Simple combination missed
[1. Rxe6+ fxe 2. Rxf8+ Kxf8 3. Nxe6+, leaving white up a pawn in what should be a "technique" win.]
P.S. After almost a year off slow games at ICC, I've started them up again, and I just went above 1500, a rating high!
If you want to become a better player, you need better habits.While he didn't place much emphasis on improvement methods, it is useful to know which in the zillions of methods out there he believes meshes most with his 'habit not knowledge' slogan. [Note he didn't break them up into a numbered list, I added that to his plain text to highlight his suggestions].
The best way to cultivate better habits is to try to work things out on the basis of your existing habits, and look closely at how you are falling short. You will find that most mistakes do not come from not knowing things, but from not seeing things, or not doing things.
You can work on this by
1) Playing and then analysing your games honestly
2) Solving complex chess problems
3) Trying to win won positions against strong analysis engines.
4) The intelligent use of blitz games--whereby you don't analyse the positions in depth, but compare your first impressions of positions with the way they actually developed.
With these approaches you are not taking in any new "knowledge" so you might feel that you are not growing as a player. However, if the arguments in this chapter make sense to you, and you can trust in that kind of training process, I believe you will find that your level of skill improves, and with it, your results.
I agree that until you are about 1800 "your first name is tactics, your middle name is tactics, and your last name is tactics." That said, if your aim is not just gaining rating points but deepening your appreciation of the game, then you shouldn't deprive yourself of aspects of the game that you enjoy more. For players rated below 1800 who desperately want to improve (and are willing to suffer for it!) I recommend Michael de la Maza's thoughtful and honest book, Rapid Chess Improvement.And a quote that Rowson cites from Davies' wonderful article The how and the what:
I recently saw a newsgroup discussion about tournament preparation.
Everything under the sun was mentioned from openings to endings and strategy to tactics with everyone having their own idea about how it should be done. I just commented that “the how is more important than the what."
It really doesn’t matter what you study, the important thing is to use this as a training ground for thinking rather than trying to assimilate a mind-numbing amount of information. In these days of a zillion different chess products this message seems to be quite lost, and indeed most people seem to want books that tell them what to do. The reality is that you’ve got to move the pieces around the board and play with the position. Who does that? Amateurs don’t, GMs do.
Chess is not a game that can be learned from a book any more than tennis or golf. It may look rather academic and there are some scientific elements to it. But the truth is that wiles and playfulness count for far more than “knowing the book.” Interestingly my grandmaster colleagues tend to be quick witted, jovial and street wise rather than serious and lofty intellectuals. And most of us will recommend keeping a clear head both before and during a tournament rather than hitting the books.
Start with the level one problems. The first time through, work each problem out very slowly, step by step, making sure you see and understand everything there is to see and understand about it, and visualizing the tactical patterns clearly. It’s especially important to work through the entire problem in your head before moving pieces on the board. Don’t cheat and move the pieces around while you are trying to solve them! You don’t get to do that during a real game!Wow, this is exactly what I did (except I did it with CTB, and did each problem set until I got 100% correct).
Once you’ve worked your way through the entire set of level one problems, go back through them again. This time, you should be able to go through them with greater speed and accuracy. You’ll probably remember some of them, and be able to solve them instantly. Some of them may require that you work through them again as described above, but will go more quickly. Others will take a just as long as before, and still others will stump you all over again. Just make sure that you work through them again as thoroughly as you need to solve the ones you can and understand the ones you can’t.
Q: "How many times should I go through the same set?" A: Until you can go through the whole set (preferably in one sitting, or at the very least in as few sessions as possible) and score at least 90%. Then you’ll be ready to move to the next level of problems. Repeat the process until you’ve worked through all ten levels. There’s no set schedule for this – take as much time as it requires, even if it’s a year or two or more, as long as you work through them thoroughly and spend at least a little time on them every day. As you can probably tell, it’s quality rather than speed or quantity that I’m advocating.