My Chess Training Regime

Jun 10, 2009, 4:27 PM |

Chess is fun, but chess improvement also takes hard work. Hopefully you will find the hard work fun. My chess improvement regime focuses on tactical, board visualization, and thinking process training. I also spend some time on studying the opening, endgame, and attack in chess. Last but not least there is the actual play and analysis of my games. What do you think of this regime? What are your experiences? I am rated in the low 1700s USCF.

Tactical training (25% of time). My objective here is to do a wide variety of tactical problems. Currently, I am using Fred Reinfeld’s 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate and, for more challenging problems, Charles Hertan’s Forcing Chess Moves. I have looked at Gaprindashvili’s Imagination in Chess, but find his problems too hard. When I was rated around 1400, the problems in Reinfeld’s 1001 books seemed impossible. I would set them up on a board and stare at them for a long time, mostly without success. Now I can do most of the problems in my head in a few minutes or less. So, I have hope of eventually graduating to Imagination in Chess.

Board visualization training (5% of time). My technique is to play short games in my head and try to identify the decisive mistake that led to checkmate. For more about this technique see my blog posting: I try not to do more than 15 minutes of this at a time because it is so draining.

Thinking process training (25% of time). There are two training techniques that I use. The first is to play long games against the computer (Fritz in friend mode) and concentrate on following my thinking process protocol. For more on what this is see my blog posting

My second technique is to practice calculation of complicated tactical positions that I get out of the book Tactics in the Chess Opening 2 Open Games by A. C. van der Tak and Friso Nijboer. I pick out a key tactical move in a game and then seek to justify it by calculating all of the relevant variations. I write down my analysis, and when I believe I have fully analyzed the position, I sit down with the book the computer to check my work. The results are sobering, particularly when there are “broad trees,” i.e., positions with many candidates, or in chaotic positions.

Openings study (5 % of time). Here I am building and committing to memory (as best I can) my opening repertoire. My focus is not on long variations, but on the first 5-10 moves. I put particular emphasis on analyzing moves that amateurs are likely to play. Often these are not even covered in opening books because titled players would dismiss them in a blink of an eye. Here is an example: After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Bc4 how should black respond? The answer is 4... Nxe4. This you can find in a book like Jan Pinski’s The Four Knights. What Pinski does not cover is all of the variations from this point forward, some of which can be a bit complicated. A key one is 5. Nxe4 d5 6. Bb5 dxe4 7. Nxe5. Now what should black play? The answer is Qg5, the best move by far. You would be surprised how often 4. Bc4 is played. Players under 1800 should learn how to punish these errors.

Endgames study (5% of time). I am seeking to commit to memory the key positions covered in the sections up to class A of Jeremy Silman’s Complete Endgame Course.  I have identified key positions and put them on note cards. As part of my training I drill these on a regular basis. My other endgame effort is the study of Lars Bo Hansen’s Secrets of Chess Endgame Strategy.

Attack study (5% of time). I am studying attacking methods using Vladimir Vukovic, Art of Attack in Chess and Colin Couch, Great Attackers: Learn from Kasparov, Tal and Stein.

Play (20% of time). I try to play longer games (G30 minimum), but sometimes get carried away with online blitz. Blitz is a bad habit from a chess improvement perspective, but it sure can be fun.

Game Analysis (10% of time). This is key. You need to know yourself to get better. My training regime is based on this. In my view, tactics, visualization, and the thinking process are my weaknesses. I also believe that these are the most important skills in chess.

How much time do I spend on this? It depends. My job is somewhat seasonal. At certain times during the year I have no time for chess. At other times of the year, I can devote 30+ hours/week to it. This is why I put my training regime down in terms of percentages.