How do I train for chess

How do I train chess?

People who have never played chess believe that you have to be particularly intelligent to be able to play chess well. Others, including many players, are of the opinion that you just have to play often enough. The truth is that both are true and wrong at the same time.

Understanding chess requires above all interest and the right enthusiasm. Intelligence in general doesn't have much to do with it. If you are sporty or even athletic, you will not automatically become a good footballer. The chess talent consists mainly of a perfect memory, pattern recognition and the ability to tactical and strategic planning. All of this can be learned. It is a little easier for some, more difficult for others. It is said that Bobby Fischer's outstanding chess game is the result of his genius - and more than 10,000 hours of training.

Chess training is mostly an individual matter. Some of them need a human trainer to guide them, motivate them and give them tips. Others prefer to learn without outside help. In the majority of cases, a combination brings the greatest success. The coach helps once or twice a week, the rest of the time you spend alone with the 64 fields and your figures.

I am assuming that you will train on your own. The following food for thought and advice can serve as a supplement for club players. I've never played in a real club myself and never had a real coach. Nevertheless, I have achieved a level of skill that I am quite satisfied with. It is enough to survive against one or the other club player. Most of what I know about chess was learned by me over the age of 35. So you don't have to be a child to bring it up to a good hobby level, but it definitely helps when you're young.

Before you start exercising, two things are important. First, you need to do a location survey. Try to answer all of the following questions, if possible:

  • What is your skill level?
  • How good are you at each phase of the game?
  • Where do you see your greatest weakness?
  • Where do you see your greatest strength?

In order to be able to answer the questions, you have to play a lot and evaluate their games. Now that you know where you stand, goals can be defined. Set small, achievable goals and a date when you want to achieve that goal. When you have a big goal, incorporate intermediate steps. A goal does not necessarily have to be a certain skill level. For example, a goal can be to lower the margin of error, play faster, or make fewer mistakes in the opening.

Important: If possible, relate goals to a time mode. For example, if you want to have 1600 Elo, then you also define whether you want this in Rapid, Blitz or normal chess.

One of the difficulties in chess is checking the results. Sure, skill level will tell you your program or platform, but that's only a small part. You need to collect as much data as possible about your games. It sounds like a chore and boring, but it makes your workout incredibly efficient.

First of all, you should build your own database. This is where every game you play should end up. No matter what program, no matter what platform. Every game belongs in your own central database. If you do this consistently, you will have a decent base to work with.

To improve in chess, you need four pillars.

    Your personal training plan should consist of these pillars. I tend to forget about gaming and get lost in theory and analysis. At times this meant that, although I knew a lot, I was almost afraid of playing. Unfortunately, I cannot give a miracle formula for the right balance, you have to find that out for yourself. In any case, I can assure you that it keeps shifting. In some phases you will play a lot and in others you will practice a lot. It is completely normal.

    My training plan in July 2017 including evaluation.

    In the chapter "Game Analysis" I go into a little bit about how to evaluate computer analysis. It is only about the analysis of individual games. What you should also do is an overall analysis and statistical data collection. Thanks to your personal database, that's no problem either. You should collect the following data:

    • Number of games in a defined period (e.g. per month)
    • Odds of wins, draws and losses
    • Ø Loss of 1/100 pawn per move
    • Average strength of your opponents
    • The same data separately for white and black
    • Statistics on openings played
    • Where do you make the most crucial mistakes? (Opening, middlegame, endgame)
    • How often do you lose because of mate, task, or time?

    The average loss of 1/100 pawn per move (also called centipawn or centibauer) is unfortunately given by very few platforms and programs, but it is a very good indicator of their quality of play, which I will go into later.

    If you're just playing in a time mode, that's about it. If not, you need to differentiate this further. If you often lose time, give yourself a few more minutes in the future and try to get into a routine here.

    Now that you have a lot of data, it's time for targeted training. At this point I am assuming that you have mastered the rules well and can also see on the board which pieces are unprotected and / or attacked. If this is the case, the chess training is divided into the following areas:

      My advice: You should use tactics and mating tasksalways work out. Recognizing tactical motives and mate positions is an elementary component that you always need, regardless of your skill level. Many players have decisively improved their playing strength through tactical training alone, without even learning an opening or having a clue about endgames. The wonderful thing about it is: The tasks are not only fun, you also benefit from the training in every phase of the game.

      With opening training you shouldn't overdo it with a skill level below 2000. The basics I covered on this page will keep you afloat for a long time. If you specialize in a few openings, master the first moves and understand the concept behind it, that will last a very long time. The more you play, the less you will encounter unfamiliar variations. When this happens, analyze the position and make note of the best moves.

      Endgame training is a special matter. Before you practice this with programs, you should familiarize yourself with the concepts. There are some very good books on the subject, which are subdivided into the respective endgame positions. Always take a chapter and practice such poses. If you find in the analysis that you often fail a certain type of endgame, for example rook endgames, then you can address this in a targeted manner. As with the openings, it is important to understand the concepts first. Only then does the conditioning follow a positional pattern.

      From my own experience, I can advise you not to take too long breaks from playing. If you have not played for a few months, you will find it difficult and you will find that you have forgotten a great deal and, above all, that you are lacking in routine. This is not only the case with chess. You may have had similar experiences with learning a foreign language.

      A phenomenon that many chess players are familiar with is this: the more you train, the worse you get. You cram theory, train and the rating goes down. The cause is relatively simple: it takes a while for what you have learned to become so solid that you can apply it correctly. There is only one way to overcome the phase: keep going! You must not allow yourself to be demotivated by this effect, on the contrary. You can tell that you are making progress, even if your current skill level does not show it. In fact, it does! As the skill level drops, you can see that a change is taking place with you. If you stick with it, you will reach a point where the rating will go up a lot. From then on you will catapult yourself to the next level.

      For a long time I trained in a pretty chaotic way. Sometimes I did this, sometimes that. Even when I started a series on my YouTube channel called "Bastian's Chess Goals" to force myself to be more structured, it wasn't enough. I play with many different programs and on different platforms. The problem with that was that I didn't have a precise overview. Only when I had everything uniformly in a database did I get an overview. My win rate was amazingly high at over 70%. But a closer look showed why this was so. I played almost exclusively against much weaker opponents. Partly I did this unconsciously, but mostly because I was afraid of defeat and bad statistics. The fact that the statistics, for example on lichess.org, can be viewed by everyone and that my YouTube viewers could control me, paralyzed me completely. With the standardized database, this, among other things, was revealed to me and I was able to train in a structured manner. I supported the database with a spreadsheet. Here I created monthly statistics of my games and defined monthly goals. That brought me further. My win rate went down, but I became a better player. Even a Magnus Carlsen has a win rate of just 43%. Around 42% of his games end in a draw. This means that even one of the best players of our time doesn't win 57% of his games. So don't be discouraged, just be brave! You won't get any better if you only play against worse players.

      After a while, however, the sprawling statistics also had a negative effect. By recording every mistake, I was worried before the game about breaking my stats and ruining my goals with a lousy game. The frustration was pretty big, even though I became a better player at the same time. Later I even closed my YouTube channel because I didn't want to keep showing my bad stats. However, this was only one of the many reasons. I got a turning point when I made a different interpretation of the values. What sounds like "fair talk" is actually a method with which one comes closer to the truth. You can find out how to do this in the chapter on game analysis.