The World Chess community celebrated the 100th anniversary of Mikhail Moiseevich Botvinnik a couple of days ago (he was born on August 17, 1911). He was the founder of the famous Soviet School of Chess which explains his popular nickname "Patriarch of the Soviet Chess School" or simply "Patriarch". I was very lucky when I got an invitation to join the famous "Botvinnik-Kasparov School".
Of course I knew how great Botvinnik was even before I joined his school, but only there did I truly realize the degree of his greatness. From him you could learn pretty much everything about chess. You show him one of your games and then he says something like "You really need to take a look at the game Kan-Goglidze from the Soviet Trade Union Championship 1936 and then you'll know how White is supposed to play in this kind of a position". When you are a kid and you hear such a recommendation, your first thought is usually "what can I learn from a game played more than half of a century ago?" But you look at the game and indeed everything becomes pretty clear about this kind of positions.
It looked like he had a recipe to fix any chess problem. His own training methods were legendary. When he noticed that a noise in a tournament hall was disturbing him during the game, he found a solution. During his preparation for the next tournament he played training games with his second GM Ragozin and during the games he was turning on his radio to its loudest volume. Then during the actual tournament games he didn't even notice the noise. When he wanted to fix his time management and avoid time trouble he payed training games where the main and only objective was to avoid time trouble. So if he won such a training game but was in time trouble at any point, he considered it as failing the test. And just the opposite was true: if he was able to avoid time trouble even if it meant losing the game, that counted as a success (that's what training games are for!). With this method you can fix any chess problem you have. ( To some extent it reminds me of the famous principle of George Costanza that we discussed here: http://www.chess.com/article/view/do-the-opposite )
So, say you want to improve your attacking/tactical/calculation skills. According to the Botvinnik method you need to play training games where your objective is not to win the game but to get a very sharp position and try to play the best way there. Then, after the game is over you analyze it and see what your shortcomings are and what you should have done differently.
But what if you don't have a GM friend like Botvinnik (or any strong chess player friend for that matter) who would want to play training games with you? Then you need to be creative. Here is my own experience.
I always was a positional kind of a player. Here is how the excellent book of GM Yermolinsky describes me (even though my name wasn't mentioned directly): "devoted chess technician", "superior technician, specializing in a wait-and-see approach". At some point I decided to sharpen my chess style and since I couldn't find good opponents willing to play training games close to my place, I decided to take advantage of modern technologies. I turned to chess playing servers. There I could find many strong opponents and play my training games even if my opponents didn't suspect that the games were just training exercises for me.
But how can you assure that you are going to reach a sharp position ( after all this is the main and only objective of those training games)? Well, if you play say King's Gambit, it is very difficult not to get a sharp position . So, basically, you play any opening that leads to a sharp position. (You can search for the series of my articles on chess.com "Openings for attacking players" if you are not sure how to get a sharp position).
Here is a game I played on the Internet vs. GM Michael Wilder:
(Just like in most of my articles I give you a chance to test your attacking skills, so the game is given as a Quiz. Please remember that you can always replay the whole game from the first move if you click "Solution" and then "Move list".)
But don't expect it to always be smooth sailing like in the previous game. In the next game I had the arrogance to play the same questionable gambit against one of the World's best tacticians and got completely murdered. But, as you know, the result of the game doesn't matter for your training purpose, besides it was just a 3 minute blitz
I played this way dozens if not hundreds of games. Did this training make me change my style so I am a wizard of attack now? Nope! I am the same positional player. Then you might ask what's the point of this training? Well, just like no noise was too loud for Botvinnik compared to the highest volume of his radio, the same way no position is going to look too crazy for you after the crazy training games you played. Here is one of my games from a real tournament (the US Championship):
As I mentioned already, you can use the Botvinnik method to fix any chess problem, you just need to be creative. I hope your chess improvement and great success in your future tournaments is going to be a good tribute for the legendary Botvinnik!