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Resources for systematic training

As my chess coach says, one book on the table induces work, but 20 create confusion.

In our times of ‘Too Much (chess) Information’ (Soltis), I thought it would be useful for people who can’t afford a coach, or want to supplement his teachings, to know about some chess training resources that allow you to train all parts of your game in a consistent and systematic way.

I’ve listed only those ‘one-stop-shop’ programs I have already used myself, or some trusted chess friends have tried.

Note : this is for serious players, as these programs require work.


·         Chessimo

Chessimo is a training software using a repetition algorithm to help ingrain typical patterns.

It contains ~6300 exercises (~4000 tactics, ~1600 endgames and ~700 strategy) and 800 selected master games.

Pros : repetition of patterns helps retention / available on Ipad and Iphone so you can train ‘on the go’ / trains every aspect of your chess, though the emphasis is on tactics

Cons : almost no verbal explanations – requires endurance

For who ? Very good for young players (U25) and ok for beginners

·         Yusupov training books

Yusupov’s ground breaking 9-volume work is a fantastic collection of textbooks/workbooks which covers every aspect of chess.  It contains ~2600 exercises.

Pros : extremely thorough – some very nice examples – you can easily adapt your training schedule to your available time and current interests – lessons are prefaced by explanations – Yusupov also explains how to use his books

Cons : difficult, so using this program requires perseverance

For who ? : any ambitious player, but people rated U1600 must be persistent as there are almost no easy exercises in the books

·         Danielsen’s daily video training

GM Danielsen offers a video-based daily training. Subscribers get 2hrs of training material 5 times / week, covering calculation, endgames and openings

Pros : the contents is excellent, and clearly geared towards tournament players ; Danielsen also offers a lot of practical insights from his vast experience – opening suggestions are of very good quality

Cons : not a lot of exercises, so you may want to stop the videos from time to time to try and guess moves, so as not to become too passive – video production is sometimes average – last but not least, you need a lot of time to follow the pace : I found 15hrs/week was a minimum !

For who ? : ambitious intermediate (1700+) and advanced players, younger players would probably benefit more from the video format

edit : unfortunately, this program is no longer available

·         ChessOK training packages

  • ChessOK is a Russian company that sells various training softwares, most of them being electronic versions of famous Russian texts. The software runs on a common Windows interface called Peshk@.
  • There are three packages which can be used as a complete course : ‘from beginner to club player’ (~700 exercises) , ‘chess guide for club players’ (~200 exercises) and ‘chess guide for intermediate players‘ (~750 exercises)

Pros : a very systematic training, with a lot of focused middlegame and endgame lessons – a lot of instructive positions from famous games - you also have the option to review failed exercises and take random tests – many visual aids – bargain price

Cons : the interface is not very sexy and sometimes slow – the English is bad (even for a French reader !)

For who ? : people who believe in Russian training methods (I do !) and prefer to work on the computer screen rather than on the chessboard (other Russian method lovers should use Yusupov’s books) – the first course is ok for beginners, the second one is really for intermediate level players (1700+)

edit : here is a sample list of Convekta software. Excellent value for money, and you can train any area with carefully selected exercises, most of them coming from Russian textbooks.

·         chess.com study plans

Well, of course, this is the easy option for premium members, as chess.com has made a big effort to organize some of the learning content of the site.

Pros : it’s right here ! – David and Danny have obviously made a lot of efforts to offer their personal insights on chess training and build a decent guide to the site – also some videos contain a lot of explanations, which is good for beginners

Cons : despite their effort, I still feel that the contents of the study plans lacks consistency, as it hasn’t been initially designed as a whole. While some videos/courses are excellent, others feel like some material has been hastily put together, and the educational value isn’t always here, not to mention the difficulty level is sometimes fleeting. Also there aren’t enough exercises for my taste.

For who ? : people who love chess.com and watching videos – people who want a cooler training or love Danny’s style ;-) – beginners may also find it less intimidating than some of the other training options listed here

·         GM-RAM

That’s something completely different. IM Ziatdinov has written a book where he compiles what he believes are critical positions and games that every master should have in his databank. But… that’s all !

Pros : stimulates curiosity, independent thinking and analysis work – the material has been reduced to a manageable size (253 positions + 59 games)

Cons : well, you’re very much left on your own !

For who ? independent thinkers – people who can analyze with friends – people who don’t have that much time for systematic training

·         Step method

This method has been developed for Netherlands chess in schools program. It’s very progressive.

Pros : starts from the very beginning, by developing board vision and interaction between the pieces, up to basic tactics and strategy – the progression is excellent

Cons : none really, if you don’t mind using a chessboard

For who ? This is probably the best method for real beginners or anybody U1300 elo. It has been designed for children, but adults can use it as well

·         Lars Bo Hansen’s books

Though these are not really textbooks, and thus can’t compare with other methods mentioned on this page, I wanted to mention Lars Bo Hansen’s manuals as a good alternative for adult players who want to broaden their chess horizons without sweating every day on a set of tactics…

GM Lars Bo Hansen covers a lot of ground in his 4 books, and you’re bound to increase your knowledge and have fun reading them

Pros : a lot of very instructive and entertaining games to look at – distilled chess knowledge – many explanations and tips for the competition player

Cons : no exercises, so you may want to guess the move when you see a diagram from time to time

For who ? People who would like to learn a lot about chess, but don’t want to go to the salt mines.

Recommended reading order : Improve your chess by learning from the champions, How chess games are won or lost, Foundations of chess Strategy, Secrets of chess endgame strategy

Comments


  • 6 months ago

    jfmercer

    Many thanks for the excellent article. 

  • 15 months ago

    silvester78

    Thank you very much for your review. It is excellent!!! I was looking something comprehensive like this.

  • 17 months ago

    PimpSlap

    Wow, awesomely put Hicetnunc very well written very comprehensive - Cheers

  • 18 months ago

    gnuvince

    I got the three level 1 books of the Yusupov series for Christmas; because of school I haven't had time to properly work through them, but I think I'll try and do a couple chapters per week this summer.  I'm probably going to try and write down my thoughts and process and post it on my chess.com blog.

  • 18 months ago

    hicetnunc

    Gerry, yes there are lots of explanatory texts, though to be honest, it's not always convenient to read on screen and the English translation is not very good. But the important ideas are there (especially for strategy and endgames). The tactics part is mainly illustrated by examples, but this should be okay.

  • 18 months ago

    GerryMo

    Hello Laurent:

    Another question for you. Is there much explanatory text in the three ChessOK courses you mention? Or is it mostly just moves and variations?

    Thanks,

    Gerry

  • 18 months ago

    waffllemaster

    Good reference page hicetnunc.

    About the Yusupov books, this may be useful (and correct me if I'm wrong, because it's confusing) but...

    Are grouped by / Buy in groups according to:
    Color (All orange, all blue, or all green)
    Subtitle (All Fundamentals, all Beyound Basics, or all Mastery)

    Not grouped by / Do not by a set of:
    First part of title (All Builds, all Boosts, or all Evolutions)

  • 18 months ago

    hicetnunc

    @anton : I'm glad Smile

    @Gerry : I'm playing OTB, but I haven't been using the Steps method nor Yusupov for my personal training ; I don't have quite enough time for those nowadays, so I have to use other shortcuts (like a coach Wink)

    These resources may also bring maximum benefits U2000 elo (excpept maybe Lars' books). Not that they are not suited for stronger players, but it's still easier to improve in the U2000 zone.

  • 18 months ago

    GerryMo

    Hello Laurent:

    Hope you don't mind me asking. I am wondering if you play OTB and if so, has your rating improved using systems like the Steps method and Yusupov's 9-book series.

    Thanks for the article.

    Gerry

  • 18 months ago

    antonreiser

    thanks so much forvthe post. i have been working with chessimo and Yusupov and i think is really working for me. today i bought a Lars Bo Hansen and find it a refreshing learning tool too, so i am really grateful Laurent!

  • 20 months ago

    hicetnunc

    @analyze : I think Chessimo may be available for Android as well - you should check their website

  • 20 months ago

    analyzethispgn

    Thanks for posting. Its a great guide. U recommend chessimo for people to train on the go with their iphone and ipad. Is there any training software that ud recommend for android phone users. Im dependant on ph atm until i get a new pc. I currently use shredder apps 1000 puzzles for tactics training and board vision and do about 150 to 170puzzles in 2hrs with a 48% success rate along with 20exs per day of bobby fisher teaches chess book . I would love to try a comprehensive course if there was one available for android phs. Have u any experience with the apps on the android store that train tactics or vision.

  • 21 months ago

    hicetnunc

    @paristar : thanks very much for sharing your experience with the readers of this blog !

    I have the feeling your chess strength is rising fast, so maybe your assessment that Yusupov O1 is okay for 1300 players is a bit optimistic : I'm pretty sure your study of the Steps method has already put you at the level of a decent club player (~1600 elo), at least knowledge-wise.

  • 21 months ago

    Paristar

    I think this is a good list of very useful programms and books for chess training

    I would like to share my experiences with the programs I have used . In the past. I have used some of the training-programms listet above.

    I tried the Step Method 2010 as I started again playing chess. I didn't work with the exercise books but with the PC-Software task chess cd 2 which covers Step 1 to 5. As a U1200 Player I benefited a lot from this programm. I have got a deeper insight of the variety of tactical themes and my endgame knowledge increased, especially the rook endgames at Step 5 were very instructive. But more important was the fact that after this programm I started to calculate variations to find the best move instead of just making a move and see what will hapen. This programm was very usefel for me, I highly recommend it every beginner.

    As there is Step 6 i am wondering if I should work on step 6, but I don't know if this is suitable for my level of 1600.

    Later on  as I was a 1300 rated player and I was looking for more good programms,I light on Chessimo. For me this programm wasn't very useful.This programm is designed for players that don't have much time for chess training and work every day  a lesson which takes approx. 10 minutes in the begining up to 1 hour for the last lesson of a unit where 720 puzzles have to be solved at the tactic units. But if you train more hours in a session many task have to be replayed.In the long view this bored me a lot and a stopped to use this programm.The Concept of this programm is Learning by repetition and pattern recognition. Despite of don't work with this programm through to the end I recognize the patterns i have seen n Chessimo in other tactic puzzles, So I think It is a useful programm,too.

    In the year 2011 i saw a chess friend training with the Yusupov training books. I bought the first book which is "Tigersprung auf DWZ 1500 Band I" in german and it corresponds "Build up your Chess 1,The Fundamentals " I got through this book. It helps you to identify where you have weknesses for example I had not much problems with the tactic and  endgame lessons but at positional play and strategy lessons I had more diffuculties to find the right plan/ move. I past the most test except of  two with lessons on strategy/positional play. My conclusion is that this book wasn't hard at all but a few lesson were more difficult and made my problems.    I recommend the first book for players rated at least 1300

    As I past 1400 I decided to buy the second book which  is "Tigersprung auf DWZ 1500 Band II  in german which corresponds to " Boost  your Chess 1,Fundamentals. In my opinion if you compare the first one to the second you will notice a noticeable increase in the difficulty level, this was my impression as I started working on it. I worked only up lesson 8, because I passed only the half of the test and mainly only passed not good. Hence I decided to stop training with this book and to continue at a later time. These Yusupov book are associated with a lot of hard work. I recommend for this book at players with  a rating of 1500 or higher.

    After stopping to train with books I started again to search for a PC-Software  for chess training. In 2012  I tried a ChessOK  Training Package.It is the Training Package for Club Players which consists of 6 courses. 3 on tactics, 2 on openings and 1 with endings. I finished the first tactic course. The best of this package is that there are a lot of puzzles in different areas and you can take a test to see if you improved your tactic skills or whatever and you can play the position to the end against the computer. I don't like if I make a move and the computer plays a whole variation of 5-6 moves and I don't understand what happened there. I think that is a very useful programm. It takes a lot of time to go through all the puzzles but it helps you to improve if you work with it at long term.

  • 21 months ago

    hicetnunc

    @lubo - I've never tried CTS : I have been using ChessTempo for a while and I'm very happy with their features. I think there are many good tools available for tactical training anyway.

  • 21 months ago

    lubo

    Very nice list hicetnunc!

    My personal favourite for blitz training is - Tactical Server http://chess.emrald.net/index.php

    pros: Tons of tactical exercises. There are also end-game exercises but I haven't tried them. But the good about these exercises is that the score is based on both correct move and time spent. You have less than 6 sec on a single move. Which proves to be excellent for blitz training!

    cons: Tactics usually do not involve deep calculations. Might not be the best tool for classical games.

     

    After training on Tactics Server for a couple of months I won 2 blitz tournaments in my local town. In one of them I even won my match against a NM 1.5 - 0.5. I have never won blitz tournament before. The site provides very solid and practical approach to blitz.

  • 21 months ago

    newbourne

    Great list! Thanks for the advice! :)

  • 21 months ago

    Kotomitsuki

    Thank you for that post!

  • 21 months ago

    diogens

    Well, sincerely, the best training method I can think about, beside from studying endgames, is analyzing Fischer games

  • 21 months ago

    diogens

    I'm  50y. 4 me is easier to pick a training method that doesn't require too much preparation or energy. That's why I like Convetka software.

    I believe if I was 15, i could deal with Dvoretsky material but now I feel incapable

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