a soldier for 95% of the time, but every now and again you get to be Luke Skywalker. Well, that is like my chess. Most of the time it is pretty average, but sometimes I have a day when I am literally invincible! I'll chop down guys hundreds of points above me, sometimes repeatedly. I feel like sometimes I have access to this higher level. When I'm in it I know it, it is like the force, you just see everything, every little detail, often moves in advance. But it is so so fleeting! I never play like this two days in a row, NEVER! I want to try and work out exactly what it is that I am doing on these days that is different.
  10. Subscriber sonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    18 Dec '15 12:40 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    I think that these are blitz games, even so I think you are right it's too much chess and the lessons aren't getting through.
    Besides, paying blitz may make you better at blitz but it certainly won't help your OTB games at regular time controls because by definition, you don't get enough time to look more than say 2 moves ahead or so since you only have a few minutes for the whole game. You see a tactic and jump on it, regardless of whether it is a boner or not.
  11. Subscriber Marinkatomb
    wotagr8game
    18 Dec '15 12:52 / 6 edits
    Originally posted by Marsan
    You play and analyse 25 games a day?!
    There is your problem. Even if you only do this once or twice a week, that kind of session is not conducive to learning. Fatigue kills learning, and it is a rare player that isn't fatigued by 25 games of chess. Your description of playing well then coming unstuck by a simple oversight screams fatigue.

    Cut down. Do s ...[text shortened]... r the next month play a maximum of 5 games a day each game separated by a minimum of 20 minutes.
    No I don't play that many games normally, I played 25 games that day because I got a rare opportunity to play a 2500 player and so I played maybe 15 games against this guy. He killed me, obviously, but when I get over the beating I took I have a number of games to analyse which is worth the suffering. He picked me apart right out of the opening so I have some work to do, but at least he has shown me where I am misplaying my openings. This hardly contributed to my rating slide though, I maybe lost 5 points off my grade. The thing that was depressing was that everyone else was beating me too, even low 1600 players. I might as well have had a lobotomy.

    As for analysis, I probably play through 4 or 5 GM games a day. Often this is just following the current GM tournament that might be on. Or otherwise i might pick a GM and spend some time looking at how they play. But this is not really analysis, I am more interested in the feel. I find different GM's play at different 'frequencies'. Korchnoi for example, his games are high tension affairs, lots of imbalances, given a choice to simplify or intensify, he will almost always choose to further complicate the position. Compare this style to say Carsen and you have a totally different feel altogether.

    I find a lot of value in this. When I play, I get a feeling about a position, maybe it is similar to a korchnoi game where he raised the tension and won a memorable game. If I get that sort of feeling then I might play the position in a Korchnoi style and the same thing with a Carlsen style.

    This is not what I would call intense work, rather an alternative relaxation to wasting time watching TV. I play through them quite quickly most of the time. I go forwards, then backwards (a couple of times) to just see how the "centre of gravity" shifts. I probably miss a ton of stuff, but I figure that so long as you come away from the game with some new idea, over time these little things add up. As I mentioned before, I get into flow states occasionally where I seem to have access to this wealth of little details. When I look at the board these ideas just spring out and are obvious. But why is that so infrequent? This is the question I am asking..
  12. Subscriber Marinkatomb
    wotagr8game
    18 Dec '15 13:21
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Besides, paying blitz may make you better at blitz but it certainly won't help your OTB games at regular time controls because by definition, you don't get enough time to look more than say 2 moves ahead or so since you only have a few minutes for the whole game. You see a tactic and jump on it, regardless of whether it is a boner or not.
    No I disagree with this actually. I have gained a lot from playing blitz. Even if you are not analysing very deep, as long as you are visualising the position a move or two further on in your head and can hold that 'picture' then you are doing good work imo. Since I moved away from Correspondence and started playing live game my ability to visualise has improved immensely. I can now play completely blindfold and really see the board and the pieces. I couldn't do that before. When I play longer games this is invaluable as you get more time to just look deeper.
  13. Subscriber moonbus
    Uber-Nerd
    18 Dec '15 14:23
    Originally posted by Marinkatomb
    Thanks for the reply Moonbus. Yes i am familiar with Laskers quote. I do try and do this (as long as I have time) but the issue is really to do with the quality of my observation. Some days I am in something of a flow state. I would describe this as a mental state where ideas come naturally and my intuition leads me to find stronger moves, often straight ...[text shortened]... curring mental state that I repeat over and over. Maybe it's a left brain / right brain thing?
    Ah, I know this. This is not a chess-specific issue, it's to do with mindfulness and focus. I too have days when I'm in the doldrums. I have learned not to make any life-threatening decisions on such days. Or play chess. I found that the frequency of days like that (though not their intensity) can be reduced by maintaining a healthy sleep rhythm, good diet, and regular moderate physical activity such as yoga, cycling, walking. And a good breakfast; I can't think with a low-blood sugar level.
  14. Subscriber Marinkatomb
    wotagr8game
    18 Dec '15 15:00
    Originally posted by moonbus
    Ah, I know this. This is not a chess-specific issue, it's to do with mindfulness and focus. I too have days when I'm in the doldrums. I have learned not to make any life-threatening decisions on such days. Or play chess. I found that the frequency of days like that (though not their intensity) can be reduced by maintaining a healthy sleep rhythm, good diet, ...[text shortened]... uch as yoga, cycling, walking. And a good breakfast; I can't think with a low-blood sugar level.
    Yes I have tried a similar approach. I think sleep is a big thing, If I go to bed before 10pm one day, I am often quite sharp the next. All of the things you suggest are useful, definitely. What I find hard to understand is that I watch stronger players playing blitz, and they can maintain that higher level consistently.

    Maybe you are right, maybe it's just a problem with my general psychological balance, with chess or without. I have done a fair bit of meditation actually, a couple of years ago I did a 5 week retreat, but it did nothing for my chess. If anything it totally removed any competitive inclination. I wonder if there is another practise I could try?
  15. Subscriber moonbus
    Uber-Nerd
    18 Dec '15 15:17
    Originally posted by Marinkatomb
    Maybe you are right, maybe it's just a problem with my general psychological balance, with chess or without. I have done a fair bit of meditation actually, a couple of years ago I did a 5 week retreat, but it did nothing for my chess. If anything it totally removed any competitive inclination. I wonder if there is another practise I could try?
    Tantra? Even if it does nothing for your chess, it will be terrific for your self-esteem.