How To Study Chess?

And become an even better chess player...

Discover how to study chess in an organized way...

As I see it, there are two ways in which you can "study" chess.

1. You can study passively. Like looking at a football match to see where the players succeed and fail.

This includes reading chess-books, go over chess-games, watch live chess games on the internet etc.

This way you hope to store information in your brain. This information is written or produced by someone else. Someone else made mistakes and you try to learn from them.

While you may profit from this kind of study, it's not the same as your own experience. It wasn't painfull making the mistakes (because you didn't make them), so the knowledge might not stick... It's a little like trying to learn riding a bike by looking at someone who already succeeded.

When you've looked long enough you try it yourself, only to find yourself falling down again and again. You've seen someone else doing it, but that doens't garantee you can do it too.

2. You can study chess actively. I will call this training. Like a fooball player out on the field, doing all kind of drills over and over again.

This includes solving chess puzzles, training openings, playing games and analyzing them, solving tactics, etc.

Here you're storing your own experiences in your brain. Here you are the one making mistakes. And here you're much more likely to figure out a way to avoid these mistakes in the future.

Once you've succeeded in solving the problems, you're likely to have extra knowledge that will stick.

To become a better chessplayer, I recommend you to study actively. This will increase your experience fast.

Ofcourse there is nothing wrong with studying chess passively if you so desire. I only think it doesn't help much to improve your chess-muscles.

Now how to start training?

Design Your Training Plan

1. Allocate Time

First, determine how much time you want to train each day (or week or month). This should be the easy part, as you already probably know where you can make some time available to train.

You would profit most from training each day a little, say thirthy minutes (as opposed to only once a week a lot, say four hours or so).

You now know how much time to spend. The next step is to determine what to spend this time on.

For this you have to know the skills you want to obtain.

2. What To Train?

What parts of chess you want to train?

Any over the board chess game requires basic skills, like sitting at the board, handling the clock, moving pieces around and writing down the moves.

This already means you need to have knowledge of the pieces and how they move, chess notation, the board and its squares. All of these are learnable "skills".

More advanced skills, which are learnable as well, are tactical abilities (like mating patterns, forks and skewers, getting rid of important defenders and so on), positional abilities, opening knowledge, middlegame knowledge and endgame knowledge.

You have a certain mindset (which you can influence) during the game, you'll be making (adjustable) plans, you can choose which thinking process to use and you'll be planning your time in a certain way.

All of these I consider learnable skills too.


Which Skill You Need To Train?

Now what could be the most important part to master? How do you improve the fastest?

Here I assume you already have some basic chess knowledge. You know how to move the pieces and you're familiar with the chess notation as well. If my assumption is incorrect, you'll have to start with these two.

Once you have these basic skills the next thing to practice would be three things.

Tactics, Tactics and... Tactics.
You'll want to improve your tactical skills as much as possible. By the time you reach grandmaster level tactics, you'll be hard to beat. Until you reach this, be sure to spend time improving your tactical skills each week.

Positional Understanding
As soon as you feel confident enough about your tactics, or at least have laid a solid foundation, start adding positional exercises to your training program.

This may be a little harder, because there are no quick exercises in this field. 

You'll have to work with books like "How To Reassess Your Chess" by Jeremy Silman. Maybe not the best book, but it shows some usefull ideas.

When I was a beginner I learned a lot from Nimzowitch's "My System". 

It really depends on your playing level. There's always something more to learn.

Another option would be to hire a coach.

A coach (who would have to be a strong chess player himself) can point out and discuss the various positional aspects in your games.

He may help you with ideas on how to construct plans as well.

Openings
You may have played a lot of games already. Your opponents start getting stronger. So you need to make sure your opening play gives you some advantage (or at least no disadvantage). At this point you may feel you want to train the different chess openings as well.

Endgame
When playing a lot, you may see some endings which you don´t know how to win. Or where you don´t know how to come up with a decent plan. As soon as this happens, you could start practising endings too.

Constructing Plans
This involves all of the above. In every position you have to come up with a plan. Without a plan you won't achieve anything meaningfull. Look at the position to see what tactical motifs are present.

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of your position. Know how to strenghten the position, make use of your advantages or how te be able to defend.

Mindset
No drills here, just knowledge. But you want so be sure to have the right mindset.

Thinking Process
You`re using a certain thinking process, even if you don´t know it. Be sure to pick the thinking process that delivers the best results.

Overwhelmed?
You now have a lot to train, haven't you? You might even feel overwhelmed...

I offer a piece of advice here. Take one step at the time.

You don't have to do it all at once (even though you might want to).

One step at the time will take you where you want to go. The only thing you have to do is keep walking the path (and enjoying it ofcourse)...

Now you know what you like (or need) to train, it's time to...

3. Schedule Your Training Drills

You now know how much time you've set aside to train. You also know which parts of chess you're gonna train. So now it´s time to construct a training schedule. How can this be done?

I'll show you some examples on the basis of my own drills.

I like to train tactics (never enough), strategy (the more plans I know the better), openings (just to know what's playable) and endgame technique (how to finish of or save the game). These four areas I'd like to improve right now.

Simple Schedule 1
Put all your training drills in a row.

For me this would look like: tactics, strategy, openings, endgame technique.

Simple Schedule 2
You may want to practice some parts more than others. For instance I like to train tactics much more then the other areas. In this case I can add more tactics to my training schedule.

It would look like this: tactics, strategy, tactics, openings, tactics, endgame technique.

Notice that this doubles my training on tactics. Out of every twelve training sessions I now spend six on tactics (as opposed to three).

Advanced Schedule
If you like to make a schedule where you not only have different drills, but where all the drills have to be assigned different weights, you might want to use this method.

Assign units of time (u) to a task to indicate its weight.

For me this could look like this: tactics 2u, endgame 1u, tactics 3u, strategy 2u, tactics 3u, opening 1u.

Notice that tactics is still the most important part. Strategy is now made more important than endgame and opening.

4. Assign Time To The Schedule

You now have a training method and a lot of training drills. From here on you'll be able to perform the drills whenever you want to train.

As an example, say you've reserved an hour each day for training purposes. Now your schedule would look like this.

Simple Schedule 1:

Day 1 (1 hour): tactics
Day 2 (1 hour): strategy
Day 3 (1 hour): openings
Day 4 (1 hour): endgame technique

and now repeat the schedule as many times as needed

Day 5 (1hour): tactics
Day 6 (1hour): strategy
etc. etc.

The Simple Schedule 2 is constructed the same way.

The advanced schedule offers a bit more flexibility. In this schedule we have assigned units of time to our drills.

You can make this unit as small (or large) as you want.

Let's set it to 15 minutes in this example.

The drills where: tactics 2u, endgame 1u, tactics 3u, strategy 2u, tactics 3u, opening 1u.

For a fixed daily schedule this translates to:

Day 1 (1 hour): tactics 30 minutes, endgame 15 minutes, tactics 15 minutes
Day 2 (1 hour): tactics 30 minutes, strategy 30 minutes
Day 3 (1 hour): tactics 45 minutes, opening 15 minutes

and now repeat the schedule again.

Day 4 (1 hour): tactics 30 minutes, endgame 15 minutes, tactics 15 minutes
Day 5 (1 hour): tactics 30 minutes, strategy 30 minutes
etc. etc.

The flexibility of this schedule lies in the possibility to perform different kinds of training during one session AND to be able to train even if you don't know how much time you'll have available. If you have some time to train (in this case at least 15 minutes), you could look at your schedule and start the next drill.


5. Perform The Drills

All you have to do now is to follow the schedule and perform the drills. Soon you'll find yourself playing better chess than you ever did...

Thoughts On Training

Training is ment to improve your abilities.

You train to get better at chess. So you train to perform better during normal over the board games.

Your schedule doesn't include playing games as I consider this to be the thing you're training for.

Although playing real chess games isn't training, you are able to learn from each game you play.

Your training doesn't include analysis of a played game either, because you only have to analyze when you've played a game. If you don't play you don't need to analyze. Ofcourse analyzing does help to you improve your play. It's just not part of the training routine.

You may want to include (internet-)play as part of your training (be sure to train something like opening variations, not just play mindless games). In that case you insert it into your schedule, together with anything else you want to train.

Set up a training environment where you can concentrate.

Try to keep physically fit. Most over the board games aren't won in the first hour. If you can keep up your concentration during the whole game, you'll be winning more games in the last hour of play.



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