Training Sessions

  • WGM Natalia_Pogonina
  • | Nov 8, 2011

Right now I am taking part in the Russian Chess Teams’ (both men and women) training session for the European Team Championship. Generally speaking, such events last from 7 to 10 days and are held at a special boarding house. The idea is to change the environment and make sure nothing distracts you from studying chess. You can devote yourself to this process and have the entire day planned accordingly. As a result, you will probably increase your chess mastery, get rid of some of weak spots, prepare new lines, etc., depending on the goals of the session. When you are studying not alone, but with a partner, it is easier to find new ideas and learn together.

The most popular option is to travel to some suburban resort with your coach or friend. Staying at home is also an option, but you will need someone to help you with non-chess related activities to avoid distraction. It is also important to pay attention to fitness. Therefore, special well-equipped venues located far from the city are the perfect choice.

So, before starting a training session, you have to decide a) what the goal is going to be b) whom you want to train with c) where d) for how many days. It is important to have good working relationships with your partner. As to goals: it can be either studying a certain stage of the game (opening, middlegame, endgame), or it can be positional/tactical training. The optimal schedule will probably be mixed. Make sure in advance that the place you will be staying is comfortable enough and suits your needs. Find the right balance between too short or too long: training for over 2 weeks can be exhausting and too much of a luxury even for a pro, as we all have other matters to attend to. By training for just a couple of days you won’t achieve much. I believe the optimal duration is about 7-10 days.  

Let’s say you have done all that and have arrived at the training camp. The second essential step to take is to create a schedule. By the way, this can also be done in advance, but sometimes it is easier to do it on the spot. There is no universal recipe, but some recommendations can be suggested: drilling tactics or solving chess studies; playing training games. Don’t forget about sports. Chess players have to be fit and full of energy, so such sessions present a great opportunity for improving one’s well-being. You can try swimming, jogging, working out at the gym, tennis, soccer, basketball and many other physical activities. Just make sure you do not hurt yourself.

Here is what a typical training schedule can look like:

1. Wake up in the morning; eat your breakfast; study. Start with chess tactics or solving studies to warm up.

2. Lunch; take a walk; rest for some time and then study again. Do some sports.

3. Eat dinner; study for the third time. Make sure you have some spare time before going to sleep to take a walk or take a rest from your work (socialize, watch a movie, etc.). Otherwise you will get burned out quickly and not be able to sleep well.

Therefore, chess training sessions offer a unique opportunity for a dedicated training up to 8 hours per day, or even more. Just try to make sure you are after quality (working productively), not quantity. My personal preference is to study chess theory in the morning/daytime, and spend the evening informally, e.g. playing blitz.

A good idea is to finish the training session a few days before the start of the tournament. Otherwise there is a chance of being too tired and bored with chess to play well.

Continuing to show you my games from the recent European Club Cup, I would like to share the annotations to my game vs IM Lilit Mkrtchian from the 6th round. It was a complicated and intense struggle.


In the middlegame a more or less equal position with good chances for Black occurred. However, I was playing rather unconfidently. Especially dubious was the move 15...g6. Later on my position became dangerous, but I correctly gave up a pawn to activate my pieces and traded into a rook endgame with good drawing chances. Nonetheless, I nearly lost it; more precision was called for.


  • 3 years ago


    Hi Natalia, thanks for the insight into your life. I feel sorry for those people that often complain about finances in relation to your articles and those of other sports people. As much as some may deny it, there is obvious envy involved and sadly because of this the context and message is lost on these people. You are sharing an insight into your life, it is obvious hard work with a diet, physical fitness and mental training regime involved. As with any other professional sports person there are many sacrifices to achieve your goals. A lot of people I am sure think chess masters just sit down and play but dont realise the effort behind the scenes. We all have our talents and if you can earn a good living by doing what you enjoy then all the better. The fact that so many fine chess professionals such as yourself share their knowledge here for free is a very generous guesture indeed. Thank you for that. I look forward to your future articles and insights as always :-] Kind regards K.

  • 3 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    Let’s stay in touch on social networks! Here are my official accounts:

    Account 1, Account 2, Account 3

  • 5 years ago


    Thank you for another great article.  I know it was written for me :) :)

  • 5 years ago


    natalia ure professional in chess but this way u suggest is only for reach persons and only related to money.i think obeying nature is better way to study an ordinary person and other masters can suggest their way.

  • 5 years ago


    How do you use or do you use Chessbase software in your training retreats and study times? By the way, I started out use online databases and online chess playing software before I could afford chess software; also, being a member of a local and online chess clubs has improvered my OTB chess enjoyment of chess.   

  • 5 years ago

    NM flashboy2222


  • 5 years ago


    Thank you Natalia, your articles are always instructive. I'm really glad to get a chance to read your comments and toughts about games and life as a chess professional. Keep posting, please!

  • 5 years ago


    Nice thoughts Phelon regarding the park.


  • 5 years ago


    To Cookie 3;  My previous comment is for each and every reader of this column including Natalia otherwise I would have had it addressed to you . In fact, I have a strong belief in positive thinking and found Natalia's article very positive, informative and a nice insight into the life of a professional sports person. My comments were designed to give my perspective on what I received from the article and maybe in the process opine a positive slant for anyone who may have thought otherwise. After all, I am always open to views of others and in many cases alter my assessments if I find substance in the information. 

    So take care and be appreciative for your life. I too have experienced the frailities of life as most people have but that is another story and not for this forum. Enjoy your chess and lets be thankful that these kind, generous sports people take time out of their lives to re-contribute back to others through their experience and knowledge.

    Kind regards Johnny

  • 5 years ago


    I agree, theres only one guy who seems more concerned about the intended audience than the actual article itself. With a little innovation the ideas in this article could be applied to just about anyones life. Cant make a trip to some place far away? Go to your local park, find a quiet section and break out your chess set and books, or possibly a library type of setting. Dont have any days off from work? Do this on the weekend. Just takes a little innovation to see how ideas in the article could be applied to just about anyone.

  • 5 years ago


    Hey Johnny, your comment is pointed at me, just say it!

  • 5 years ago


    A few folk have asked who this article is for? This article is for every one, rich, poor or indifferent. It is not for a select few as one person wrote. This fine chess player is sharing her experience with us, giving us a glimpse into her life and how it entwines with chess. A lot of people buy biographies of other people lives and read about stuff that has no correlation with their own existence, yet they read and are fascinated by it. What is the difference here. Instead of maybe sitting back with negative thoughts, try some positive thinking and glean those nuggets of knowledge that you can use and believe me this article is full of them. I'll give you all a few things I picked up here that can help you in chess and life in general. Natalia speaks of the importance of fitness, training which are essentials in all works of life, she talks of the importance of goals, the right choice of people to hang around with and the creation of lasting relationships, wow! So many insights in one paragraph and then she moves onto the importance of balancing schedules and thus life in general. The importance of exercise with a proper breakfast followed by mental stimulation. Need I go on? The supplied game is also a beauty. For those who maybe doing it tough in life, try to become more positive and look at this article the way it was meant to be, a sharing of someones life and experiences. I for one appreciate Natalia's words and Natalia has many fine ideas to progress in life as well as chess.

    Thank you for another great article and thank you for not being a robot Natalia with just plain annotations and nothing more. Your words, experiences and games are very much appreciated.

    Kind regards Johnny.


  • 5 years ago

    mgomes1 many others I can´t afford a chess coach myself, but that doesn´t stop me from enjoying the article, which I find to be extremely pleasant and informative. Thanks for sharing your training routine :)

  • 5 years ago


    good training, good analysis

  • 5 years ago


    @ WGM Pogonina:

     No, ma'am, i have never thought you lived or came from an ivory tower.  I know that you worked very hard to get to where you are today!  Perhaps my critique was too harsh, if so, I apologize.  Maybe a little understanding of your current time constraints should be in order. 

    In all honesty, please tell me who this article was pointed toward.  I feel it was for "master" level players who can travel to events, not for the working stiff such as myself.  Maybe this article just wasn't for me.  I can't imagine going on a "chess vacation", let alone any trip (i havn't been on a trip for 25 yrs).  Anyways...maybe that's my real problem!

    Again, I would like to apologize if I offended you; it was never my intent.  I wish you well, especially in your upcoming events!  I would also like to thank you for your time!

  • 5 years ago


  • 5 years ago


    Thank you Natalia. Your articles are always a pleasure to read.

    It does provide us with an insight into your world and activities and I really do appreciate your games and comments on the moves.

    As regards to the comments from cookie3, well that person really does need to reflect on all things in life. No one acricle is for everyone, it just can't be. And nor should you alter your articles because of this.

    All the best in the coming tournaments, I wish you every success.

  • 5 years ago


    Insight about the real chess preparations for the way to become masters ....

  • 5 years ago


    Nice article Natalia, thanks for sharing :)

  • 5 years ago


    Great article Natalia, thanks!

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