Crazy as it may sound, but this year has not been a total wipeout for me.
Has my chess strength grew the past year? I don't think so. In fact, I think I was at my strongest near the early middle half of the year where I was constantly working through exercises and started concentrating heavily on chess tactics and endgames. With the onset of my studies, chess unfortunately took a back seat and I had indeed backslided. I know because my play has dramatically suffered.
These days, in over the board games, I realised I'm falling prey to 1 to 2 move checkmates. Those really hurt! In the past, I would've spotted them dead easy but for some reason, I'm having some kind of mental block. In particular, I've noticed a number of glaring weaknesses appearing in my play:
1. My endgame technique while vastly improved is still lacking in some areas especially in grasping the concept of taking advantage of pawn chains and pawn structures arising from IQP positions. Additional weaknesses include not knowing how to play R+pawns v R+pawns endgames
2. I have problem visualising the long-range attacking (and blockading!) power of the Bishops and the Queen and in particular, movements that involve moving either of these pieces across the entire length of the board.
3. Being oblivious to my opponent's plans. It happens with such frightening regularity that my play has become somewhat affected by it.
4. Being too eager to make a move without properly calculating out the consequences. The less said of this, the better.
Things that I've improved:
1. My endgame play is now much more stable.
2. Learning the Indian openings. So far, my opening repertoire now includes some lines of the Nimzo-Indian, the Queen's Indian and the Bogo-Indian Defence. The King's Indian Defence is still something I could not grasp in its entirety.
3. In response to 1. e4, my Black repertoire includes the Sicilian Kan, the French Winawer and the Accelerated Dragon.
4. I'm not afraid to play against the Sicilian anymore as White. In fact, I look forward to it and I usually either play a variation of the Grand Prix or the Keres Attack.
5. Coming in second despite forfeiting 6 games at my chess club competition in the under 1400 rating was a nice bonus.
Things that I've done nothing about:
1. The Berlin Wall is my biggest headache. Same goes for the Archangelsk and the Marshall lines.
2. Understanding pawn structures and pawn play eg. when should you push the pawns and when you should not.
3. Greater understanding of squares and how to take advantage of them.
With the coming of this new year and hopefully with the conclusion of my studies, I hope I can make better progress in chess. I'm another year older and I've definitely have to be a year wiser.