Since I don’t follow any of my regular resolutions, let’s make a list of “Chess” resolutions that many of you should follow!
1) I won’t get into time trouble. Many of my students, friends, enemies, acquaintances, strangers, and myself included lose chess games due to time trouble blunders. If the time control is 40/2 (slow!) and you take 30 minutes on one move, and 15 on another, and so on, time trouble looms. If you are the type of player who has to make 8-12 moves in less than 3 minutes in this situation, and often, you are a time trouble addict.
Maybe you are the type of player who plays a lot of g/25 or g/30, and always stops taking notation around move 20? Again, I see an addict! Taking the time before the event to have a talk with yourself about a plan for each game is the way to go. For example, let’s say the time control is g/60. I would try to play about one minute per move. And, if I stop keeping score around move 45 or so, due to very low time, that seems reasonable. But, if you use 55 minutes for the first 18 moves, and now play the rest of the game in 5 minutes, you are just asking to lose. So, think about the time control before you play in the tournament, and stick to your plan.
2) I won’t move quickly when I think my opponent has just blundered. Playing too slowly is bad, but too quickly can be even worse! So many times, me, or a student, thinks we have a forced win, and get excited. Playing quickly when you think you are winning is not a good idea. Take a look here:
3) I will play the same regardless of my opponent’s rating. Almost everyone I know plays quickly and expects to win against lower rated opposition, but plays a different game against higher rated opponents. One of my favorite players, GM Vladimir Tukmakov, was playing in the Canadian Open the same year as me (we played, but I ‘forgot’ the result) and he played and looked the same against 1600s as he did vs. 2600s. I remember in round 1, all the GMs were playing wild tactical melees against weaker opposition, winning quickly, and Vladimir was squeezing his opponent, with black, in a boring QGD Exchange. Tukmakov was clear first that event, as he took all his opponents seriously, and played the same strength regardless. I teach that to all my students (will any of them listen?). Even I am guilty of playing quickly, and badly against weaker opposition. Here is a game I played this month, against a 1500 (!) USCF in a g/65. The only game I was losing the entire event.
4) I will stop taking draws against better players when I have a good position. I tell all of my students, “Never offer a draw, never accept a draw. Fight like a man, and die like a dog.” Thinking about whether to offer or accept a draw takes time away from finding the best moves. Also, think of it this way — Do you get better at chess by playing, or not playing? If you sat at home for four months, and your friend played in 10 rated events during that span, it is likely they have improved while you are dormant. Now, if you take draws, you are no longer playing the game. Playing on, and sometimes losing, is really good for your chess. You will be amazed how confident you get when you beat higher rated opposition.
5) I will try a new opening, and not play the same stale stuff I have played for 25 years. Bent Larsen once said that players improve and are more mature when they play new openings. Most of my students are afraid to try new stuff. Well, here’s what I say… Just do it! (Nike, don’t sue). It’s fun to try new stuff, and sometimes, you may surprise yourself!
I hope you can use these resolutions and improve your game. And maybe, one day, I will start using them myself.
Learn more about GM Ben Finegold on his YouTube lectures and blog.