What Better Chess Training is All About

Better Chess Training helps amateur players get better at chess. How? By showing you how to optimize the limited time you have to study and train. Besides using the example of the great chess masters past and present, I will apply principles and methods from the sciences or developing expertise, learning, memory, motivation, and achievement. I'll be talking a lot about the science of training because I love it!

Some of the topics you'll find here:
  • What are the Best Resources for Learning
  • Where to Focus your Training
  • How to Structure your Chess Training
  • How to Study Your Games 
  • How to Get Past Obstacles to your Improvement
Things you won't find here:
    • Secret opening novelties to crush Magnus Carlsen!
    • How to Gain 1000 Ratings Points Overnight! (or some variation)
    • Chess news or history (unless it is relevant to your chess improvement) - for a good site for chess news, check out FM Dennis Monokroussos' blog The Chess Mind.

    Who Am I?

    My name is Bryan Castro. I'm a regular person like you who loves chess and someday aspires to master the Royal Game - or at least reach the master ranking (USCF 2200). I'm currently a Class A player with a USCF Rating of 1849. Like you, I have other responsibilities that sometimes have to come before chess study and training. I have a full time business as well as a family so my time to study chess is limited. I also have interests in self-improvement, music, and martial arts. As you will find out throughout this blog, these other endeavors have done much to inform my philosophy and methods I will be sharing.

    My Chess Story

    I learned to play chess as a child. My father was my teacher and my main chess opponent. We played maybe dozens of games between the ages 7-10. At age 10, I beat him, and he didn't play me again. In fact, I didn't play chess again until I got to high school. I became the president of the chess club and although I didn't know any specific openings or strategies, I followed the method of my father, trying to learn what I could each of my games.

    I played sparingly in college, usually against my roommate (although admittedly, we were both very bad). In my 5th year of school, the local chess club held a rated tournament at the university. I couldn't afford to join the USCF at the time, so I played in the unrated blitz tournament, with a time control of 5 minutes per game. I won my first game against a national master, after he blundered and I checkmated him. Unfortunately, I lost the rest of the games that day.

    I went to graduate school, and my studies distracted me from my chess hobby. It wasn't until three years after my blitz tournament experience that I finally joined the USCF and joined the local chess club. In my first rated tournament, I lost all three games in a quad (a round robin with four players). I also lost every game in my second and third tournaments. In my fourth tournament, I won my 3rd game - against a 9-year-old girl! Her father was a very large and muscular looking man and I thought I should run when she went crying to him after our game. My first published rating was 1071.

    I slowly started climbing up the ratings ladder, but I hit a few plateaus when I got my first job, got married, and had children. Of course, these were very good things in my life, and for my chess it was a blessing in a way. Why? Because I found out that my chess training had to become very efficient. I was no longer a carefree grad student with 3-4 hours a day to study chess and play online. I had to learn to do more in less time.

    Do you see any similarities to your chess story? Do you find it hard to find time to study this beautiful game as much as you want to? Do you have a family, a job, or a house to take care of? If you do, please know that you have a kindred spirit who sincerely wants to help you.

    The Concept of Better

    Finally, I want to explain why I call this site Better Chess Training. Of course, it is a site about chess training - as opposed to chess news or history. However, the choice of the word better was very deliberate. First, I think many of us (myself included) sacrifice the good for the best. We don't start that new training program because the time isn't right. We don't try out that new opening in a game because we haven't "learned it all." I learned that I shouldn't be striving for perfection...instead I strive to be better. After every game I play, I just try to be a little better - a little better in the opening, a little better concentration, a little better tactical recognition, a little better thought process. After a while, a string of better for a series of days, months, and years will result in a much better player than you could imagine!

    One Final Message

    I don't consider myself a guru sitting on some mountain with all the answers. If anything, I consider myself a fellow traveler on this road to chess improvement (if I dare use the title from Alex Yermolinsky's inspirational book). I may be a little further down the road than you are at the moment, but I hope I can guide you past the potholes, roadblocks, and detours along the way. Good Luck, God Bless, and Better Chess!

    Bryan Castro

    If you enjoy my writing, I also write frequently on GM Nigel Davies' Chess Improver site and on Chessable.com.

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