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The Program in full:

Posted by pablito15 on April 15, 2010

Hey there!! Before going specifically into parts of our study, I thought I’d put up our “program” in full. For anyone interested in structured study, I think we have a couple of nice ideas.  The picture below is the central hub of our study, a shared gmail spreadsheet, which we can both access, view and update through our email accounts- a great innovation!

On this shared spreadsheet, we detail everything from our progress with shared texts, to our tactical studies (which you can see above- I’ve crunched it together to make it fit on the page), to a page dedicated to ICC games we play. But you’ll see all that later on in picture form (if you choose to read on!!)

  • Page 1: Tactics etc : As you can see this is just a record of tactical problems attempted & completed. The week highlighted in green is “errors week”- I’ve set myself a reasonable goal of 105 tactics a week, and once the error count reads 105 I go back and that week’s study is all the previous errors I made.

Perhaps the most useful sheet is sheet #6, where we’ve created a detailed record of any games we play on the ICC or over-the-board (OTB). I did this in an attempt to start making the time I spent playing games online not just mindless time-filling:

As you can see, I’ve tried to get an idea of the specific (ie. A poor response to an inaccuracy in the Lopez) and the general (type of tactics i’m missing [so… many… skewers…] / type of games i’m losing). This has been fantastic- before this spreadsheet the time I spent playing games on the ICC was largely “relaxing time” – games I wouldn’t take seriously that usually blew out into an hour of “chess” I’d gain nothing from- it would be better called “filling in time” than “relaxing”. In any case- after starting this sheet I have a clear record of what type of positions I’m playing comfortably against, any specific opening inaccuracies I failed to exploit or made (ie. on row 8,  I played black and lost to “Kingsryche” where white made the common mistake 12. d5 against the Keres variation of the Lopez- which I knew was a mistake, but responded with the incorrect 12. f5?! This is now noted and I’ve made a “to-do” to go back and annotate Fischer-Keres 1962 0-1) I’ve been able to notice the recurrence of specific tactical mistakes, like skewers, and also the good effects of playing positions I’ve annotated deeply, which has lead to wins against players rated 1800-2000. All in all, the biggest positive in this is that it’s helped me take something from my online games, and greatly improved my concentration & calculation effort online, which I have always had problems taking seriously. I will use this sheet a great deal before playing tournaments this year.

Next up, (my) schedule itself. At the moment(January-July 2010) I have a lot of time for chess, so I can devote about 14 hours a week to study. That may sound a lot or a little to you (depending on how much time you waste playing blitz!), personally I am overseas at the moment, single & working part-time. Also being away from family and the raucous scenes of Melbourne gives a little more space. The schedule is no different from any other, apart from two things:

  1. Each month, we have a “focus area”, represented by the coloured ranks in our weekly plan, which we vary from month to month. The idea of this is not to “cast the net” so wide that we don’t really take in anything, and to make use of our mind’s love of repetition and really focus on a topic per month (without neglecting the rest of the schedule and letting it waste away). Repetition is a bad word, what we’re really looking for is to go through the same themes with many different teachers & books, from many different angles and in many different shades of light! I believe repetition and memory have a place in chess, but a far smaller one than most give it- all this Michael De La Maza tactical repetition nonsense gives you some false ideas about chess training- repetition should just be one tiny technique you use occasionally in a tapestry of learning. Anyway- more on that later.
  2. The other idea is I’ve picked two interlinking end game texts and placed the corresponding chapters within 48 hours of one another (Bernd Rosen’s “Chess end game training” & Lamprecht & Mueller’s “Secret of pawn endings/Fundamental Chess endings” which are basically brother-sister books; the Rosen just provides examples on the same themes). “They” say, “study something once, look at it again within 24-48 hours, then once again within a week and it’s yours forever,” well.. I’m taking the first half of that advice.

This month, the theme (chosen by me) is combination & tactics, so on Tuesday/Wednesday the variable session we’re giving to Pandolfini’s Chessercizes Checkmate- basically a book on mating patterns from 2-7 moves. This will naturally overlap with some of our normal study of tactics, and the message will hopefully repeat and sink in. Next month the focus is annotation, we’ll be looking at 4 games we picked (I picked Keres V Kotov from Vukovic’s Art of Attack, & Tal Botvinnik from Tal’s 1960 book on their  match): first we’ll annotate them by hand, then go through the book, then with fritz.

Wednesday night fixed opening series V Andreas

I had to chop this one down a bit! This is a page on our hugely useful Wednesday night fixed opening series. It’s amazing how beneficial playing several fixed opening games against the same opponent can be, you both get an idea of each other’s style, strengths and weaknesses and help motivate each other to study certain strategies (strategies -not openings! Never ever openings…). We alternate picking the opening every week, for week 7 I’ve chosen the classical Sicilian, which I know very little about as a GP Attack player, so i’ll use the Monday “annotation” time to go through some middle game books looking at Sicilian games. The graphs I don’t waste too much time with (there is another one with a small pie chart- a breakdown of exactly what type of tactical blunders/opportunities we are missing [double attacks & skewers, by the way;]), but when i’m annotating the games I quickly update this graph occasionally- not every week. It does give some useful infromation though; in all of the last 5 weeks I’ve given away a pawn for free, which really makes me think I need to develop some sort of “thinking process” I go through before every move.

The categories of errors include: Structural, Calculation, Opening, End Game, “Misunderstanding of Position”, Missing counter-play, Removing an active piece needlessly, Ignoring development too much, Missing a simplification, Missing a stronger move, Dropping a pawn & “Mistakes of tempo”.

As I said, I don’t waste too much time with this, but I find the process of monitoring your training, results and progress not only helpful but fun too. It’s rewarding to have a log of the training you’ve done and some nice colours as it stacks up.

The other categories include scores from tests we’ve taken (ie. these “bratko-kopec” tactics tests), which we’ll repeat in a few months and look for any improvements, a section for the exercise based end-game training we’re doing, Andreas’ sections on his games which are cool (but i’ll leave them for his blog!) and a small sheet just saying what page # we’re up to in the books we’re studying.


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