Sunday, January 6, 2008

Managing the Odd Slump in Performance

Chess slumps happen to the best of people - even GM's like Bobby Fischer who struggled a bit early on in the infamous Spassky series. However, the key is how to get out of the slump and understanding what it really is.

Awhile back I wrote a bit on chess frustration on the blog. From my experience, frustration with chess comes just before a rating surge, no matter how large or how small the rating surge will be. I used the comparison of a race horse waiting for the gate to open because when a person studies chess, they learn new things, but there has to come the time when they are able to put those into practice. During this particular stage is what gives rise to frustration.

A slump, on the other hand, might just be a signal that more learning needs to take place, or perhaps a good refresher of things learned in the past. What can cause a slump in one's improvement? A variety of things obviously, but I would wager that it's more often than not the consequence of less "work" in the pursuit and practice of chess knowledge.

For instance, over the past few weeks throughout Christmas, I have been too busy to do a lot of the things I was doing with chess before the break. A consequence of that was a decline in my overall performance coupled with an urge to play 'blitz' more often due to limited time. Blitz is fun, but can be dangerous in that bad habits persist from match to match, whereas longer time-limits and more analysis fend off positional mistakes.

The solution for me was very simple - slow down, get back to basics, resume studying, and play less blitz and more longer time control matches.

I am interested to hear your thoughts on the subject of what you have done to get out of slumps or what you think causes them.


mq1982 said...

Quite true that Blitz and Bullet should be fun, but not used as the only forms of Chess practice. Longer games are essential to study. I feel that chess learning should be as follows for each week:

20% of time on openings
20% of time on tactics/middlegame
20% of time on endgames
40% of time playing long(ish) games

Averaging 30-45 mins a day for practice.

jrobi said...

Good recommendation MQ! The percentage I am going to be striving for in 2008 is the following:

20% Openings
30% Tactics
25% End-Game Study
25% Long Time Limit Matches

And a little blitz here and there to try new things out, so very close to your recommendation.