dretch's Training Regimen, or lack thereof

Oftentimes chessplayers will feel that they hit a wall in their chess development, or simply want to improve faster. So a question that many like to ask to grandmasters is, "What do you do to get better at chess?"

There is no secret ingredient for chess improvement, but to satisfy the curiosity of anyone who is interested, I will provide some description of my chess schedule. What I will not provide is a numerical value on any of the activities. I don't like to be asked how many hours per day I spend on chess training, because it varies greatly from day to day, and I keep no record, so I can't answer within a reasonable margin of error.

I never force myself hold to any strictly defined training regimen like 'solve tactics for 1.7 hours per day', since that probably wouldn't be very fun. The two things I do the most are analyzing with chess engines and playing internet chess. When I am analyzing a position with the computer, it is usually an opening. Also I sometimes analyze my own games (with or without a computer), and random positions from games I'm looking at that catch my eye.

So openings are the phase of the game that I study the most. I used to rely heavily on books, but now I learn more by using ChessBase and computer analysis. I easily get lost spending 3 hours to find the path to advantage in some position which can arise at move 19. Opening analysis consumes more time than anything besides internet blitz (or playing tournament games). Probably this is why I'm kind of bad at the aspects of chess other than the opening. I do the best in the opening and early middlegame (though opening disasters still happen). When my opponents get past this point without getting annihilated, things often start going downhill for me. A common theme is that I will have a serious advantage early on, and then I will gradually run my position into the ground until it is a draw or a loss.

Sometimes I do tactics problems. Most recently I am doing the ones on chess.com. These are mostly ones that can be solved in just a few seconds, so it is not really intense calculation training. But I really like chess.com tactics when I am falling asleep in a class, because they help me to stay awake. I do own a few books with positions that require longer calculation.

I spend little time studying endgames. In 2008 I worked through Dvoretsky's endgame manual, but I have not done too much since then. I find it unrewarding to study theoretical endgames, because I rarely get any of these positions in my tourament games, except for the most simple ones like king and pawn vs. king.

The thing I do most consistently is to read the daily email newsletter Chess Today. Usually it contains annotations of a game or some game fragments or endgames. It's a nice way to squeeze in some chess any time when you have a few minutes to spare.

Chess books: I have some books about various things, with the most common topic being the opening of course. I'm not going to discuss specific books here or give any recommendations; it is too broad of a topic. Certainly reading chess books is not a bad idea.

If I have no specific ideas for necessary components of chess training, are there any dangers to avoid? There is a variety of  theories about things that are bad for your chess. For instance, some people have said that playing blitz makes you worse at chess. I think this is nonsensical. Being an internet blitz addict, I like to think that it helps me develop a feel for how to play the middlegame. Though I must admit that it does little for endgames, where the main skill is flagging. However, I do try to avoid playing a lot of 1-minute games. Even if they don't make one's chess abilities deteriorate, it can hardly help them, and to me it feels like a waste of time. 

Another idea which seems like common sense is that you should avoid playing games like bughouse which, could interfere with your thinking in normal chess. For example, you might start a sacrificial attack, not remembering until too late that you are not allowed to deliver the coup de grâce by dropping a pawn on g7. I say don't be too worried. In fact, I was playing a ton of chess variants (bughouse, losing chess, atomic, crazyhouse, etc.) during the time when I was gaining rating points most rapidly. So personally I have found that it is not harmful to play these.

My advice is that you should have fun playing chess by studying or playing whatever you find enjoyable. My other recommendation is that you don't take the above remarks too seriously. Really, I don't know anything about chess improvement Smile


  • 3 years ago


    Thanks Drecht!! Even if u feel that sometimes you lose time in bullet, we all enjoy your games a lot! Keep them coming!

  • 4 years ago


    good read. helps a lot!!!

  • 4 years ago


    Refreshing honesty. Not the same old stuff. 

  • 4 years ago


    While theoretical endgames can be boring because they don't occur in practical play often, the themes in these endgames is key.  If you understand how to stop to distant pawns with a bishop and king then you will have a better understanding of many forms of that endgame when it does occur.  I spend a ton of time on endgame and I feel refreshed when I reach that phase of the game.  A second-wind if you will due to the confidence I feel.  I've beaten players who have been much stronger than I am, in endgames where they violate a principle I learned in a theoretical endgame study and I easily brought home the point from that game.  That's my two cents.

  • 4 years ago


    Thanks so much!  You've hit on a lot of great ideas!

  • 4 years ago

    IM DanielRensch

    Thanks Conrad. Awesome read!

  • 4 years ago


    'The opening' gets this bad reputation amongst instructors, but in fact, it contains many aspects of the game. I can tell my awareness of the pieces and pawn structure has improved from watching opening lectures. I'm glad to hear your opinion. I listen to other grand masters who actively seek out elementary endings and it sounds like those are worth knowing. I prefer lectures over computer analysis, but it's always interesting to see how many missed opportunities there were. I would not call the endgame boring, i would just call it 'simpler', which is itself misleading based on concrete the number of optional variations from a position.

  • 4 years ago


    Good stuff GM Dretch. Much valuable, practical advice presented. Very cool of you to generously "let us in on" the privacy of your inner chess thoughts & chess regimen.   

    lol snakehandler Cool

  • 4 years ago

    NM Petrosianic

    thanks conrad.  glad you're enjoying what you're studying/ what u do.  very nice, consistent repertoire btw.

  • 4 years ago


    This is an interesting point:  "I spend little time studying endgames...I rarely get any of these positions in my tourament games...". To many of us studying endgames are very boring and somewhat unrewarding, yet most books still suggest to focus considerable effort on doing so.

  • 4 years ago


    I think getting pieces to work together is the most important lesson of chess!

    I thank you for your insights!


  • 4 years ago


    What's with that photo man? You're trying to intimidate your opponents, aren't you?

  • 4 years ago


    great words

  • 4 years ago


    Thx very much, Dretch ! This is a great piece of advice. I think that opening is a vital issue in chess developing.  

    Best regards. 

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