Learner Series #2

The Learner Series will highlight players that have made significant rating progress over the past few years. The second guest in the series, Paul, is a one of my good friends and a chess student. He has gone from 1200-1750 chess.com blitz over a three year period. If you have questions for Paul, please leave them in the comments!

ChessGoals Intermediate Study Plan


How old are you and how long have you been playing chess?

Paul from learner series 2
Paul, a.k.a. peteypabmf on chess.com

38.  Well, I played when I was younger and played in high school but up until April 2016, I had probably played 250 games in my lifetime.  Then in April 2016, I decided to take chess seriously again and hired a chess coach.  

How many hours per week do you spend on chess?

This past month has been bad because I have been traveling a lot, but before then and after the holidays, it will go back to its normal 10-15 hours per week.  I play and study everyday in some fashion and my chess coach and I have 2-3 lessons per week. 

Chess website usernames?

Peteypabmf – chess.com
Pgabrail – lichess

What’s your current skill level or rating?

Well my officially USCF is 1550 but I don’t play much OTB and, like every chess player in the world, I don’t think it’s indicative of my level.

PLAYING OVERVIEW — describe where you play, time controls, how often, etc


I play a monthly event at my office now where I host.  Two games of g30d5 each month and I try to enter tournaments two or three times a year.  I travel to Rochester MN twice a year to play.  I am not a huge fan of OTB which is kind of a bad thing when your goal is to become a chess master. 


I play two or three 15+10 per week on chess.com and then I try to play several 5+5 a week.  When I am going to bed, I try to play 2+1 at night.  Probably not the best strategy when you are falling asleep but it’s a nice way for me to calm down and get ready for sleep, I feel.

STUDYING OVERVIEW — talk about what sites you use, how often you spend, tips

Game Analysis

To be honest, I tend to not review my wins, which is not a good idea. I should review every game.  But when I lose, I definitely review and try to figure out where I made my biggest mistakes or if I see a steady increase in someone’s advantage, I try to go back and see where that all started.  I know I should probably go review the game with a chess coach or on my own before I run analysis but I just like to get right to the point of where did I mess up. NOW, if I am low on time and I have a good idea of where I screwed up because I had to play too fast, then I go back and see if I can take a minute or two to figure out a better move.  But other than that, I just run analysis and look at what was going on in the position that first made my position bad. 


When I first started studying again in 2016, I was completing 100+ tactics per day and I loved it.  Then I stopped completely. Now I am back on the tactics train.  I not only work on getting my current level higher, but with my chess coach, we run 2500-3000 level tactics because it is a great way to discuss positions because those tend to be a lot of positional tactics as opposed to “Win this piece in two moves” tactics that we have at lower levels. I am currently 2136 on tactics, which I am quite proud of, and I know that will help my OTB game significantly. 

I also use chessable.com because of my coach’s suggestion and I LOVE IT.  I use this for every method of training…tactics, openings, end game…etc.


Basically chessable.com is all I do. I buy books that are based on the openings I like and use and then go over these like crazy.  Over and over. 


Same as Openings and Chessable.com.


Chessable.com but my coach and I spend a lot of time talking about positions and strategy in order to get better.  As time goes on, I find myself listening to him as I watch him play games.  He will do that and I will hear him say things such as “Ok, I am going to do X, Y, and Z because of their bad bishop and my good bishop.” Or something to that effect.  It’s nice to hear him say those things because they slowly get into my play when I am playing alone. 

OTHER USEFUL TIDBITS — Do you watch streams/videos, play variants, any unique things you do that others can learn from?

I do zero watching of videos or other matches, basically. I am very big on using my chess coach as a resource and he knows how serious I am about chess and he is always trying to modify to make chess fun for me.  He RARELY says “ok, you need to do this even though you hate it.”  He just tries to find ways in which we can train the way he wants me to train using the tools that I enjoy. That, to me, is most important.  It has to be fun or I won’t do it.