How to best study Chess? An eternal question which has plagued many the player that has stagnated for years (maybe decades).
I can only speak from my own experiences as to HOW NOT TO study chess.
The following methods DO NOT work for me.
- Watching Chess Videos: I fall asleep
- Playing through a game via Chessbase and clicking the "Next" button: I fall asleep
- Reading a Chess book without a board to play through the moves: I fall asleep
- Solving an exercise and turning to the answers once I can't figure it out ... and the moving on to the next problem
You may have gone through these experiences. What's common with all of them? They're passive.
Years ago I read "Studying Chess Made Easy" (okay, I broke rule 3) by Soltis.
An excellent book! Above all, he advocates Active Learning. Solve things, write things down, ask questions. Why did he play that? What's wrong with my move?
Ways I have made my Chess learning active have been:
- When reading a Chess book, simply bringing out a real chess board and replaying the moves is being active. The time old method of covering up the next move in the book and guessing it is invaluable. More so, physically write down your chosen move so that you're accountable. Take note if you missed an exclaimation mark move or made a bad blunder. This helped me highlight if I missed a critical moment and instead I thought the move was routine.
- If playing through a game in Chessbase, turn on the Training tab and actually enter the next move you think will be played. If it suggests a Variation to enter, then you know you've not made a move matching the game. You're getting feedback.
- When solving an exercise, get out a pen and paper and write down your analysis. This will slow you down and thus you make a real effort.
- When I can't solve something, after seeing the solution I make blog entries. This makes me accountable.
My Method of Learning Endings
Easily the most (compartively) weakest part of my Chess game. Particularly strategic endings requiring schemes.
To improve this area, I've made a commitement to work through "Encyyclopaedia of Chess Endings: Rook Endings 1st Part"
I do not work through this book by playing through the answers after attempting to solve the position. I tried this, and found after the n-th exercise I had weak foundations and didn't understand what was happening.
Instead, I went back to the very start of the book. I set up each position against Shredder and played it out against the computer (either having to draw or win).
If I can complete the task (of winning or drawing) I then move to the next diagram, making a note of what level I've completed.
It's when I can't defeat Shredder that it highlights to me I have a knowledge gap. This then forms the basis for investigation and of learning (often a blog entry).
Example 99: Black to Move and Draw
Encyclopaedia of Chess Endings: Iglitsky from Shahmaty v SSSR 1955)
See if you can find the most important idea that allows Black to draw
My first attempt in trying to hold the draw
Here I lost because after my horizontal checks ran out, White's King was able drive my Rook away.
This gave White crucial time to play Re6 after which he wins because he cuts off the Black King from the e-file (and then proceeds to build the bridge).
How to Improve on my first attempt?
White was able to play Re6 because the d-pawn is protecting the e6 square.
This is the most important feature of the position. Hence if Black attacks the d-pawn, White's Rook can't play Re6 to cut off the Black King as the d-pawn is undefended.
Mistakes and Failure in training are part of the process. Analyse why, seek improvements, learn lessons actively (not "in one ear, out the other").
Because you experienced it, you learn it better.