Question + Answer: Becoming weak through lack of study

Someone emailed me a question. If you have any questions that you think are suitable for everyone to view, please post it in the "comments" area, and I will respond in the same way. I will dedicate a post to answering the question though:

The person wrote:
Thanks for the "inside" information! You wrote that your goal is to spend 2 hours/week and that you did practically no studying last year. May I ask if you became weaker without training or are many things so "hardwired" in your brain that you do not need much studying to keep playing at a given level?

I definitely became a little bit weaker, but not by much. The main thing that happens when I am not studying is I might forget a few opening variations, but this shouldn't weaken a player significantly. In my opinion, once you learn something in chess it becomes somewhat hardwired (generally speaking) into your brain. Chess masters rely on intuition and experience for most of their playing strength, and it's hard to lose that. I think the main reason I got weaker is my lack of playing in tournaments. When I made my journey from 1100 to Master, I was playing in one or two challenging tournaments a month. Now I am lucky to play one tournament a year. To avoid getting weaker it is important to "stay in shape" by competing in tournaments regularly. It is also important to stay in tactical shape. For less experienced players it is best to do this by solving puzzles. For stronger players I think solving puzzles and playing internet chess (even blitz) is a good way to stay in tactical shape.

Again feel free to post appropriate questions in the "Comments" area and I will gladly respond in the same way.

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