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My study plan (zero to hero)

  • #1

    Hello,
    I have tried developing a systematic study plan to learn and improve as a player, not having played for many years. This is a result of having spent hours reading the invaluable content on this portal and forum. 

    (My other thread (looking for one-stop comprehensive course) met with little response, so I have tried to develop a plan from scratch myself, using various sources.) 

     

    Your input would be highly appreciated ("looks good, now get to work" would also be valuable as it would tell me I am not wasting time doing something stupid).

     

    Aim: turn 27y old newbie into an intermediate player (self-defined as 1600 elo), as efficiently as possible.

     

    My study plan (in order):

    1. Get solid foundations:
      • Complete "Beginners to Club Player" course by ChessKing (recommended on chess.com by hicetnunc) - covers basics of opening, tactics, endgame etc. (theory + practical exercises) 
    2. Develop tactical skills:
      • Practice with CT-Art 4 (based on Combination Motifs by Maxim Blokh)
    3. Learn opening fundamentals
      • Discovering Chess Openings by John Emms
      • Chess Openings by Mike Basman
      • Openings for Amateurs by Pete Tamburro
      • Try to somehow (?) choose 3 openings for each side and get solid understanding of their basics.  
    4. Systematise knowledge about endgame:
      • Silman's Complete Endgame Course: From Beginner To Master by Jeremy Silman
    5. Learn positional play
      • Weapons of Chess by Bruce Pandolfini
      • Simple Chess by Michael Stean
    6. Practice blindfold chess

    Obviously, this is all while playing chess as often as possible.

     

    My main questions are:

    1. Is it a good study plan? Have I missed anything big? 
    2. Can it be made more efficient? (eg using other materials/books/apps/routines, changing the order, skipping some books etc)

     

    Thank you very much for your help!

    Best,
    Dante

     

    P. S. Special thanks to RussBell, hicetnunc, Markushin and all contributors to chess.com fora. 

     

  • #2
    That plan is fine. Learn the basics of the openings but you might be better concentrating most of your time on tactics and board vision as well as playing lots of games. Tactics vary a lot, from mating nets to trapping pieces to sacrificing for the initiative. There are tons of tactical ideas. Getting decent board vision is more important than memorising openings or even opening traps. In the beginning I played e4 and used to play the giuoco piano which is covered in Basman's book. It was a decent opening and contains nice traps but once you start playing people 1700+ they kno most of them and it loses the element of surprise. I switched to the English opening instead which is a solid positional opening and found it more satisfying although I miss playing against the Sicilian with white.
  • #3

    Thank you!

     

    Anyone any other thoughts?

     

    It would be particularly useful to learn whether you think that reading these three books on openings one by one is in fact the most efficient way to learn more about openings. Do I need to work through all three of them? Will they help me choose an opening repertoire suitable for my style and guide me through it with explanations? 

     

    Thank you for your help! 

  • #4

    Play games. Learn from long time control games. Read and commit to memory Modern Chess Strategy by Ludek Pachman. Read and commit to memory Silman's endgame manual, Kotov's think like a gm and Silman's reassess your chess. All the while playing games while and looking to implement what you've learned.

  • #5

    Keep playing tournaments! Also, don't play matches for the sake of it

  • #6
    dante_ainariel wrote:

    ... Learn opening fundamentals
    Discovering Chess Openings by John Emms
    Chess Openings by Mike Basman
    Openings for Amateurs by Pete Tamburro
    ...

    ... It would be particularly useful to learn whether you think that reading these three books on openings one by one is in fact the most efficient way to learn more about openings. Do I need to work through all three of them? Will they help me choose an opening repertoire suitable for my style and guide me through it with explanations? ...

    I think it can be a mistake to try to decide too much in advance. Just try one opening book and see how that goes before deciding what to do next. One's decision may be influenced by reading other subjects and the results of the games that one is playing. When it comes to choosing a place to start, it might be helpful to look at reviews and samples.

    Discovering Chess Openings by GM John Emms (2006)
    https://web.archive.org/web/20140627114655/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/hansen91.pdf
    Openings for Amateurs by Pete Tamburro (2014)
    http://kenilworthian.blogspot.com/2014/05/review-of-pete-tamburros-openings-for.html
    https://chessbookreviews.wordpress.com/tag/openings-for-amateurs/
    https://www.mongoosepress.com/catalog/excerpts/openings_amateurs.pdf

    The Emms book is mostly about general understanding of openings. If I remember correctly, Basman set out to pick and explain specific openings for the reader to use. Tamburro wrote something that was sort-of in-between the two approaches.

  • #7
    dante_ainariel wrote:

    ... Try to somehow (?) choose 3 openings for each side and get solid understanding of their basics. ...

    This again seems to me to be too specific for an in-advance decision. Suppose, for example, that one decides to go for the Italian. Sooner or later, one is likely to want to learn something about how to play against the Sicilian, the French, the Caro-Kann, the Pirc, the Scandinavian, the Alekhine, etc.

    "... Overall, I would advise most players to stick to a fairly limited range of openings, and not to worry about learning too much by heart. ..." - FM Steve Giddins (2008)

    I can't argue with that, but it may be early to decide the exact number of openings to study. Also, keep in mind that studying an opening for use is not the same as studying an opening for an ability to play against it.

  • #8
    dante_ainariel wrote:

    ... My study plan (in order): ...

    After reading one subject for awhile, I think one can reasonably go on to something else and come back to the first subject later. The Silman endgame book is explicitly written to be read intermittently. To some degree, other books can be read that way, too.

  • #9

    Practice blindfold chess?

    Who suggested that ?

    Blindfold chess won't help you unlike what amateurs think.

    Blindfold chess and real chess are completely different.

    I am a good example , I can easily play a whole game blindfold but still messing 3-6 move lines.

    Blindfold most likely will be more harmful than hepful(Botvinnik considered it dangerous and he even forbid it).

     

  • #10
    Those opening books will certainly be helpful in identifying and drilling what common mistakes beginners make as well as just learning different openings. You should familiarize yourself with as many openings as possible, though I would stay away from deep study of the openings because it is not needed. I myself started playing chess knowing absolutely nothing about anything and I did well against other beginners. So not much opening knowledge is really needed when you start out. The more time you spend on openings as a beginner the less time you spend on what you really need to cover as a budding chess player, which is tactics, but I see nothing wrong with going over those books, it's just that it may take you a long time to go over three books, and they are only on the opening. I would urge you to just stick with discovering chess openings for now for your opening study and while you are reading it go over tactics sets as well as play as many games as you can. What you don't know is that to learn anything you need a positive feedback loop. You will need to play a lot of games, get critiqued by strong players or a coach, and then learn new material and implement the new knowledge as you play and continue on with the loop. Without that loop, you will not be learning in an optimum environment. I don't know much about the book simple chess but you seem like you know what you are doing so I think it's all great. Good to go over positional play after you learn the basics, however, in order to be good at positional chess, you have to be able to do well when the tactics come, so maybe you should think about adding some tactics set books to your training. Go to Dan Heisman's website I think he is the one that understands the most about studying tactics as a beginner. You shouldn't really be worried about learning positional chess until you are rated about 1600, though I am not entirely sure, you may want to delay reading books on positional chess until you are that rating. You may need to dig deep into your club players book and constantly go over its contents till you read your positional books. Because I don't know what they teach in your club players book I have no idea if it would be good for you to invest in the Amateurs mind when you reach about 1500-1600 in rapid or blitz on chess.com. You may want to see if you can preview the table of contents and the first chapter of Amateurs mind when you are at the level I mentioned before you buy it only if you think my opinion matters. As you might of noticed I am not very high rated, but my guess is that I am a little under rated because I don't play very much these days and I have only played predominately blitz. All I need to do to gain rating is start playing consistently, and play games with longer time controls. I make a lot of blunders, though I often do well in complicated positions when I am not falling asleep because that's what long games do to me right now make me fall asleep.

    To repeat the common theme people say all the time, like me, and everyone else below 2200, you can get better easily if you just learn to make less blunders. How do you achieve this? Always look for forcing moves. Checks Captures, and threats, and get good at your understanding of general chess principles.

    I would stay away from learning blindfold chess until you when over at least 10000 master games. It's not about memorizing games, openings, or memorizing anything. It's about going over as many master games as you possibly can as quickly as possible. Once you get a good chess baseline, you will most likely not even need to study blindfold chess, but you may pick it up at this point if you want to.

    Tactics and going over master games must be done daily, and hopefully playing actual chess also. This is why it's so hard to get better. There is just so much to do. You may not need to play though master games everyday, though each day you spend not doing it means you will take a little longer to get to 10000 games.
  • #11
    I was going to say something about your thoughts on an opening repertoire. I don't think you should worry about it at this point of time. If you get a coach he may give you one to use like I have been given one, however, it's not really necessary at the beginner level. A beginning chess player needs to focus more on tactics, going over as many master games as possible, and learning to apply a good chess algorithm and augment it with always looking for forcing moves, checks captures and checks. You can find a good chess algorithm to follow in A guide to chess improvement by Dan Heisman.

    It's also a good idea to keep a chess journal or blog, and an opening book. You should write the correct continuation and the continuation you played in the actual game every time you feel you lost directly in the opening due to an opening trap, and also just when you encounter a new variation you've never seemed before and you didn't play the best possible moves. What the book is for is so that you can later go back to it and drill those opening traps with a friend. You should also when you can train openings that you want to start playing, that is, start a game starting from the point of the openings you want to train, having already memorized the actual opening already due to drilling it with a partner. The only time you should think about developing an opening repertoire is when you know where to find a good one for the right price and you are serious about improving.
  • #12

    Jeremy Silman has a book on chess imbalances. That book alone i believe should be read by all beginning chess players to just get a grasp on the game of what is what and how to go about things. Later the openings come in....Just my opinion hopefully helpful.

  • #13

    Great answers, thank you and please keep them coming!

     

    DeirdreSkye - the idea came from Yury Markushin article, cited a few times on this forum (https://thechessworld.com/articles/chess-how-tos/how-to-get-better-at-chess-guide-for-all-levels/). If this isn't a standard practice and useful way of developing visualisation abilities, I will happily skip it. 

     

    kindaspongey - a pleasure to have you here, especially given that I heavily used your recommendations from other threads  (+many articles which you commonly link in similar threads). I guess I will start with Emms and Tamburro, though I must say that I was hoping for more structured, scientific approach to the matter (eg a matrix comparing most popular openings, their characters, weaknesses and strengths, and making recommendations who they might suit at what level etc). I might supplement these two books with recommendations from the chess.com study guide on openings for beginners, which suggests having a quick glance at few most popular ones. 

     

    DayBreak - thank you for all the help. I will definitely check out Amateurs Mind!

  • #14
    dante_ainariel wrote:

    Great answers, thank you and please keep them coming!

     

    DeirdreSkye - the idea came from Yury Markushin article, cited a few times on this forum (https://thechessworld.com/articles/chess-how-tos/how-to-get-better-at-chess-guide-for-all-levels/). If this isn't a standard practice and useful way of developing visualisation abilities, I will happily skip it. 

     

    kindaspongey - a pleasure to have you here, especially given that I heavily used your recommendations from other threads  (+many articles which you commonly link in similar threads). I guess I will start with Emms and Tamburro, though I must say that I was hoping for more structured, scientific approach to the matter (eg a matrix comparing most popular openings, their characters, weaknesses and strengths, and making recommendations who they might suit at what level etc). I might supplement these two books with recommendations from the chess.com study guide on openings for beginners, which suggests having a quick glance at few most popular ones. 

     

    DayBreak - thank you for all the help. I will definitely check out Amateurs Mind!

         Who is that guy, Yuri Markushin ,that you trust so much?

  • #15
    dante_ainariel wrote:

    ... I was hoping for more structured, scientific approach to the matter (eg a matrix comparing most popular openings, their characters, weaknesses and strengths, and making recommendations who they might suit at what level etc). I might supplement these two books with recommendations from the chess.com study guide on openings for beginners, which suggests having a quick glance at few most popular ones. ...

    Many people have sought an organized presentation of this sort of information, but, as far as I know, there has never been any scientific study of openings and "who they might suit at what level". Individuals have tried to give guidance, but there are always the limitations of knowledge and experience. Tamburro wrote about his experience with a few openings and his students. Here are some previously posted links that are somewhat related to these issues:

    https://www.chess.com/article/view/picking-the-correct-opening-repertoire
    http://chess-teacher.com/best-chess-openings/
    https://www.chess.com/blog/TigerLilov/build-your-opening-repertoire
    https://www.chess.com/blog/CraiggoryC/how-to-build-an-opening-repertoire
    https://www.chess.com/article/view/learning-an-opening-to-memorize-or-understand
    https://www.chess.com/article/view/the-perfect-opening-for-the-lazy-student
    https://www.chess.com/article/view/3-ways-to-learn-new-openings
    https://www.chess.com/article/view/how-to-understand-openings
    https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/9035.pdf
    https://web.archive.org/web/20140627110453/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/hansen169.pdf
    https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/9029.pdf
    https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/7277.pdf
    https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/9033.pdf
    https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/9050.pdf
    https://web.archive.org/web/20140627104938/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/hansen159.pdf
    https://web.archive.org/web/20140627022042/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/hansen153.pdf
    https://web.archive.org/web/20140627132508/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/hansen173.pdf

    It is perhaps worthwhile to keep in mind that a lot depends on the detailed characteristics of the individual player.

    "There is no such thing as a 'best opening.' Each player should choose an opening that attracts him. Some players are looking for a gambit as White, others for Black gambits. Many players that are starting out (or have bad memories) want to avoid mainstream systems, others want dynamic openings, and others want calm positional pathways. It’s all about personal taste and personal need.
    For example, if you feel you’re poor at tactics you can choose a quiet positional opening (trying to hide from your weakness and just play chess), or seek more dynamic openings that engender lots of tactics and sacrifices (this might lead to more losses but, over time, will improve your tactical skills and make you stronger)." - IM Jeremy Silman (January 28, 2016)
    https://www.chess.com/article/view/opening-questions-and-a-dream-mate

  • #16
    dante_ainariel wrote:

    ... I will definitely check out Amateurs Mind!

    https://web.archive.org/web/20140708094419/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/ammind.pdf

  • #17

    Personal bug-bear that I always struggle against ... and, you may not be doing this mistake, but it is worth mentioning anyway, just in case.

     

    NEVER ever ever ever EVER use the take-back-a-move button.

     

    (Pretty obvious. But hey, it bears repeating anyway.) There are a FEW limited circumstances when the take-back button can be helpful (usually, that circumstance involves an analysis board and literally no opponent, neither human nor computer nor on-line), but why not make a hard and fast rule anyway? And if you deny yourself the option of using it when you think you do need it, you can still re-build the board to the proper starting position that you're working from, by setting it up from scratch again, rather than using the backwards button.

    For me, when I literally turned off my "right" to use the take-back-a-move button, I started realizing JUST HOW FAR FORWARD in time (moves) I could (or could not) predict and analyze in my own mind. I THOUGHT I was rather prescient; but in fact, I was just trying options, clickety-clickety, not actually doing the thinking on my own.

    Just an obvious point. I've been cold-turkey on the take-back-a-move button for about a year and a half now, and it's totally changed my perspective. I'm not really very good at managing a computer, anyway. I'm older than many here (in my early 50s) and grew up with "real" board games, so the computer always feels a bit small, a bit too shiny, a bit too, I-dunno, too, umm, electronical, and therefore I don't necessarily have a good grasp of its advantages and disadvantages. Making a rule for myself, that I am not allowed to touch the take-back button, helps me manage computers a bit more overtly and helpfully.

    In fact, this could be generational. Maybe Millennials have no problem using apps to help them learn, whereas my pre-Millennial upbringing (I guess I'm Generation X?) means I can't as easily integrate them into my brain's growth. But, it could also work the other way. It's possible that a lot of Millennials don't have a very good grasp of the management differences necessary between real-world and app-world (a.k.a. OTB vs. on-line) because apps have been so prevalent in their lives ever since the start. So this suggestion could be a good pointer for some of them. You kids, you think everything comes with an app. I have a friend who can't open my front door because it requires two hands at once ... LOL ...

  • #18

     How does the study plan go?

     

    Btw, I looked at Opening for amateurs, and so far, I think that book is crap.  I wouldn't use it.  I saw mistakes in two openings he recommended, one is a well known mistake that people make all the time, and he made that same mistake in his opening book...  Most opening books are all crap, especially beginner opening books.  I don't remember what I told you before, as I didn't reread it, however, if you havn't bought those opening books yet, I might suggest you don't buy them and instead use that money to get a diamond membership and go through the opening study plans for beginner and intermediate level.  Discovering chess openings is a good book, but only good if you are a complete beginner, and I think the chess.com beginner and intermediate study plans for the openings do a better job at presenting the material as well as showing you some more advanced things later on, though, in the study plan they do ask you to just look up openings yourself, the mainlines, but you are going to have to do that anyways.  Your going to need some kind of opening encyclopedia, or just go to an online resource that is free and look up different openings codes for the openings you want to go through.  I forget the name of one site you can do this with, sorry, but it should be easy to find.

     

    How is the studying going btw?

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