Using Flashcards to Improve at Chess
Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay

Using Flashcards to Improve at Chess

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I am first of all a language lover, my fellow readers. I discovered a passion for chess only recently.

So for me, it is normal to use means I have used for language learning to improve at chess as well. Or at least, to try!

And so, in the end, I am trying flashcards!

Image by Anna from Pixabay

What is a flashcard?

A flashcard is a card that has something on its front and something on its back.

You see one side and have to guess what is on the other side. You turn it and check! If you guess it wrong, you will try to check it sooner, if you get the right answer you can wait more time to review it!

Flashcards nowadays are mostly virtual, but you can do yours on paper as well! Like this guy!

You can use them for everything, a question on the side, its answer on the other side. But in some cases, their usage can be more obvious.

Flashcards for language learning

I have discovered the power and magic of flashcards with iKnow!

Yes, I was learning Japanese on my own. I had a lot of friends that could help me, but I did most of the job on my own.

These flashcards were very nice. Every course made by the site has the focus of teaching 100 words, and this word was also put into a sentence.

Learning a word means learning how it sounds and how it is written, which are not so obviously related in a language that has two syllabical alphabets and a huge set of ideograms and these ideograms can have two readings, the Japanese and the Chinese one.

Every word had different flashcards:

  • guess the meaning from the sound;
  • guess the meaning from the alphabets;
  • guess the meaning from the kanji (that is what the ideograms are called)
  • guess how to write the word from its meaning;
  • guess how to write the word in a sentence;
  • translate the whole sentence.

Many of these options had different levels of difficulty, from selecting the word from several options to typing without any additional hint.

Users at the time had the chance to make their own set of flashcards. I have done several, for stuff that I read, but I remember having done a set for the following song from Shiina Ringo.

It's Kabukichou no Joou, the queen of Kabukichou. I do not remember the meaning of most of the things in the song, but I still love her songs nonetheless.

You can find here what the site looks like now, but it is no more free. You can take up to 5 free lessons and understand a bit about how it works out anyway.

iKnow Flashcard
iKnow Flashcard

Fortunately, chess is not so complicated, or better said, it is complicated in a different way!

Spaced Repetition System

What makes flashcards so valuable is using them with a spaced repetition system (SRS).

If you get the correct answer you wait longer to review the card. If you get it wrong, you review it soon.

The concept is that the best moment to review something is when we are close to forgetting it, and the more consolidated a concept, the less likely we are going to forget it soon.

So, getting a card right seven times in a row, e.g. after 4, 10, 30, 90, 360, and 1000 days, could almost ensure that you retained a concept for your lifetime!

A little bit on SRS here, not only about flashcards.

Chess flashcards

I was checking YouTube for hints and inspiration. Apart from the above-mentioned @chessdojo video with @nealbruce, I did not find a lot of material.

The most interesting video is the following from Jack Puccini:Mainly he explains that the SRS method is useful to learn patterns.

Since I think that identifying patterns fast would make me faster in general, and being an incredibly slow player (I often lose classical games on time, while having winning or drawing positions), I wanted to try that out!

But as a first thing, I wanted to try the set Jack Puccini did, based on the Woodpecker method.

A review from @Chessexplained

I am not sure I indeed like the kind of repetition in this book, but I could like the puzzles.

Here you can find the deck for Anki. 


Anki is a software to review and make flashcards. Obviously. Finally. After so many words about flashcards, we are seeing how to use and make them!

There are not many available chess decks, so I was happy to have a deck to try out before doing my own.

Card on AnkiWeb
Card on AnkiWeb

If you happen to know other good chess decks in Anki, let me know!

The set from the Woodpecker Method is in the end too difficult for me, or simply the set does not start with the easiest puzzles. That is probably one of the issues with Anki, you do not set an order for cards to be shown. Or there is a way to change this order, but I do not know it!

By the way, this set could be helpful for many of you who are reading, since you are probably better at chess than me!

There are workarounds like putting some different tags, and maybe making a tag for easy puzzles and doing only them to start with!

Maybe I will try again, and add tags to the cards in the deck.

Since this deck is too difficult, I had to create my own.

My failures in Puzzle Rush

You must know how much I like to play Puzzle Rush.

If you don't, well, now you do.

I decided to add cards for the puzzles that I do wrong. If I take captures with my mobile in the end it is not so time-consuming. The procedure with the PC is longer and more tedious.

If you are interested, when I will have a bit more puzzles I will share the Anki deck. But probably it would be more useful for you to do your own, with your own mistakes!

My failures in classical games

I don't play so much lately, I lose regularly. My accuracy is going down. What could I do?

Learn from my in-game mistakes!

I know I can repeat a review all the times I want, that I could start doing regular analysis and so on, but why not add a card for everything I could have done better?

And so, adding a card for every key move from the game review in a dedicated Anki deck.


And, while at it, adding for every game the first opening move I could have done better in another deck.

Will it help? Should I rather prepare openings with studies, by exploring, or any other way?

What is the method that works best for you to improve with the opening that you are studying?

Other decks

Some more decks I have just done or plan to do:

  • errors with other time controls, where probably more obvious tactics would show up;
  • failed puzzles from books or other sources, like Peter Giannatos' book.

Any more suggestions?

The science of learning

I have loved using flashcards and cloze cards to learn languages.

I am indeed curious to see if they help with chess!

Time will tell!

Is there any not-so-conventional method you are using for learning chess?

As for learning anything else! I am so fascinated by the science of learning!

Image by Tünde from Pixabay

Talking about my progress, my small victories, my weaknesses, and what I do in general. This is a kind of diary where I discuss some chess related topics, depending on what I did over the last days.

I am a beginner (1000 ELO in September 2022), I think this blog could be interesting for people around my level that share my struggles and can learn from them, for people a little lower to find a bit of inspiration, and for people at an higher level because chess lovers are eager to teach chess to anybody who caught the chess bug!