A Better Way to Remeber Openings
We are what we repeatedly do. - Aristotle
How often do you study an opening line: say the best responses to all Black's 6th move alternatives in the Tolush-Geller Gambit in the Slav Defense. You spend perhaps hours looking though the databases, reviewing games until you finally settle on the system you want to play. You feel confident and ready to blow your opponent off the board the next time someone dares test your new found vast knowledge.
You sign onto Chess.com to play some live games. Curiously, no one seems to play this line anymore. It's like they know you are ready for them. Weeks go by... Finally some poor schmuck fall into your prep. Haha! Wait! Am I supposed to play 6.Na2 and try to reclaim my pawn immediately? 6.Nb1 so I can cover the d2 square; that was important right?! Or was it 6.Nce2. Surely not, doesn't that just shut in my bishop?
It seems like this kind of thing was happening to me all the time. Finally, I had an idea. Some time ago I read Josh Foer's Moonwalking With Einstein which is an excellent account of Josh's journey to winning the US Memory Championship. It turns out that Ed Cooke (Josh's memory coach) created Memrise.com which is a flashcard/spaced repetition website primarily used for language vocabulary learning. I cooked up this idea to start entering my opening lines hoping to capitalize on this space repetition system.
However, it was clunky and not all that well suited for chess. It worked but far from ideally. Bemoaning this problem, a fellow Chess.com member (ironically, I can't remember who) suggested that Chess Position Trainer might be the solution to my problem.
Holy cow! Its everything I dreamed of. Basically, you enter all your opening lines into the program and it turns them into chess puzzles. Even better, it keeps track of how well you do on your lines and quizzes you more often on the positions that you struggle with! So far, I've entered 3043 unique positions, and now have a complete repertoire conveniently stored in one place for easy reference. Memrise meets Chess and its a match made in heaven.
There are a host of other awesome features: You can run your games in PGN format against your repertoire to see when you or your opponent left book. You can make notes on each position in order to explain why you should play the move you decided to play (very helpful for remembering). Plus, so many more. Check out their website for a complete list.
Get this! You can enter “Tabiyas”which don't have to be opening lines at all. I entered the every single position from Jesus de la Villa's 100 Endgames You Must Know and in less than week, I memorized the entire thing! Now, I'm working to enter key middle game books as well. In short, I've turn this amazing tool into my chess book studying hub.
I've not yet completely learned all my lines, but now I have the confidence to try for sharper openings since I have a tool designed to help me remember the vast reams of positions necessary to do well. Its great, every morning I fire Chess Position Trainer up and it tells me which positions I need to study based on how long since I last looked at them and how well I did the last time I studied them.
The only thing that would be better is if Chess.com would incorporate an online version of this idea right here on the best chess website of all time. Hint hint.
Thanks for reading guys! I trust you serious chess players are as excited about this tool as I am. Don't forget to add me as a friend to be notified of my next blog entry.