In Jonathan Tisdall’s excellent book “Improve Your Chess Now” I came across a very practical recommendation that unfortunately took me so long to arrive at myself (or at least to follow with any consistency). The Wisdom and Advice chapter has a subsection called “Write it down” and I’ll quote it directly here:
If you have an interesting idea, write it down. If you analyse a position, write it down. If you decide on a basic opening repertoire, write it down. Recording your thoughts makes it easier to remember, and give you something to refer to when you eventually forget them. I find a often lose the notebook but it doesn’t hurt to try. And paper is still a more secure format than diskette, so I suppose the up-to-date advice would be: print it out [ and back it up – editor’s note.]
Many times I found myself over the board unsuccessfully trying to remember the theory, or trying to decide how to uniquely deviate from the same main lines that I never had a chance to study. These are the symptoms of the same root problems that I think affect many amateur players:
- A player never decides on a repertoire choice against a specific opening (even though it comes up once in every 30 blitz games and is an obvious problem)
- When a older game reveals a problem in one's knowledge of an opening, or in the opening itself, no action is taken between tournaments to "fix it" (because the steps involved are undefined).
- Because nothing is ever written down in one place, it is time consuming to review old theory knowledge before a tournament, or before a specific game.
Writing it down (i.e. enter into the computer, using today's language) is not going to solve all these problems, but it is the first step in the right direction. It will reveal what are the biggest gaps in your repertoire, and will be something you can always iterate upon and expand over the years. And yes, back it up!
PS. A while ago I already wrote about the attitude one should have towards opening preparation. And just last week I made a post about software tools to do exactly what Tisdall is talking about – printing out your opening repertoire.