03 April 2009

Measuring Improvement

How difficult do you think will be to get over 1800? I know that it's not easy.
Rolling Pawns, "Comment on 'Milestones'"

My present goal is to achieve a standard rating over 1800 by the end of the 2010 Collyer Memorial Tournament.
James Stripes, "USCF Rating History"
I can gain rating points with stellar results against local players, or with reasonably good results in the premier events that draw large numbers from out of town. In Spokane, two premier events remain within the time frame I've outlined: the 2009 Washington Open and the 2010 Collyer Memorial. Other events that will attract a few out of town players include the Eastern Washington Open in September.

As for local events, I'm skipping this year's Taxing Quads because I will not be able to focus effectively for reasons I've outlined.

How difficult? I could go over 1800 with a strong result in the Washington Open. On the other hand, a poor result could increase the difficulty of meeting my goal next February. There is also a chance that I will miss next year's Collyer because the high school team that I coach may finally make the trip to the Washington State High School Team Championship, which happens to be the same weekend.

I put forth a clear plan for improvement in "Resolutions," but have not followed it. Instead of my Tactics Training Plus, I've been working the Tactics Trainer at Chess.com. I have been limiting my online blitz, hardly playing it at all. I've played more than five games in a day half a dozen times, including seven games in a row against one of the computers on World Chess Live until I scored a coveted victory. Most days I do not play online blitz.

Three in a Row

Ratings are a measure, not the objective. I've set my goal of becoming a class A player not because I like numbers above 1800, but because the level of chess skill needed to reach that point is within my capabilities if I improve.

Although I have had setbacks, my play over the past eighteen months or so has seemed a step higher than 2006-2007. I have very few wins against Class A players. After an OTB win against a player floored at 1800 in 1996, my next win against an 1800+ was just over one year ago during the Collyer. In that event, I suffered only one loss: a quick thrashing by expert Steve Merwin. In the 2009 Collyer, I drew Merwin and finished the event without a loss.

In 2003, I earned a draw against IM John Donaldson after missing a clear win.

Black to move -+

That was part of a simul in which Donaldson went 26-2-2. I was thrilled to score the draw. When Elston Cloy ran out of time a few moves before he checkmated me in the 2005 Collyer Memorial, I had my first draw with a player over 1800 in rated play. That fall, I earned my second such draw in a game against Pat Herbers. Herbers peaked at 2106 in the early 1990s, but has been below 2000 since 2001. In 2006 I earned my third rated draw against a player over 1800 OTB.

In 2008, I had four. The best came during my match with David Sprenkle for the Spokane City Championship. Sprenkle was 2257 when we played three games, and I played him close in two. I missed that we had repeated the position in my loss in the morning, then earned a draw in the afternoon. Sprenkle's peak rating was over 2400 and he has wins over Jeremy Silman and other players of his ilk.

So far in 2009, I have two draws against players over 1800.

I've also won the last three blitz and rapid events at the Spokane Chess Club. I won March Madness, a dual-rated game/45 played over two Thursdays. The next week, I ran the table on nine others in a club blitz tournament. Then, last night I went five of six to win Lucky 7, a game/10 event that dropped my quick rating three points.

My recent performance demonstrates clear improvement, but getting over 1800 may be difficult.


  1. What's in a number? You want to become class A player, great! But it's not the rating that will bring you there, it's your chess strenght. So dont focus so much about your rating but focus on to eliminate the mistakes you make. At first you may lose ratingpoints but when your strenght goes up your rating will aswell.

    So stop thinking about that 1800. Just play your games the best you can, analyse them and try to improve where you went wrong.

    I am speaking from experience. A friend's first rating was 1898 and he thought to get to 1900+ easily. However, in his hunt to 1900+ he was so focussed on this 1900 number that he never reached it because his chessstrenght never got up.

    Until now his highest ever rating is that 1898. His rating now is about 1750. So dont look at the rating, it only distracts you of your goal and that is to have a strenght of 1800+.

  2. Words of wisdom Chesstiger. Thanks.

    The number is useful because it is a measure of strength. I have many improvement goals. Chasing a number helps organize them into a focus. It's not about the number, but the number helps.

    My goal for the Washington Open: a plus score. It is six rounds, so I seek 3.5 or better.

    Ratings go up and down, and they are relative to the pool in which you play. I'm near the top in my city, but not quite the top 100 in my state.

    I want near perfection against most members of my club, and a clear plus score against Dave Griffin, who beat me last night. I might be at +1 (I'm not certain). I have an even score against a few players that I should always beat. There are players I have not yet scored wins against, but intend to. I've beat John Julian in blitz, quick, and on Facebook, but in standard rated play, he always wins. I've been close a few times.

  3. I think it should be some qualitative change in the opening preparation, board vision and calculation to get from "B" to "A". If you get that better, you will beating all 1400-1500 players and play well with 1600+. Why I said "I know it's hard" - I got 250 rating increase in the first 9 months returning to OTB, then +50 in a year. Looks like I have a good chance to become a super-GM in 20 years :). Do you have possibility to play more against 1800+ players in tournaments bigger than in the local club but smaller than "2009 Washington Open" ?

  4. In order to play more against players above 1800, I need to either convince a few inactive local players to resume competition, or need to travel 280 miles to Seattle for tournaments.

    The move from B to A is less about filling gaps in knowledge than about improving consistency. Better nutrition, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep might do me as much good as tactics training and opening study. (I walked three miles this morning.)

  5. Your dedicatin is contagious and quite enviable. Congrats you seem to really be improving! (Chesstiger, while I understand your overall point the rating is the only objective measure of improvement!!!)