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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

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

Comments


  • 20 months ago

    hicetnunc

    @papapizza : contents-wise, they are all useful, so I think you should pick the format you feel most comfortable with

    It also depends how hard-working and ambitious you are, and how much time you have on your hands.

  • 20 months ago

    hicetnunc

    @colibas : you start with the Orange books (Build up, Boost, Evolution), then the Blue ones, then the Green

  • 20 months ago

    NM papapizza

    Among these programs, what are your recommendations for a player with an USCF rating of around 2000?

  • 20 months ago

    colibas

    Thanks for this helpful survey, hicetnunc. I agree that the Yusupov material is very valuable. A question: could you (or anyone) explain the organization of the series?

    There are multiple sets of three or more books. I've worked through Build Up Your Chess 1: The Fundamentals. What is the next book: Build Up Your Chess 2: Beyond the Basics, or Boost Your Chess 1: The Fundamentals?

    Which series do you start with? Do you Build before you Boost? Does it matter? 

  • 20 months ago

    diogens

    Carlsen studies too by himself. Who could coach him?

  • 20 months ago

    patterner

    I've enjoyed Alburts (and others) Comprehensive Chess course as well for fans of the Russian method.

  • 20 months ago

    kristyan30

    Bobby Fischer studies chess by himself alone, no coach

  • 20 months ago

    flannufmed

    Thanks, hicenunc! I'll be checking back to go thru this list when I have more time for study.

  • 20 months ago

    hicetnunc

    @roi : I've heard about this series and browsed through one of the books at the bookstore, but haven't used them yet.

  • 20 months ago

    FM cschess

    This is a good list! As a coach, I use Yusupov's books quite a bit with intermediate to advanced players. I agree about the Convetka series, and would recommend the CT-ART 4.0 tactics by M. Blokh on there as good; most of the positions have solutions for both sides, which discourages 'tunnel vision' when looking for tactics as one side only.


    Have you checked J. Hellsten's books for chess strategy? They are on the advanced side, but below level of, say, Dvoretsky; and they have plenty of exercises. 

  • 20 months ago

    diogens

    I own many of the Peshka courses and they are very handy. You also can export a position to Aquarium and analyze it there, or look for variations.The explanations could be improved but life is not perfect (especially considering the more than reasonable price).

    I believe too in the russian training method (from the end to the beginning) Tongue Out

  • 20 months ago

    RyanMurphy5

    Thanks for the ideas!  I'll check out Yusupov's material.  I would look at Dvoretsky but I think I'll wait until I hit expert.

  • 20 months ago

    Chregg

    cheers Laurent

  • 20 months ago

    yucca

    Thanks for this hicetnunc - very comprehensive - I might go for ChessOK as I think I prefer computer-aided training and it's quite reasonably priced.  

  • 20 months ago

    SmyslovFan

    This is a great post, hicetnunc! Thanks for your review of these diverse resources!

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