Study Recommendations

WilliamShookspear

Hi all, 

I'm moderately serious about chess, and want to improve. But my method of study has been... Scattered, to say the least. (I am also a recovering blitzaholic, so I blunder semi-regularly.) I'm trying to figure out how I would be able to study in a more structured and mindful manner than the piecemeal chess reading I'm doing at the moment. (I'm sort of working through How to Reassess Your Chess by J. Silman for the 5th (?) time, but have been sort of unsure what I'm supposed to take notes on, so I just read.)

I also want to just get rid of bad habits. As I said I was, until recently, a blitzaholic, and thus my concentration on longer games is often weak, and I miss things a lot. (I'm fighting a slowly winning battle with hope-chess.)

One thing I'm thinking of doing, to hopefully organize and digest my study better, is to start a chess blog, writing what I studied, what I learned, what tactics I did and analyzing a slow game I played. No matter if anyone actually reads it or not, this idea might hold me to some level of accountability. (I will be limiting myself to 5 classical games per week, regardless of whether I go ahead with the blog.) I might also start a notebook, summarizing more detailed lessons learned.

So, what are your thoughts? Is the blog idea good? What worked for you? 

Cheers,

Willy


WilliamShookspear

Nudge

WilliamShookspear

Tweak

BermudaBeach

 Try a multi-disciplinary approach splitting time among the following:

  1. Take all the lessons on Chess.com (1 hour/day)
  2. Play a 30 min. game or two 15 min. games (daily) - but make sure you are serious and then perform a post-game analysis.
  3. Set some goals for yourself - hours of study/week, games/week, use Chess.com stats - but you definitely need to assess your achievement vs. your goals.
  4. Adjust your plan after a month.

That's what I'm going to try anyway.

HBKansas
You could just choose randomly from the hundreds of "how to study chess" suggestions that have been posted here over the years. Unless you have reason to believe that the ones you will receive from your question will finally prove to be the right suggestions.
SmithyQ

My theory is that chess ability can be divided into two areas: understanding and accuracy.  Roughly, understanding means if you look at a random position in a game, you know roughly what SHOULD be happening.  For example, if White is up material but has an exposed King, he should try to exchange Queens and simplify; if Black is ahead in development and White hasn't castled, he should open the position up and attack before White catches up.  

The above may seem obvious, but we don't always think that way in a game.  Understanding can also get quite deep: knowing when to trade a particular piece, or when to trade a pair of Rooks vs keeping both, or which Rook to put on an open file.  There is no limit on understanding, and the best way to increase this is ample review of master-level games.  If you can get games that are explained primarily with words (as opposed to endless variations), this would be ideal.  One possible recommendation of many: Richard Reti's "Masters of the Chessboard".

Accuracy is the second aspect of improving.  You can understand chess at a high level, but if you keep dropping pieces, or you get your move orders wrong, then you'll more often than naught.  The bulk of accuracy comes down to tactics, but it can be more.  Allowing your opponent to have extra counterplay, or simplifying into a more difficult endgame, are examples of inaccurate play.

By and large, though, you will improve most by studying tactics.  There are two things you can do here: a lot of easy puzzles, which will reinforce your pattern recognition, and then harder puzzles that require intense thought.  'Harder' is of course relative to your skill level, but they shouldn't be obvious one-movers.  The goal here is not to get it fast, but to get it accurate.  If you get the right idea but get the move order wrong, THAT IS NOT OKAY.  No part marks.  No passing go and getting $200.  Once your accuracy gets better you can make it faster, but you can't make faster what doesn't yet exist.

That, then, should be the bulk of your study.  Go through master games, preferably annotated games, and practice tactics.  You can combine these: review a game until it comes to a tactical situation, then calculate it as best you can, then see what the game continuation was.  If you do these two things consistently, your chess will improve.

Also, writing a blog is fun and I highly recommend it.  Within a year of starting my own chess blog, I cracked my highest rating ever and broke 2000.  The act of writing my games out in words, putting fingers to keyboard and making my thinking as understandable as possible, I think it played no small part in my rating increase.  And if you find it fun, all the better.  Good luck/

WilliamShookspear
BermudaBeach wrote:

 Try a multi-disciplinary approach splitting time among the following:

  1. Take all the lessons on Chess.com (1 hour/day)
  2. Play a 30 min. game or two 15 min. games (daily) - but make sure you are serious and then perform a post-game analysis.
  3. Set some goals for yourself - hours of study/week, games/week, use Chess.com stats - but you definitely need to assess your achievement vs. your goals.
  4. Adjust your plan after a month.

That's what I'm going to try anyway.

All the lessons on Chess.com will take me a number of years on a plebian account. Do you suggest also going premium?

WilliamShookspear
HBKansas wrote:
You could just choose randomly from the hundreds of "how to study chess" suggestions that have been posted here over the years. Unless you have reason to believe that the ones you will receive from your question will finally prove to be the right suggestions.

Haha tongue.png My question was more how to study than what to study but mostly I'm happy to hear people's suggestions.

WilliamShookspear
SmithyQ wrote:

My theory is that chess ability can be divided into two areas: understanding and accuracy.  Roughly, understanding means if you look at a random position in a game, you know roughly what SHOULD be happening.  For example, if White is up material but has an exposed King, he should try to exchange Queens and simplify; if Black is ahead in development and White hasn't castled, he should open the position up and attack before White catches up.  

The above may seem obvious, but we don't always think that way in a game.  Understanding can also get quite deep: knowing when to trade a particular piece, or when to trade a pair of Rooks vs keeping both, or which Rook to put on an open file.  There is no limit on understanding, and the best way to increase this is ample review of master-level games.  If you can get games that are explained primarily with words (as opposed to endless variations), this would be ideal.  One possible recommendation of many: Richard Reti's "Masters of the Chessboard". I have been sort of unsure of what to do about master games... Maybe I will analyze one per day from "Zurich 1956" on my blog, then check the annotations and see how far off I was! In any case, master games are something I have been considering.

Accuracy is the second aspect of improving.  You can understand chess at a high level, but if you keep dropping pieces, or you get your move orders wrong, then you'll more often than naught.  The bulk of accuracy comes down to tactics, but it can be more.  Allowing your opponent to have extra counterplay, or simplifying into a more difficult endgame, are examples of inaccurate play. Actually taking time to look at things is one of my main flaws at the moment. Some days I'm fine, some days I play lots of hope chess. So yes, definitely working on sharp, tactical positions where I cannot afford to be lazy might be a way to go. 

By and large, though, you will improve most by studying tactics.  There are two things you can do here: a lot of easy puzzles, which will reinforce your pattern recognition, and then harder puzzles that require intense thought.  'Harder' is of course relative to your skill level, but they shouldn't be obvious one-movers.  The goal here is not to get it fast, but to get it accurate.  If you get the right idea but get the move order wrong, THAT IS NOT OKAY.  No part marks.  No passing go and getting $200.  Once your accuracy gets better you can make it faster, but you can't make faster what doesn't yet exist. Your recommendation about studying tactics... I'm not sure how I would differentiate between easy and hard out of a randomly generated selection? I generally take my time regardless. I'm curious as to what you had in mind here.

That, then, should be the bulk of your study.  Go through master games, preferably annotated games, and practice tactics.  You can combine these: review a game until it comes to a tactical situation, then calculate it as best you can, then see what the game continuation was.  If you do these two things consistently, your chess will improve. Hmm, reaching a "tactical" position can be a rather nebulous idea... So I think I will stick with having the two separate for now but we shall see.

Also, writing a blog is fun and I highly recommend it.  Within a year of starting my own chess blog, I cracked my highest rating ever and broke 2000.  The act of writing my games out in words, putting fingers to keyboard and making my thinking as understandable as possible, I think it played no small part in my rating increase.  And if you find it fun, all the better.  Good luck/ Cool, I'm definitely interested now. Hopefully I will be able to stick to it... happy.png

 

WilliamShookspear

Aany more suggestions?

SeniorPatzer

Writing a blog is like writing a personal training journal.  It's for you to track progress, and it records your accomplishments.  This is a good thing.  

WilliamShookspear
SeniorPatzer wrote:

Writing a blog is like writing a personal training journal.  It's for you to track progress, and it records your accomplishments.  This is a good thing.  

That's my thought. happy.png Thank you for your input.

WilliamShookspear

The blog function needs fixing sad.png My post froze at the end. Rest in peace, 2 hours of progress.

SmithyQ

I would actually not recommend using an online resource for learning tactics.  That is, chess.com is great at testing your tactics, but much less great at teaching you.  Think about learning math: you learn the 4 times tables, so you study only the 4 times tables for a bit, and then move on.  Tactics Trainer is random, and random is poor for learning.  Excellent for testing what you know, but not so much for knowing in the first place.  A good book with sound organization is much better for initial learning purposes.

An elementary or easy tactic would be something like this:

This is pretty easy: White only has a few possible moves, and Nc7+ forks the King and Queen.  You can see that pretty quickly, and if you study that position a few times you'll get a feel for this type of Royal Fork.  That'll then make something like this easier to see:

Polgar's Chess Book does this with mates.   There are something like 300 mate in 1s, with the 100 being very few pieces, and then more pieces, and then complex positions.  Then there are thousands of mate in 2s, again starting with elementary positions and building up from there.  1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners does something similar for tactics (pins, forks, etc), though the learning curve can be steep.  The pin section, for instance, features basic pins and then jumps to cross pins, which is something like this: 

Most of the puzzles aren't that hard, but it definitely goes beyond beginner stage fairly quickly, in my mind.  All the same, the idea is to build up your basic chess tactics 'vocabulary', and going through beginner tactics books is a great way to ensure you have the basic patterns down.  I consider myself a player approaching the advanced level, but I struggle with mates in 2 on occasion, so that shows I still have work to do.

Both books I mentioned are good and worth getting, but they don't have a lot of text commentary; if you don't understand their solution (or why an alternative isn't possible), the books aren't much help.  I haven't found the perfect beginner tactics book yet (or what I would consider perfect), but I've only looked at a few and there are many possibilities.  Maybe someone else can make a recommendation.

As a final thought, spending $20 or whatever on a tactics book and going through it dilligently will offer much better results than spending that same time going through random tactics positions on chess.com.  Your tactics rating will almost certainly increase if you go through such a book, whereas many people put hours into chess,com and improve little if at all.

WilliamShookspear
SmithyQ wrote:

I would actually not recommend using an online resource for learning tactics.  That is, chess.com is great at testing your tactics, but much less great at teaching you.  Think about learning math: you learn the 4 times tables, so you study only the 4 times tables for a bit, and then move on.  Tactics Trainer is random, and random is poor for learning.  Excellent for testing what you know, but not so much for knowing in the first place.  A good book with sound organization is much better for initial learning purposes.

An elementary or easy tactic would be something like this:

 

This is pretty easy: White only has a few possible moves, and Nc7+ forks the King and Queen.  You can see that pretty quickly, and if you study that position a few times you'll get a feel for this type of Royal Fork.  That'll then make something like this easier to see:

Polgar's Chess Book does this with mates.   There are something like 300 mate in 1s, with the 100 being very few pieces, and then more pieces, and then complex positions.  Then there are thousands of mate in 2s, again starting with elementary positions and building up from there.  1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners does something similar for tactics (pins, forks, etc), though the learning curve can be steep.  The pin section, for instance, features basic pins and then jumps to cross pins, which is something like this: 

Most of the puzzles aren't that hard, but it definitely goes beyond beginner stage fairly quickly, in my mind.  All the same, the idea is to build up your basic chess tactics 'vocabulary', and going through beginner tactics books is a great way to ensure you have the basic patterns down.  I consider myself a player approaching the advanced level, but I struggle with mates in 2 on occasion, so that shows I still have work to do.

Both books I mentioned are good and worth getting, but they don't have a lot of text commentary; if you don't understand their solution (or why an alternative isn't possible), the books aren't much help.  I haven't found the perfect beginner tactics book yet (or what I would consider perfect), but I've only looked at a few and there are many possibilities.  Maybe someone else can make a recommendation.

As a final thought, spending $20 or whatever on a tactics book and going through it dilligently will offer much better results than spending that same time going through random tactics positions on chess.com.  Your tactics rating will almost certainly increase if you go through such a book, whereas many people put hours into chess,com and improve little if at all.

Okay, that makes sense... I've got a few books that might fit that description. I'll study them.