You’re probably familiar with tactics, opening study, endgame preparation, and the works. Boring much? I don’t blame you. Here’s a technique I learned in Japan from a friend, and expanded on it on my own. This is how it works:
1) Write down your time in tournament games
If the time control is above G/60, you should write down how much time you have left at the end of each turn (ex: in a G/60 match, 1. e4 (60) e5 2. Nf3 (59)). This is a good practice, because when you go over the game with your coach or computer, you can see if time was a factor in the decisions you made.
2) Go over the game immediately after the tournament
If you’re not already doing this, you’re making a big mistake. Going over your mistakes is the easiest way to find holes in your knowledge. We’re all human, so you’re bound to do something wrong in each round. I like to go over the game with my opponent after each round, and then again with my coach.
3) Come back in six months
At this point you’ve played many tournament games (hopefully), and in all likelihood forgot most of your analysis. That’s okay! Set up a board and a clock at the same time control that the game was played in. This is where you’re records of time come in real handy. For each turn, force yourself to calculate the position for as long as you calculated at the board, nothing more, nothing less. For example:
1. e4 (60) e5
2. Nf3 (59) Nc6
3. Bb5 (59) a6
4. Bxc6 (59) bxc6
5. 0-0 (57) Nf6
33. Kg3 (50) Qg4#
Okay, this isn’t a full game, but you can dissect something already from this notation. The white player spent 10 minutes for the whole game, which lasted 33 moves! The white player who would be doing this exercise should realize that he is moving way too quickly, and if he tried to calculate, he couldn’t possibly do a concrete job. This is one possible test to see if you are moving too quickly.
Of course, there is also the opposite problem too:
24. Nd4 (24) Nc6
25. Nxc6 (17) dxc6
White spent seven minutes calculating this exchange, so clearly this position gave him trouble. Hopefully, when doing this exercise, the White player can do the same analysis that he did on the board six months prior in less than 7 minutes. If this is the case, this is good! It means that not only are you learning from your games, it means that your ability to calculate is improving.
I found that this exercise really helped me realize that I was moving too quickly in critical positions, and after I implemented this practice, I not only improved my calculation techniques, but also my time management skills. Here’s a funny story, I actually stopped this technique for a few months, and for that period of time my rating remained stagnant. However, now that I’m doing it again, I’m playing better chess and calculating much more effectively.
Feel like I missed something? Feel free to comment below!