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.