Shortcuts in Chess? ... Sorta....
They say chess is a matter of experience. I don’t like it, but then I’m only rated 1400 OTB USCF. Has anyone ever proposed using less tactical problems for study? Most books suggest minimum of 400 problems for study for tournament player. I think we can still improve our chess by using less problems, I would say not more than 200 study problems. Divided into: 100 for tactical, 50 for strategic, 50 for your favorite openings and 50 for end game. After all, not all of us can be grandmasters, and if you want the truth, we just want know enough chess to beat our peers. (I know, some of you, with OTB rating above 1600, are laughing at this suggestion, but then most of us don’t want to invest 3 hours a day studying chess.)
Currently, I am working on this “elite” collection of study problems. But, you can make your own, and even put them on index cards for easy access and sorting.
Basically, you get a whole bunch of tactical problems and select, re-select, reduce them to 100 tactical cards, making sure you have a full variety of tactical themes with no repetition. Don’t forget to select those problem positions that are just pain difficult to see, which I call counter-intuitive positions. Or a good definition of counter-intuitive problems, are those you could not solve in less than 6 minutes and not more than 3 moves deep! (I suggest you not select problems that have solutions more than 4 moves deep, unless you have an OTB rating above 1600.)
Do the same for your collection of strategic theme problems. I would define strategic moves are those that do not involve immediate tactical advantage and focus on space or position or prevention. What is immediate tactical advantage? It is material advantage in less than three moves. (I know this is arbitrary, but for our purposes this is good enough.)
For your collection of openings, stick to two or three you know well and just select those openings positions that you are most likely to forget. And for End game study, collect those tricky pawn king endings, which too many times seem too simple. Of course, not just pawn endings, but other piece ending and pawn structure. Some claim, that there is not point in study of endgames if you drop pieces and don’t reach an end game. So get those tactics down cold and you will reach the end game.
The point of all this and the hypothesis, is that if you “play you index cards right”, you will study less and focus on important and common tactical and strategic themes. Because we all know, that trying be a grandmaster can take more effort that most of us care to invest. (BTW, for those of us too busy to spend too much time in chess study. I recommend the business man’s opening, The Colle system and its variations. Check it out.) (Counter-intuitive, White to move, mate in 2. Answer: Slowly walk the queen around the rook to F8 for exhange mate. If bishop moves, take the rook. If he takes your queen, then your rook moves to f8 mate.)
UPDATE 8/9/12 (I have recently developed a collection (165) of basic key tactical positions on index cards. If interested, I can send you a free sample of these cards to your post mail address. You can send me a message through chess.com (SamV) or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)