A chess training log is a personal record of your games, your weaknesses and strengths, and what you study. It is one of the best tools you can use if your goal is to improve.
In a journal, patterns and performance trends become clear. Your rating on a given day does not tell you much, but comparing the pattern of rise or fall against your training will help you identify what works for you and what doesn’t.
Here are 10 reasons to keep a chess training log:
1. To motivate yourself
With a log, you will be able to track your progress, to see the work you accomplished. You can also highlight your best games and replay them to see what you are capable of.
2. To get out of slumps
Plateaus are part of the learning process, but sometimes a little change in your training can help. During a slump, look back in your log to find the culprit. Maybe you are training too much (the brain needs to rest to consolidate new information), maybe your training isn’t intense enough , maybe you started studying a new book or stopped solving tactics regularly… If nothing changed, try to tweak your training regimen.
3. To prevent burn-out
When you look back and see that you’ve been working on your chess everyday for some time, it’s time to take a day off to avoid burn-out. The frequency of your days off might change, for example I need less days off (once every two weeks) than when I started studying (1 day off a week).
4. To be accountable
A journal makes it harder to skip a training session when you know you have to log your actions for the day.
5. To build confidence
During a tournament, it is easy to forget about all the work and preparation you have done and let doubt creep into your mind. A training log creates a permanent record of all your accomplishments. It helps you realize that you did the best you could.
6. To identify what it takes to perform well in a tournament
Your journal allows you to record your pre-tournament preparation. As a result, after a peak performance you will have a blueprint of every details it took to have a good tournament. If your results weren’t good, you’ll know you will have to change something in your next preparation.
7. To help you set goals
If you usually improve 100 elo points a year, it’s not realistic to set the goal of gaining 300 elo points next year without changing anything in your training. The data in your log will help you create an effective and realistic training program. You will know how many books you read per year, how much time you can dedicate to chess everyday, how many rest days you need and so on.
8. To confirm patterns
Sometimes patterns occur that we are not aware of or sometimes you may feel that a certain pattern is happening. Having the data will help you recognize those patterns and help you act accordingly. For example, I saw in my log that I didn’t do much on thursdays and I realized that on thursdays I don’t have as much time for chess as the other days of the week. So now I plan nearly all my work on the other days and keep a light workload on thursdays. I also take my rest days on thursdays.
9. To plan to get better
Your games contain everything you need to plan a great study schedule. To improve it is important to get rid of your weaknesses, so when you analyze your games you will find weaknesses to address. You will also know if your past training was effective (if you turned a weakness into a strength).
10. To help your coach help you
Knowing how and what you train as well as your results will help your coach (or another player willing to help you) to analyze your work and create a training program that suits you best.
Your turn now: do you have a chess training log and what are you putting into it?