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Learning accountability - at the Chicago Open

Every student of anything should do learning accountability lists. It's "meta-learning", meaning you get to look at the bigger picture of not the specifics of what you are learning but more like, WHAT you should be learning and why and how and what you are getting better , what you are getting worse at, and so on.

To be honest, I don't know why the heck I am doing this to myself. I figured, "I'll study up, start playing in tournaments, and quickly get back to my old self."

The world is so different now than it was 25 years ago. It's just a different game. The entire world got better and I got rusty.

    1. Look for the beauty

    I was beating a strong grandmaster last night. Straight up winning. We went over it afterwards and he said he was lost.

    In the middle of the game I offered a draw. I was getting nervous and I felt like I was unsure what to do to clinch the win. He declined the draw. Later he said, "I knew I was losing but I don't care if I win or lose. If I took the draw I would have not seen how this beautiful game would've played out. "

    Well, it played out with him winning. But I was impressed with his focus on the beauty of it and the creativity of it.

    2. My game is not very balanced. I have to balance it better.

    There's many things to study in chess: openings. middlegames, endgames, and then in each of those, there are many things to study. It's infinite.

    I'm very good at openings. i often get good or winning positions in the opening. I'm stronger than I ever was at openings.

    But the other areas, I'm weaker than the people who are the level I was at in 1997. I need to study these other areas more.

    I played someone tonight who told me he solves 300 tactical puzzles a day. I need to start doing stuff like that and stop playing blitz chess online

    3. I don't always see all the right ideas.

    Sometimes in very big ways.

    Like in the game against the Grandmaster where I was winning.

    I was up a piece, which is more than enough to win. I kept trying to attack his king but I didn't need to do it.

    I should've thought to myself, "I just need to bring my pieces back from the attack. Defend against any small threats he has .Exchange pieces. Win." It was such a simple plan to win but I tied up all my pieces trying to checkmate him and I let him counter-attack.

    4. Patience

    Sometimes you need to strike while the iron is hot. But I think I try too often to force things when I should just make small building moves.

    I should say to myself, "What are my opponents plans," and try to slow those down, and if his plans are slow enough then I have time to make improving moves instead of just forcing everything.

    It's like in each game I build up a good position and I expect there should be one sequence that immediately wins. But often I do that and get into a bad position as a result. I need more patience and to recognize somehow that my opponent is not going to beat me if I am solid and making good improving moves.

    5. Don't think so much

    Sometimes I am trying too hard to calculate something when intuition should be good enough. This takes up time and is very draining so often my games go too long and I get into "time pressure" and get nervous about my time running out. Which leads to worse play.

    But maybe I don't have as good intuition as I thought so I made up for it by calculating everything. I don't know.

    6. Keep focusing on the process and not on any one event.

    It's always hard to lose a game. Imagine playing a game for five hours and then you suddenly lose. It's painful.

    But one thing is true: effort and persistence works.Always. And when you love an activity it's much easier to put in effort and persistence.

    Success = love + effort + persistence.

    Some byproducts of this:

    - if you don't love it, don't do it.
    - always try to understand if you are putting in the right effort.
    - difficult things are painful. if you can't persist through pain, you won't succeed.

    These components of success must always be questions. Do I still love it? Do I put in the right effort, etc?

    I dont love losing. I hate it. But this is a process and each game I lose is a treasure of ideas I can study. Any one event doesn't matter.

    I've played 5 games ouit of 9 so far. 1 win, 1 draw, three losses. I sort of expected this. It's a very hard tournament. And actually, because the players are so strong, I'm actually up in ranking a little bit. But still, I don't like three losses.

    That said, a year from now this event won't matter but if I study these losses I will be much better as a result.
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