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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Chess Training

This is a part of the chess improvement advice series I am starting. If you have questions, please use the comment section. I may use your questions for future articles. Enjoy!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Chess Training

I have met countless young chess players over the years. A common question I received is how to improve?

Here is usually the sequence of questions and answers regarding chess improvement:

Me: How often do you train?

Players: Everyday! (The Good)

Me: How many hours do you usually train?

Players: 1-2-3 hours per day! (The Good)

Me: How do you train? What do you do?

Players: Play blitz online (ICC, Chess.com, etc.). (The Bad)

Me: What else?

Players: Sometimes also bughouse! (The Ugly)

This is a common problem for many young chess players. They like to play. Playing chess is fun. Studying chess is “boring”. But playing chess alone will not sufficient to get a whole lot better. There has to be a good balance between playing and learning.

For an example, a compromise could be to play a few g/15 online, then analyze the game after with an engine or coach. This way, players can spot the mistakes and come up with improvement ideas. Another idea is to play friendly games against your peers or people you know, then analyze after.

I usually recommend my students to play at least g/10 or g/15. Playing a reasonable amount of g/3 is also OK. But I do not recommend bullet / lightning chess (g/1). This does almost nothing to help chess improvement. This is more about mouse moving skill. It is fun to satisfy players’ ego but it is not good for the development of young players.

If players are serious about chess improvement, I absolutely do not recommend playing bughouse.

Other very important areas of chess improvement are: Tactic, endgame, calculation, strategic understanding, making plans, etc. Spending an enormous amount of time on studying openings, especially at an early age or at the beginner’s level, will yield very little results.

So when you say that you “train” for 2-3 hours a day but do not see any progress, it means that you are not training right.

How do you actually study tactics, endgame etc... I’m not very smart to think many moves ahead.

For tactic, you need to solve a lot of puzzles, in the thousands. As for endgame, it can be learned via endgame books, starting at easier to more difficult levels.

Hi Susan, I am working to master basic tactics. My definition of master is to solve 1-4 move tactics problems in <10 seconds. My approach is to create 8000 basic tactics flash cards, then review them until I can solve each one in <10 seconds. For example, I used your Chess Tactics for Champions book to create 700 of the cards. This whole process should take me 36 months according to my progress to date. (I am 22 months into this journey). What do you think of my goal and approach? Any suggestions? Thanks!

Thank you. We can totally relate to making no progress studying openings.. which is the best area / method to start for beginners (for example solving puzzles or end game books, etc.). Absolute honour to have contacted.


Hola Susan:

¿Has publicado algún libro con el método que usó vuestro padre con vosotras tres? De ser así, ¿está en español?