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  1. Forum
  2. General Chess Discussion
  3. What is the one thing that helped you improve the most?

Was it a book or just a bit of advice someone gave you? For me it was watching IM John Bartholomew's chess fundamentals. Before that I didn't really care about what my opponents plans were, I just wanted to make my moves. Also got me thinking a lot more about undefended pieces and how tactics can arise as soon as you spot them.

For those who haven't watched them

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ao9iOeK_jvU

Drugs.

Smoking allowed me something to do while my opponents took such huge amounts of time deciding on which blunder to make.

A know quite a few people who play better when they've had a few to drink. It makes them more careless, but this is what they need to play better.

1/10 for trolling. Not even a little bit funny.

It's the truth.

The Saint Louis Chess Club videos really helped, especially Ben and Yasser's videos. Also, one of the biggest/most important realizations for me to cross into the class A category OTB was understanding that material doesn't matter if you are the one with the initiative. Previously, I was very apprehensive about sacrificing material, and would disregard certain variations because "I was down material," but now I will quickly sacrifice for the initiative, as attacking is much easier than defending. I even managed to draw a 2300 NM OTB using this philosophy. Studying tactics also played a big part in my improvement.

Switching from theory-overloaded main lines to sound yet rich semi main lines like Rossolimo and learning them really well. This means concrete lines as well as ideas and motifs till the endgame. Self-speaking, tons of practical blitz games in the internet and analyzing them.

I read really lots of books. The only books that helped where that which say that books won't help you in the first place. You have to have your own practical experience. Tons of it, the hard way.

Thanks for posting IMFins' Video, @NeverBeenTimid! Really great vid for us lower rated players who make blunders every game.

The role of every piece.

My very 1st OTB game I sacked an exchange vs. a 2300+ player. Back then unrateds played in the open and somehow we were paired. The endgame was my Rook and Bishop + 3 pawns vs his two Rooks + 5 pawns. I resigned.
Following the game a spectator pointed out a perpetual for me.
I was devastated. I've learned that "improving" is all but an illusion. If the goal is to "improve" then you are playing for the wrong reasons. (Unless of course the goal is to be a professional and make chess a career and not a hobby).
It's a challenge to become a better player. Human nature. But if playing chess becomes about a higher rating, then the shear enjoyment of the game takes a back seat.

"improving is all but an illusion" seems like a weird conclusion to take out of missing a thing. i'd just take it as something to learn so i don't miss it next time..

for some people, improvement IS the point - the day i feel i have reached my peak is going to be the day i stop playing regularly, even though i have absolutely no intention of playing professionally.
that said, to each one their own, of course. if someone is happy with their level and wants to just play chill casual long games (or thousands of bullet games), more power to them.