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Karthik raised over 450 points in less than a year, even with an active job

An active job limits time. Nervousness to play only makes it harder to improve – This was Karthik’s situation. Yet, he raised over 450 points! Here’s how…

Success Story | 9 min read
Karthik raised over 450 points in less than a year, even with an active job

Balancing chess with an active day job and a family is tough. Our time is limited. So is energy.  

But Karthik Ramesh, who works as a chip designer at a micro-processing company in Cambridge, UK was determined to improve his chess. 

“I’ve always played in childhood but only friendly games. From 2017, I enrolled into the local chess club here and started playing some rated games.” 

“When I started winning games, I felt I could do something about it. And when I lose, it’s like what am I doing."

"I started sleeping less. And anything that makes me sleep less makes me curious. That’s when I started working more on chess.” 

The challenges Karthik faced at the beginning

At first, getting used to online chess, especially with the faster time controls, was a challenge.

“I had to get used to online chess. 5 + 3 was fast. I used to play 45-minute games.”

“Also, I was very nervous about playing online because I wasn’t passing 1200. Someone would always defeat me. And when you lose more than 5 games, you’re like – let me take a break.”

A proper direction to improve his game was also lacking.

“Because I had very little time for chess practice during the day unless I get a proper method to study, I knew it was never going to work.”

“I had hired a coach. He put me through a lot of tactics. But it was expensive. And I cannot spend all the time I have taking coaching because I also need to practice.” 

From GM Praggnanandhaa to GM R.B. Ramesh to ChessMood.

Before the pandemic, Karthik participated in the London Chess Classic, a big chess festival that hosts different tournaments for amateurs, masters and elite players. Here, he met the family of a rising star from his native city of Chennai.  

“I met GM Praggnanandhaa and his mother when they came to play the London Chess Classic. There I talked with his family about his chess journey.” 

“I went to Prag’s Facebook page and learned about R.B Ramesh(Prag’s coach). That’s when I started following Ramesh’s page.”

One thing led to another and…

“One fine day R.B Ramesh shared about ChessMood. And if he’s sharing, it must be 100% good quality. That’s how I first came to know about it.”

Soon, Karthik began reading the blogs on ChessMood. There was one particular story that grabbed his attention. 

“While reading, I came across the story of a chess improver from the U.S. who had a family of dogs? and raised many points. It was relatable.” 

“So I was like – if I want to go from A to B and Avetik has taken many people through that route, I want to be there.” 

With that, Karthik joined ChessMood.

Stage 1 – Facing the fear

Karthik split his journey of chess improvement into stages.

“In Stage 1, I had to get used to online chess and come out of nervousness.” 

The first hurdle to overcome was the fear of losing games. Karthik assessed the situation rationally.

“If I lose 10 times, take a big break, and come back, I’m going to be the same.”

And then made an interesting choice…

“So I thought let me lose 1000 times. I don’t care if I lose. I’ll lose but I’ll learn! So I was binge-blitzing, playing as many games as I could.”  

At that point, Karthik instinctively decided to play as many games as possible to overcome the fear of losing – this was the same advice later recommended by GM Avetik in the BlunderProof course.

While playing many games helped Karthik overcome his fear of losing, it led to another problem.

Too much play. Too little practice.

“I started with the default 1,500 on lichess. But because of binge-playing, my rating went all the way to 1,300. I was like – what’s happened?”

There was a huge mismatch between the ratio of playing to the ratio of studying. 

“So at 1,300, I thought let me not play anything. I started watching all the course videos.”

“There was a big lesson I learned from stage 1 – I can’t play 50 hours and spend only 1-hour learning.” 

Stage 2 – Hard work

To make progress, Karthik realized the need to put in hours to study chess. So he began working with the Tactic Ninja and the Mating Matador courses. 

“Some tactics were basics I already knew like pin, forks, double attacks. But the combination of using 2 tactics together is where the kick is.”

Learning from solving difficult puzzles

“Some puzzles were easy. Other I had to solve 2 times. In the final video of a section, the puzzles go from easy to tough. The last puzzle was the most challenging.”

While solving, Karthik actively asked himself questions to fine-tune his thinking.

“If I miss something – why did I miss that particular move? 

Or why did I think it wouldn’t work when in reality, it worked? 

That corrected my understanding.”

The real game-changer

Soon, Karthik's hard work bore fruit.

“Tactic Ninja and Mating Matador, these 2 courses changed my chess knowledge and rating. It made a huge difference because I started playing forcing moves. And that was the game changer for me.”

Two things happened as spotting forcing moves became easier for Karthik.

“My candidate moves became very less. So instead of calculating all the possible moves in a position, I knew which moves to look for first.”

"Also, I started to blunder less while my opponents blundered more. I was able to take advantage of the latter.”

Learning openings the simple way

Karthik also studied the simplified version of openings. 

“I was waiting for simplified openings. And the way Avetik has done it is brilliant. He’s given a pdf, the test yourself pgn, what are the key moves to learn and why it’s done.”

It helped him learn the underlying ideas and plans behind the opening.

“For example in Caro Kann, we have to exchange the Bishop of the same color as our central pawn because that Bishop will be inactive. When I understand this, I don’t want to exchange my light-squared Bishop but my dark-squared one.”


A key concept explained in the WhiteMood opening repertoire

A mantra to counter the annoying Stafford gambit 

Facing the Stafford gambit was a pain. But a 3-word mantra changed everything.

Playing against the Stafford Gambit took a lot of time to learn. Whatever I played, I kept losing, losing, losing. And then Avetik told me – oh c’mon, don’t castle kingside.?

It doesn’t matter if you castle or not ?Just don’t castle Kingside.”

1-hour input = 2 hours of output

Because of his active day job, squeezing the most out of his study time was key.

“I study 90 minutes minimum. If I push hard – 2 hours. I’ve two sessions – 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the evening.”

So he improved the quality of his chess training by optimizing for focus and eliminating distractions.

“1 hour is completely for me. I go away from the whole world. I’ve got a garden office where I study chess and no one can disturb me. I don’t bring a phone and lock myself in.” 

“This power-packed 1 hour at the garden office is equal to 2 hours of work if I do it in the same room where everyone else is.”


The Garden office

The biggest cheerleader in Karthik’s life.

“I think it’s my wife. I can’t go far without my family. They take care of time when I’m focussing on chess. They’ve been really supportive and understanding.” 

“If someone has a goal, you’ve to allow them to work and give them the freedom.”

Karthik also found great value in becoming a part of ChessMood.

"I’m very happy that ChessMood has come up. Nowhere in the world do I see someone wholeheartedly wanting to help the beginner become a professional. 
Who wants to do that? Most want to be a private coach and earn money.
But Avetik has broader thinking. They want to help people. They want people to win – that’s their win. That itself is a selfless vision. And that’s what is helping everybody."

Not mixing hard work and fun

Sometimes, Karthik just wanted to have fun without losing rating

“If I’m tired and just want to play without caring about rating, I’ll play on another account. Here my goal is to have fun.
Whereas if I’m fresh and ready to raise rating, I’ll play on the main account.
By doing so, I can have fun when I want to and work hard on my chess at the same time.”

Stage 3 – Just improve the ‘algorithm’.

Being a chip designer by profession, Karthik uses an algorithm to make the best move in a position. Out of the different factors, here are 2 that feed it. 

“My chess algorithm is to look for forcing moves. If there isn’t a forcing move, I’ll look for strategic moves like making my worst-placed piece happy.”

Detachment from the results.

Karthik senses he’s now in Stage 3 of improvement, where the main focus is on improving the algorithm.

“Stage 3 is where I’ve started to focus on the chess quality. I want to play good chess and not focus on the game's results. And the kind of difference it makes to my game is amazing!”

“One, I’m not upset that I lost the game.
Two, I’m happy because even if I lost to a 2,000 player, I still play good chess. And that keeps me motivated to improve.”

“Because I’m detached from the result, my main focus is just to improve my algorithm.”

By focussing on the algorithm, Karthik’s improving his process rather than wasting time and energy getting upset about the lost game. 

“Playing chess with concepts is one part. The other is psychology. Any good chess player who’s tired will lose the game. 
Right Mood is 50%. The Right Technique is 50%. ChessMood has got both of them ?”

The massive rating jump 

By getting better at spotting forcing moves, working on chess productively and with a focus on improving the algorithm, Karthik’s rating went from 1,301 to 1,758 – a jump of over 450 points in less than a year.

Karthik's rating progress chart
From 1301 to 1758 | Source: Karthik's lichess account 

Starting chess late

After raising so many rating points in such a short time, we asked Karthik why he didn't pursue chess in his younger days.

“Everyone has different, or let’s say multiple passions.
During my young age, I wasn’t that serious about chess. I was more interested in electronics and chip design. I was very passionate about that.”

“Now, I work with some of the world’s best talents and the major players in the semiconductor market like Qualcomm, Imagination, Toshiba. If I’ve done that, I can definitely shine at chess as well.
Everything has a time and I got my time here ?” 

Future plans

Karthik has aggressive aspirations moving forward and believes in the direction he’s taking to reach there.

“I’m 39 and if I go the same way, then probably in the next 3 years, I can become a FIDE master. If the method is right, why not?”

***

Before wrapping up, we also did a rapid-fire round with Karthik.

Rapid Round

Your favorite chess piece.

Queen.

Your favorite player from the current generation.

GM Praggnanandhaa

Your chess player from the past generation. 

Paul Morphy.

And my favorite game is the Opera game, played by Morphy – which finished with my favorite Opera Mate!? 

Your favorite opening.

Scotch Game

I’ve got like an 80% win rate. Opposite side castle, push pawns and break the defense.

Your playing style in 1 word.

Forcing-moves.

Opening/Middlegame/Endgame – Which one is your favorite?

Middlegames – because it’s easy to get a feel for the position and easier to find forcing moves! ?

Your favorite ChessMood course.

Tactic Ninja.

Your Right Mood ritual.

Play 3 puzzle rush or 3 puzzle streaks. After that, take a few deep breaths before playing a set of 9 games.

If goddess Caissa were to gift you a chess superpower, what would you have?

Accurate calculation

Thank you for reading! Ask, connect and share your congratulatory messages with Karthik via this forum thread.

Originally published Jul 24, 2022

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