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 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
· 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+)
· 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
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 : How chess games are won or lost, Improve your chess by learning from the champions, Foundations of chess Strategy, Secrets of chess endgame strategy