Proof of concept
Chess improvement is always very unpredictable. I started the preparation for the oncoming tournaments with a complete new openings repertoire, and via endgames I ended up with aural visualization, which is the main part of my training now. It feels as if it is working. So what's the plan?
The tournaments will be decisive. If they show that aural visualization is the missing link in tactical improvement, I can base my plans on that. If it is not working, well, then it's back to the drawing board.
Endgame training will be a substantial part of my training the coming year. Even though it will only gain me 70 points or so, it is necessary to embed it in my games. It makes a whole lot of difference when you can decide at any moment in your game, now I'm going to liquidate into an endgame. Your options will double.
Studying "The art of attack" of Vukovic deeply, has been on my bucket list for a long time. Especially the preconditions of an attack have my interest. If the tournaments show that aural visualization is working, I know exactly how I'm going to approach the study of that.
Creating micro plans fast is a definite hole in my chess ability. Studying "Mastering chess strategy" of GM Johan Hellsten is designed to fill that gap. I have no idea how many rating points that will yield, but at least it should help to avoid time trouble. Like endgames, it is a necessary part of your chess education.
After reading My System a few times, I became convinced that there is indeed a system hiding in the book. But it will take a lot of time and effort to decipher the work. To be honest I was a bit disappointed about the book of John Watson "Advances since Nimzowitsch". The book seems to battle against the idea of rules in chess. Since every rule has its exceptions, and exceptions form the majority of the cases, and rules are always overruled by concrete calculation. Well, he has a point, of course, but is that a reason to abandon the idea of rules all together? I don't think so. The aural visualization is designed to take care of the calculation department. Within two months we will know if that is sufficient. At the same time it is a pity that Watson didn't build further on the work of Nimzowitsch. The theory of chess, and I don't mean the openings, didn't seem to come any further since then. Of course every super grandmaster has its own ideas about how to conduct a game, but there doesn't seem much consensus and coherence between the super grandmasters mutually. Or maybe I just mist it.
At the same time, I'm working on my own system. I don't like the longlists of for instance "How to reassess your chess", where you have to fill in a list of more than 10 points to assess your position. Although these long lists might have a solid theoretical base, they are not practical. During a chess game there is little time to think, and working your way trough a whole bunch of checklists isn't of any help in practice.
My investigations show that you can replace all those checklists by just one rule: improve the activity of your pieces. Such checklist of just one point is easy to remember, and offers enough guidance to judge whether a piece has to move or not. For long, piece activity has been the nec plus ultra guidance for my games.
The king and the pawns are the slow moving pieces of the board. That makes them the natural targets to hunt for. In their wake they might slow down other pieces, when these are obliged to slacken too, for reasons of defense. Slowing down due to function. I have been looking for ways to combine piece activity with the idea of the sitting ducks. The PoPLoAFun system proved to be the glue which cement both ideas together. A piece cannot be considered to be active when it is not aiming at a target. Only when an attacker is connected via lines of attack and points of pressure with a target, a piece can be called active.
The pawn landscape provides the lines of attack which can be used to bring the attackers in contact with the targets. So you have the creation of the lines of attack, followed by the battle to make use of them. What is left behind in the endgame are the remnants of the pawn landscape. In the middle game, piece activity should be your guide.
Some day, I hope to combine the ideas of PoPLoAFun and piece activity related to sitting ducks, with the ideas of Nimzowitsch. In some way.