Chess Training: Want to Refine Your Approach?

A very frequent mistake at the beginner level is to bust out an openings book and dedicate precious chess-studying time and energy to the memorization of ridiculously specific continuations.  It’s great that you want to spend more time studying chess, but keep in mind that some training material should be emphasized more than others.  Evaluating and refining your approach to the study of the game can drastically improve your performance at the chess board, and save you countless hours of ineffective studying.

Mikhail Botvinnik - Chess Training
Mikhail Botvinnik

Discipline Is Paramount

Haphazardly studying for 5 minutes at a time with whatever readily available training material will not help you improve.  Legitimate chess improvement requires a level of discipline that prefers to avoid shortcuts and opts for the steeper path to real knowledge and understanding.  Consider the exercise of solving tactical puzzles, where many lazy chess players will momentarily glance at a puzzle and give up, skipping straight to the answer because they are too lazy to actually solve it.  This superficial approach to chess study will not only fail to improve your chess game, it will make you worse by enforcing bad habits.  If you want to really improve at chess, you have to improve the way you think about studying it.

Chess, like any creative activity, can exist only through the combined efforts of those who have creative talent, and those who have the ability to organize their creative work” – 3-time World Chess Champion Mikhail Botvinnik
Garry Kasparov - Chess Training
Garry Kasparov

Organizing a Regimen for Chess Study

Every time I begin teaching chess to a new student, I instantly ask them about their training regimen. I always recommend a very structured approach to studying chess, simply because it yields the best results. Daily tactical exercises are an absolute must in any chess plan, and I would recommend dedicating a solid 15-20 minutes of focused study to this theme. To get the most out of studying tactics, you have to make yourself really try to solve every problem. It helps to write down your solutions, and compare them to the answers after you’ve completed a solid set. A well-balanced chess game is without a doubt the strongest, so you want to make sure you balance this tactical diet with positional and endgame study. For beginner chess players, I recommend to largely abstain from spending a lot of time and energy studying openings. From a long-term perspective, it is much better to learn the basic principles of opening play and understand them well than to memorize certain openings without understanding the concepts behind the moves. You don’t have to be a natural genius to be good at chess, you just have to be organized.

Winning is not a secret that belongs to a very few, winning is something that we can learn by studying ourselves, studying the environment and making ourselves ready for any challenge that is in front of us” – Garry Kasparov

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