Maintaining Good Form

A common problem for many chess enthusiasts is in maintaining their form during periods when they don’t play much. This can happen for many reasons, the main ones being work and family, but the effect can be devastating for someone’s chess. It feels like forgetting how the pieces move, or at least only remembering after a struggle. What exactly is happening?

There are neurological reasons for the degradation of learned skills but in simple terms we must ‘use them or lose them’. The best way of doing this is via constant study and tournament practice but very few of us can afford to do this. Are there methods that work within a busy lifestyle?

I think there are but it requires discipline and organisational skills to do so. First of all one should not waste time on things like news, complex opening theory or skim reading chess books, it’s much better to focus and direct exercise for the chess brain via problems and analytical work. Ideally this should involved working things out in your head rather than moving the pieces around and this practice should be maintained on a daily basis.

How can people squeeze the time in if there’s barely a spare moment? There are always a few options available, such as solving chess problems on an exercise bike (just don’t pedal too fast!), keeping a puzzle book in the bathroom or solving a few problems on the commute to work. I’m not up to speed with the latest apps for mobile devices but for gadget lovers there are probably things available.

With a bit more time available but none for tournaments then I strongly recommend trying correspondence chess rather than exclusively playing online blitz, the latter can lead to bad habits such as playing fast moves rather than good ones. And don’t worry that everyone is using computers, if the idea is to keep one’s chess ticking over then it’s good that the opposition is sending strong replies.