Monday, December 16, 2013

The training plan

In my day job, I'm a Network Engineer.  I also attained my CCIE certification last year, and for those who don't know (most of you), it's a very prestigious, practical lab exam designed by Cisco.  It takes thousands of pages of reading and lab hours in order to pass.  Most don't pass their first try.  The average is the 3rd-4th attempt.  Many start down the road and never finish.  What does this have to do with chess?  I'm hoping the lessons I learned about studying can carry over to chess.  Just like chess, there's a lot of theory that has to be memorized and that is reinforced with practical application of the theory.  The difference is you're at a command line and not a chess board.  It was during my CCIE training that I learned about the  spaced repetition learning technique.  A few google searches later and I found that other people were trying to apply this to their chess as well!

I've read all of Emprical Rabbit's entries on his blog and I will be adapting what he's learned into my study methods.  I've also read Dan Heisman's site and others for book suggestions.  I've broken down my studies into six categories:

1) Tactics
2) Endgames
3) Instructive Anthologies
4) Middlegame/Strategy
5) Pawn Structures
6) Openings

I'm still trying to figure this out as I go.  At a high level, I want to constantly be going through at least 1 book on tactics that focuses on easier problems that can be done for speed training.  Once I get a few of those under my belt, I will add a concurrent book that focuses on longer exercises that won't be done for speed.
Heisman suggests there are 2,000 basic tactics patterns to learn.  I don't know how long this will take, but I've set a short term goal of going through 10,000 speed training tactics problems not including the repetitions.  That will probably end up being about 20 tactics books.  I have 11 on my short list right now, so I just have to find 9 more.

For endgames I want to study an endgame strategy book and an endgame tactics workbook to reinforce the strategy with spaced repetitions. I don't have any goals for amount of endgame tactics to go through, but I want to constantly be doing them.

I plan on doing spaced repetition for strategy as well, but it won't be timed.  My idea is to take selected positions as the question and make the author's evaluation/key points as the answer.  I've gone through about half of Silman's The Amateur's Mind, and answers in the form of minor pieces, pawn structure, file/square control, space, material, initiative and development along with plans for BOTH SIDES and an overall strategy based on the evaluation seems like a good idea.  I was never one to really analyze a position OTB.  I didn't know how to.  Mostly it was just tactics, making sure he wasn't threatening a back rank mate and trying to find holes in the pawn structure to place a Knight.  If nothing else, this will get me in the habit of evaluating a position and not playing HOPE chess.

For the Instructive Anthologies, it was suggested to go over 10,000 master games.  At around 30-50 games per book, that's going to take a while.  Of course, going over annotated games in other books counts too.  But that's a lot of games to go over.  I think 2,000 would be a nice start.

For the spaced repetitions, my weapon of choice is Anki.  It's free and has a version for Android.  I've noticed iPads are pretty popular in the chess improvement blogosphere, but I like my Nexus 7.  Even better, there's the FEN chess visualizer addon that does exactly what you think it does.  It takes FEN and displays a diagram for a flashcard.  Not the prettiest chess diagram ever, but it works.

It's not easy to get OTB games where I live, so I will rely on and others to get my games in.  But I don't plan on playing any games for a little while longer until I feel like I have a good grounding in basic theory.  I also plan to get a tutor if I end up sticking with this.


  1. Test Chessimo for your Training, It offers tactics, strategy, endgame and opening training. The spaces of the spaced repetition are not "perfect" but what is perfect? There are free windows-testversions and an online version for your :

    1. Thanks. I definitely plan to look at the Chessimo software at some point.