Making a Plan – Setting and Achieving Goals

I recently posted an article on publicly setting my goals for 2018. A question I get asked quite often is how I developed my training plan, or why I chose certain numbers as goals. I received several messages after the article asking me to explain just this, so I will share it now on Chess^Summit.  As an amateur, setting goals can be a bit daunting. You want to make goals you can achieve, but at the same time you want to see big improvements and jumps in growth. Balancing this can be challenging, but borrowing a template from organizational psychology, I have made the process simple. I’d like to share the SMART way to progress in chess:

S – Specific – you need to set specific, quantifiable goals in order to progress. If it is clearly written out and can be judged by a simple yes or no, you have made a specific goal.

– Measurable – chess is very much a numbers game. A player’s rating will be measurable.

– Achievable – while we want to set lofty goals for ourselves, we also need to be realistic. Family and work obligations as well as other outside factors will effect the amount of time we have to train, study, and play. You want to set a goal that is a challenge, but one you can feasibly make in the timeframe specified.

– Realistic – I will not be an IM next year, no chance. It would also be unrealistic for me to put my goals higher as I am only able to make one OTB tournament a month tops. You need to be honest with yourself.

– Time Specific – if you do not set a time frame or time limit on something you will tend to procrastinate or maybe never go after the goal, that’s human nature. If you set goals with hard deadlines, you cannot procrastinate or “wait until tomorrow.”

Bearing the above in mind, let’s look at my personal goals for 2018 as seen on


I have made my personal goals very specific. Remember, if you can assign a value to it, it has specificity. These goals are measurable based on how many people I teach/gift and what my rating is on the above dates in these categories. These goals are also achievable, difficult and involving some serious time management, but I do believe them to be achievable for me. I have chosen realistic goals, goals I am confident I can make based on progress, coaching, and advice from other players. By providing deadlines, I have made this a time sensitive endeavor, and in tandem with how public I have made them, I am even more motivated.

As far as WHAT you will be training on, that is something I can only briefly touch on as it is very dependent on how you are as a learner and player. Some people are kinesthetic learners and learn from doing while others may be visual learners, it can be difficult to be an auditory learner and study chess via that path…difficult but not impossible. I recommend working with a coach, but if one is not available you can reach out to someone in the chess world and I promise they will help…it is such a great community with tons of knowledge to share.

As for me, on a day that I work I commit 3-4 hours divided among playing games online, solving tactics, and reading. I work with my coach twice a week with one ours sessions. My coach also sends me puzzles to solve and articles to read between sessions. If I have a day off and no other commitments, the sky is the limit. For perspective, on a day I work I tend to play 6 to 8 games on and on days I’m off it’s closer to 10 or 12. Working on simple tactics like the one below until I recognize the patterns and can blast through them in a short time is an important component as well and pattern recognition is a cornerstone of my study.


For now, I believe this to be the best course of action for me, but everyone is different and as we develop we need to develop our methods of learning as well. If you aren’t learning or growing, you need to assess your methods for growth and adapt. I hope this article has helped to set your SMART goals and carry them out!!! Please share your goals with me either here or on Twitter .

6 thoughts on “Making a Plan – Setting and Achieving Goals

    1. Dan Schultz


      While missing a goal can be a major blow, it is also an opportunity to learn. You have to ask WHY did you miss your goal? WHAT impeded you from progress? I set what I believe to be attainable and realistic goals, but you never know what may come up in life. While making my goals public can end up embarassing if one doesn’t make them, it spurs us on to higher performance and makes study and training an imperative, not optional.

  1. After like 4000 attempts in a tactic trainer it is extremly difficult do gain a durable and considerable improvement in the tactics rating. Sure , you need to reach the level of a master in tactics if you want to get a title. This level is something like 2400 at the tactics trainer at Nakamuras TT rating is for example 2991, CM Kingscrusher 2411. So a gain in TT rating of 200 points per year should be necessary if you want to get a title within something like 6? years, but : as higher you get as harder the improvement.
    At Temposchluckers blog ( see link below) we discuss the problem how to get better in tactics
    Good luck

  2. I was nosy why your tactics trainer rating is so low in comparison to your other ratings so i had a look at your tactics trainier statistic

    It shows that you guess to much. The rating system at is designed to punish that. You “solve” or blunder almost all of the problems within the target time. But that dont help your tactics only get 100% when you solve the prblem, no matter how much faster than targettime you where. Even when you think 2 days about a problem.. you lose the same amount of points if you blunder… but when you find the right answer to the problem after even 10 weeks you are still rewarded from the rating system of by losing not thaat many points.
    In chess the most important thing is : to do it right..only when its right speed becomes interesting too.
    So just by trying harder to make no blunders and looking less at the watch.. will give you 100-200 points in “notime”

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