I decided to make my training for year 2 and beyond more structured. It had long been my plan to "test" myself after about a year to see what my weaknesses were to work extensively on them. Initially, I had thought of working through Khmelnitsky's Chess Exam and Training Guide but finally decided on Yusupov's 9 book training course. It's award-winning after all, right?
The 9 books are split into 3 levels: Fundamentals (orange), Beyond the Basics (blue) and Mastery (green). Each level has 3 books: Build Up Your Chess, Boost Your Chess and Chess Evolution. Orange is designed to get U1500 players to 1800, blue for getting U1800 players to 2100 and green for getting U2100 players to master level. I'm not U1500 but I'm not 1800 either. I know I have holes in my fundamentals and starting at the beginning should be a great way to find and eliminate them.
Each book is 24 chapters which is comprised of training exercises and a final test. Each test has a scoring tier of minimum, good and excellent. Anything below minimum and you're deficient in that topic and should repeat the chapter. Yusupov suggests setting up the learning exercises on a board and taking 5 minutes to get the solution. For the end of chapter exam, he suggests the same, and if you can't get the solution, taking another 10 minutes and being allowed to move the pieces. Each chapter should take 1-2 hours.
My first week and I got through 7 chapters in the 1st orange book. It isn't my attempt to rush, but some of the chapters I did well on and was able to get through quickly which isn't surprising.
Chapter 1 - Mating motifs focuses on mate along open lines, Anastasia's mate, Arabian mate, Boden's mate and the Q + R or B battery. Boden's mate struck me as a bit of a surprise as it seems like more of a rarer motif. I've seen some of these positions in other tactics books and did well in this chapter, scoring 13/16 for a "good" mark. A silly calculation error on the 3-star problem kept me from a perfect score.
Chapter 2 - Mating motifs 2 focuses on Legal's, Damiano's, Greco's, Lolli's, Blackburne's and Pillsbury's mate. I liked this chapter as they were very practical checkmating the castled king motifs and the explanations on how to continue the attack after the obvious defense was particularly helpful. I struggled a bit with the end of chapter exam, missing the passing score of 11 with 10/20. I went back through the chapter and also made a set on chess tempo with those motifs (shown on the right side as Yusupov Mates 2".
Chapter 3 - Basic Opening Principles goes over the principles of rapid development, playing for the center, preventing your opponent's ideas and fighting for the initiative. The end of chapter exam contains many 3-star problems and I only managed a 14/31 missing the pass score by 1 once again. By this point, I was a little disappointed but not surprised that I was deficient in attacking the king and fighting for the initiative in the opening.
Chapter 4 - Simple Pawn Endings covers pawn promotion, key squares, the opposition, rule of the square and handling rook pawns. I expected to do well in this chapter due to my early endgame study. I scored 17/22 in the end of chapter exam with a "good" mark. I was a little hasty on 2 problems and didn't fully calculate.
Chapater 5 - Double check was another chapter I expected to do well in since it should just be basic tactics calculation. He covers mate and mating combinations using double check and decoys. I scored 14/16 on the exam for an "excellent". I didn't miss any problems, just a couple of the longer variations that granted extra points.
Chapter 6 - The value of the pieces was the hardest chapter I've done to this point. It covers how to play with material imbalances such as queen vs 2 rooks or 3 minor pieces. I completely whiffed on the end of chapter exam scoring only 4/19. Looking back, it wasn't so difficult that I couldn't have done better, but I felt like I wasn't being methodical enough with my calculations. Too many shortcuts and not looking at enough candidate moves. I've gotten by up to this point being able to play this way OTB, but it's definitely something I'm looking to improve. I didn't like leaving money on the table and decided it was time to really sit down and do these chapters right. No fast reading, no lazy calculations. Grind it out and get it or at least try hard; something I could use in my games as well.
Chapter 7 - The discovered check is another tactical motifs chapter like chapter 5. I expected to do well here and did, scoring 15/15.
I'm hoping my newfound commitment to proper analysis and tenacity carries forward as I continue with this book and, more importantly, to my games.