How to Optimize Your Chess Studying/Training

How to Optimize Your Chess Studying/Training

NM CraiggoryC
Mar 28, 2016, 4:20 PM |

I want to start off by saying that everyone is different and learns differently. That's why I'm not giving a cut and dry "study plan"; instead I'm offering what your study plan should encompass. For sample study plans, please reference the bottom of this blog, under the "related links" tab.

For the purpose of this blog we will be following the improvement of:

  1. "Crazy" Craig: Craig feels at home in complicated positions that lend themselves to tactics, calculating, and devastating attacks. He does not possess much endgame knowledge and gets kind of bored in positions that do not involve king attacks
  2. "Average" Allison: Allison is a "jack of all trades". She's equally adept/mediocre at all parts of chess.
  3. "Timid" Tommy: Tommy is great at endgames and he comes up with great strategic plans to break down his opponents position. He has trouble with players like "crazy" Craig, who are able to checkmate his King before his strengths "come into the light".

As the graph above shows, the players all have ratings of 1600. Their strengths and weaknesses are all different however.

The chess student constantly gets the advice to study tactics, tactics, tactics! This is usually good advice because studying tactics helps your visualization and calculating skills. Visualization/calculating skills can be used to help in all aspects of the game.

The problem is, however, no matter how good you are at calculating/visualizing, it does not help unless you know what to calculate. Unless you have the endgame or positional understanding to know what to calculate, your calculating abilities can go wasted.

This is why my advice is to start with a self-assessment of yourself (or ask a coach, friend, respected chess player, etc.), before starting your chess study plan.

Let's use our 3 chess players as an example again. We'll say they all got the advice to study tactics at least 1 hour a day*

*The human brain works better when you do a little each day then to do a bunch on 1 day. Try to study (even if it's just a little bit) each and every day.

As the above graph shows, that studying strategy was very appropriate for "Timid" Tommy, and was ok for "Crazy" Craig and "Average" Allison. However, let's try to optimize the studying strategies for everyone. Before starting your study plan, you should self-assess (just as we did for the 3 players in the graphs) and also plan how much time you have to study per day. Remember to study everyday! Let's assume all 3 chessplayers have 2 hours (120 minutes) a day to work with. We are going to put each of these players on a study plan that is constructive for their strengths and weaknesses.

Optimized Study Plans

  1. "Crazy" Craig: 45 mins on Positional Play and Endgames. 10 minutes on Tactics and Openings. 10 minutes just for fun, each day.
  2. "Average" Allison: 25 mins on Openings, Tactics, Positional Play, Endgames and 20 mins just for fun each day.
  3. "Timid" Tommy: 45 mins on Openings and Tactics. 10 mins on Positional Play and Endgames; 10 mins just for fun.


As you can see from the above graph, just by getting their weaknesses up to par, Crazy Craig and Timid Tommy all greatly increased their actual rating/chess strength. Average Allison should really find what she feels like she is best at and excel at that in order to turn into a Crazy Craig or Timid Tommy. After that, periodically take a self-assessment of yourself and then "round yourself out" by concentrating on getting your weaknesses up to par.

Main Points

  1. Periodically self-assess your strength and weaknesses
  2. Harness your strengths as you bring your weaknesses up to par.
  3. Don't become "chess muscle bound", study all parts of thegame, but concentrate on your weaknesses (as these are the areas where it's easiest to improve quickly)!
  4. Study a little every day as opposed to a lot some days and none others.

Related Links