One thing that I think is very important to achieving my goal is to have a plan. After all, isn't the game itself about attempting to find and then execute a winning plan?
Currently, much like in an actual game, I have both a short term and a long term plan...
Short term plans will generally be things I want to do in the coming few days. Anywhere from a week to a month, but certainly no longer. These plans will typically be related to prep for a specific tournament or game that I have coming up.
One thing I will make sure of is that I engage in a short term plan only when it fits into my long term plan.
For example, as mentioned in my last post, Preparing for Battle, I have a game coming up this week where I will be playing the English as White. (FYI, this will be only the second time I have played 1. c4 in my entire life!) Since part of my long term plan is to learn the English I will allow myself to have the short term plan of focusing on studying this opening all week as my opponent plays it as White and so therefore will likely know the lines much better than I do.
My long term plan is currently this:
Fine Tune My Opening Repertoire
I know that this is something that many players probably spend far too much time on. In my case, I don't think that I spend enough. Until the last month or so I almost never studied openings at all. I mean ever.
This doesn't mean that I want to learn the latest topical lines of the Najdorf out to move 30. It just means that I want to gain a deeper understanding of openings in general and then put together a repertoire that will fit my strengths.
Play Over Annotated Games
This is my main focus right now and has been for the past three months or so. In that time I have played over 100-150 or so games. In addition to the Move by Move books that I have been using (see my earlier posts) the main book I have been using for this is Tartakower's excellent work 500 Master Games of Chess
My plan is to spend the next year to year and a half playing over about 1,500-2,000 total games. Dan Heisman recommends playing over annotated master games as one of the best ways to improve and having started to make a serious effort to do so myself I can see why.
Right now I am not trying to play through Kasparov's books for Everyman Chess since I'm not looking for that level of detail.
One of the things I love about Tartakower's book is that it talks about strategic themes rather than focusing on 20 move variations ala Kasparov, etc.
In case another endorsement was needed, I was drawn to the book when I learned that Bobby Fischer had read and loved it.
Read Pal Benko's Endgame Column in Chess Life
Right now I am not focusing on hard core endgame work. Not too many of my games get to an even endgame. So while I don't want to completely neglect this phase of the game, I also don't want to overly focus on it. I think that for now I am going to mainly read this column as a source of building a foundation.
Of course one of the most important aspects of improving is working on tactics. Two books I go to over and over are Susan Polgar's and Lev Alburt's.
In addition I use the tactics website Chess Tempo since it offers free unlimited training.
So there you have it...my current plan.
If anyone out there has any input or suggestions I'd love to hear them. Or post your own training plan for others to enjoy!