I watched some YouTube videos and memorized the top 3-5 lines for each. In practice, it is not often that my opponents follow any of the main lines that I studied. That said, I found it helpful to start each game with a basic plan.
I noticed a pattern on my path from Elo 1300 to Elo 1400: I'd make a move and then immediately realize it has problems. There were just too many: "I could have avoided that mistake if I spent more than 15 seconds thinking!"-moments.
I now realize that the weak point in my play isn't any theoretical knowledge of openings, but a lack of discipline before making a move. I've been trying to force myself to slow down, pick a few candidate moves, and calculate the one that is best. It has helped me blunder less.
As a next goal, I'd like to get to Elo 1500. That would take me from "decent social player" to "beginning club player". My best win to date was against a player with Elo 1488. Reaching Elo 1500 feels far off right now.
Trying to become better at chess has been a humbling experience. I'll let you know when I get to Elo 1500 — if I can get there at all.
— Dries Buytaert
Dries Buytaert is an Open Source advocate and technology executive. More than 10,000 people are subscribed to his blog. Sign up to have new posts emailed to you or subscribe using RSS. Write to Dries Buytaert at firstname.lastname@example.org.