In their book "The Plateau Effect" authors Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson investigate exactly what are the reasons for, well, the plateau effect. Any activiy could reach the dreaded "flat peak", where after initial improvement (that frequently follows an exponential curve) one arrives to a seemingly steady state of minimal or unnoticable improvement. That familiar "being hopelessly stuck" feeling.  

They bring into the discussion the currently hottest fitness trend, CrossFit. Following Tony Horton's groundbreaking P90X principle, the "muscle confusion" results in a tremendous improvement of fitness levels of thousands. Practitioners follow a random, unpredictable daily workout (WOD= workout of the day). This guarantees a never ending interest, never boring practice routine.

What does it have to do with chess? Well, my question to the readers: is it possible to develop a similar improvement method in chess?

We all try to improve our game, yet there is a tendency to practice mostly what we already do better than other areas. We practice openings too much or tactics, neglecting strategy or endgame. We keep repeating the same old practice routine, haphazardly, whenever we have the time. We have very little chance of measuring success, therefore, mostly feel that our level of play is destined to remain the same.

CrossFit took many by the storm. Old guys are sweating next to young bodybuilders, teenage girls are pumping iron next to mothers of three. Everybody enjoys it, everybody is getting better, everybody is addicted to the sense of steady improvement. (A disclosure is needed here: I never ever stepped into a CrossFit gym...Instead I am being harassed daily by the old guy, the bodybuilder, the teenage girl and the mother of three.  If my description of CrossFit is shakey, please forgive me, I only wanted to use it as analogy.)


The criteria of "ChessFit" should be:


1, Time efficient (between 30 to 60 minutes a day, either every day or every other day)

2, Intense (time limits and scoring systems could be used, bullet chess is optional)

3, Thorough (touching up on every aspect of the game: opening, middle game, planning, tactics, strategy, tactics, endgame etc)

4, Practical and useful across all ratings (well, we probably have to shoot for under 2000 here).

5, Alwas changing, challenging and engaging.

6, Skill improving

7, Scoring system utilization

8. ???


Similarly to CrossFit's philosophy, "constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement", could it be possible to clone its success and develop a training system for chess as well?


I am very curious to hear from all of you.


  • 5 weeks ago


    Whatever you say handyman!

  • 3 years ago


    I worked as a fitness trainer for 10 years before I began work in hospital as a technologist.  So I have a humble background of grad degree in exercise science and C.S.C.S. in addition to some other certifications.

    In terms of study, I am a mechnist.  I believe that physiology affects the mind and vice versa.  So, how does this apply to chess?  Chess is a very fatiguing task due to the affects on brain physiology.  Largely a left hemispheric pursuit which can cause immense fatigue as the right hemispheric activation is minimal as shown in MRI scan.  A person must gauge their focus during study of tactics and playing of games for efficiency.  If fatigue starts setting in, study games slowly of other players with a board in front of you.  When that becomes too fatiguing, switch your focus, by studying Wei-Chi, or Go, which is largely positional and has been shown in MRI to activate the right hemisphere which is largely the unconscious.  Additionally, for some people the mental/physical fatigue from chess may be offset by the study of Go life and death problems and actual Go games.  This enhancement of mental focus complements chess study nicely.  I highly recommend this strategy of training because it is very useful for real world combining.  If I am so fatigued from chess that I cannot stay awake at work, this is counterproductive as I could lose my job and become homeless.  This is bad.  So by studying Go some of the time in addition to chess, the fatigue is offset and I can study more chess too.

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