Training Schedule

After some consideration I have decided to dedicate 10 hours a week to chess study during term-time. “10 hours a week?”, I hear you cry! “10 hours a day would not be sufficient!” Well, perhaps it’s not enough, but I think it’s important to start with a manageable plan. If I find I’m coping easily, I can increase it. Conversely, during exam period or when I have big assignments due in, I can decrease the number of hours. The one thing I don’t want to do is start trying to cram chess into every waking moment, only to burn out quickly and stop abruptly. I know from experience that my ‘8-hours-a-day revision plans’ mean nothing will get done, but with a more modest aim then constructive work can be achieved. As for the other objection, that 10 hours a week is too much as I have a degree to pass; well, that still leaves 30 hours of the working week, which is more than enough for any degree if used efficiently.

I intend to split the time up roughly into one hour every weekday, and two and a half hours each day of the weekend. Half an hour each morning, before I go to lectures, will be spent on solving tactics problems. I still make lots of blunders, and my calculating ability really needs to be improved, so I think this may be the most important thing to do for a while. Every evening I’ll spend at least half an hour playing online games, or doing bookwork. Bookwork at the moment will consist mainly of working through Silman’s ‘How To Reassess Your Chess’, Maurice Ashley’s ‘The Secret To Chess’, or video lectures which I’m currently trying out. The extra time at the weekend will be spent on longer games, more bookwork or preparing for my weekly lesson with GM Damian Lemos.

Each week I will post a summary of what I have achieved, either on the main page or on a separate page made for this purpose, in order to hold myself to account. Comments or suggestions on my schedule are very welcome.

24 thoughts on “Training Schedule

  1. Hi 🙂 congrats and best of luck – I will be following you!
    I am a musician and a programmer, aged 36
    I fell in love with chess about three years ago! Somehow.. Head over heels.
    I played a little when I was young, but didn’t really like the harsh competitiveness involved. Over the past three years I study chess in different ways (mainly books and software), and I estimate my current ranking (though never tested in any formal battle) to be 1050. Don’t laugh. 🙂 I have quite a modest aim – to reach an estimated level of 1500-1600 in less then a year. Do you think I can make it? of course any progress you will make towards your own courageous goal will be of great inspiration to me.
    Be cool.. Meditate… Any recommendation for me?
    Wishing you the best

    1. Thank you. I think you can make it; 500-600 points in a year is a lot, but manageable at lower levels I think. I’d recommend playing as much as you can – blitz games, rapid games and long games (though bullet games probably won’t help) – and doing lots of tactics problems. Also, try to go over games afterwards with your opponent.

  2. I really appreciate what your trying to do, but 10h is not nearly enough i think. It makes me wonder how serious you are about this project. I will give the benifit of the doubt 🙂

    1. Bear in mind that this is only a term-time schedule. In the holidays (which make up nearly half the year), I could probably do four times as much or more. Anyway, if I find that 10 hours a week in term-time is easily manageable, I’ll increase it.

  3. Hi Will,

    Best of luck with your goal of becoming a Grandmaster!

    Your plan is quite good, but I would make two modifications:

    1. Don’t play blitz games online. Playing blitz is fun, but it can make your calculation in over-the-board games too superficial if you become used to playing quickly. Your time would be better spent playing one 15 0 game rather than five 3 0 games. Analyse the game afterwards, first by yourself, and then with either an engine or a coach (Lemos).

    2. Include in your plan some study of the endgame. Many amateurs underestimate the importance of studying endgames, which don’t just make you a stronger endgame player, but also improve your overall chess understanding and middlegame play. I would suggest using the book ‘Silman’s Complete Endgame Course’ for this purpose.

    1. Thank you.

      1. I would argue that blitz games (perhaps 5 0 rather than 3 0) are quite a good way to try out new opening ideas and get some experience in them quickly. Do you disagree? I’m certainly intending to play a lot of ICC 15-minute pool though.

      2. I have Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual, and was intending to tackle it as soon as I’d finished Silman’s Reassess Your Chess. However, perhaps I should start it right away, and study the two books at the same time. I also own Müller and Lamprecht’s ‘Fundamental Chess Endings’, but haven’t studied it yet.

  4. hello Will,

    i hope you will make it, i will be following your progress.

    i also reccomend Silman’s end game course. the way i want to use it is in corospondence games ( i just started on and the idea is, when i spend months of thinking on a game i don’t want to mess the endgame up and i look for advice in the endgame book….

    the same goes for my openings i read my books as the opening progresses…. in the middlegame i play trought games from a data base, with similair positions…

    this is advice from a great book “studying chess made easy” by Andy Solitis. it makes much sense to me …. maybe you should ask GM Damian Lemos if this could work for you???

    all the best wishes, jacco

    1. I have to correct myself… Andy Solitis says nothing about playing trough games with similar positions … He does mention improving calculation.

      He mentioned this advice on How to deal with TMI too much information.
      I have a problem with this in opening theory and exact endings

      Maybe it’s also usefüll for “too litle time” ???

      Kind greeting!

    2. Hi Jacco. Thanks for the good wishes and the suggestions. I’ll consider getting Silman’s endgame book (though I already have two ending books, which have been largely very favourably received).

  5. Good luck with your goal! I think 10 hours during term time is a good balance between work/life/chess. In holidays though I would increase it a lot to achieve your aim. Keep us posted on your progress, I’m interested to see how things turn out over the next weeks/months and what adjustments you think might be necessary.

    1. Thank you. I am managing to keep up with the schedule quite easily so far, and will consider increasing it. I definitely intend to do much more in the holidays.

  6. Hi Will! I firmly believe that if you set your mind to something it can be achieved. I am a USCF master who is already an old man at 28, but thankfully I have time to devote to studying and I still have crazy intentions of becoming a grandmaster someday.

    I suggest you spend more time playing and analyzing games than you do studying books. When you study grandmaster games, I think it would be great to have a study partner who is a stronger player than you. cover up the moves (or use “training mode” on chessbase) and spend a lot of time trying to think what the grandmaster(s) played, as if you were playing the game yourself, and write down your ideas and identify faults in your thought patterns as you go a long.

    I don’t agree with the suggestion not to play blitz. Play blitz, just be sure you don’t get addicted to it. But play plenty of blitz to help acclimate yourself to high-stress situations with time trouble and to train your mind to notice key patterns more quickly.

    Pattern recognition is where it’s at, whether studying openings, middlegames, or endgames. The faster you can glance at a board and identify key patterns, the stronger your intuition gets. Use training methods that focus on patterns. Look up chess position trainer, for example. I really think that will help you most of all at this stage, since it will be more difficult to substantially improve your powers of calculation than it is to improve your intuition.

    It can be done, but it certainly won’t be easy. Best of luck to you!

  7. Hello Will,
    I am a 2043 fide rated player. Am turning 24 next month and I have similar ambitions and aspirations as yours. From my experience I can give you some tips and advices:
    1- Nothing is impossible in life if you set your mind into it. You will/may encounter people who will try to put you down, discourage you, even laugh at you if you confess to them this goal of yours….but don’t let these people take you astray from your true goal, don’t pay attention to them because they will say this just to try and cover and justify their own failures. Just Believe in yourself no matter what they tell you and sky is the limit for you. I know this Fide master who laughed at a chessfriend of mine because of this very same ambition he showed while this very same FM said previously he wanted to make it to 2600 and never did.
    2- Silman’s book is a real gem and you should work it over from front to cover. One of the advices that touched me most and that I found true from practical experience is when he says that nobody ,no matter how strong he is, or looks like, is perfect. Even such legends as Kasparov and Fischer made mistakes occasionally(otherwise they wouldn’t have lost those relatively few games they did, would they?). An IM once told me that one of the main differences between an amateur and a chess master is that the master makes LESS mistakes than the amateur( and not makes no mistakes at all)and if he does make some they tend to be of less obvious and/or grave nature than the ones the amateur makes. Keep this one in mind when you confront masters or players stronger than you. Recently I managed to beat for a first time ever in a classical time control game, an FM and an IM in two different tournaments!! Did I play good in those two games? yes (heck hell yes!!!), was my game flawless in those two games? No, I just made less mistakes than my opponents and played some stronger moves.

    I hope I gave you a small insight on the practical side of the game because this kind of stuff is not usually found in the traditional type of chess books. If you need any further advice or help I would be more than happy to be at your assistance. Good luck in your quest and hope you can fulfill your dreams one day!

  8. hey Will,

    i have a pdf. of the silman endbook i can sent.
    and another book i can email and recommend is “chess for zebra’s” it also mentions “chess for tigers” 😉

    this is good review

    i have hard copies now but downloaded to see if they are something for me.

    if you don’t want to post your email adres here you can email me… i think you can see my email adres??

    kind greeting, jacco

  9. (quote) ‘1. I would argue that blitz games (perhaps 5 0 rather than 3 0) are quite a good way to try out new opening ideas and get some experience in them quickly. Do you disagree? I’m certainly intending to play a lot of ICC 15-minute pool though.’

    I agree that blitz games can be good for getting the hang of an opening, but they are only beneficial if you put in plenty of work before playing, in which case they give you the opportunity to implement your new skills/knowledge. Blitz isn’t bad for your game and does help you a bit for when you reach time scrambles, but it’s not the most effective use of time, especially when you only have ten hours a week to study chess at present.

    Playing in the 15-minute pool is a good idea. If you do decide to play blitz, stick to 5 0 and 3 2.

    I’m not sure if this has been mentioned already on this blog, but you can use ChessTempo and Chess Tactics Server for free to hone your tactical vision and calculation. Below 2000 level, almost all games are decided by a tactic.

  10. My advice would be to play consistently against much stronger opponents.

    I started comp chess late (I was 17) and my first rating was 1600. Then a litterature assistant come to our college, he was 2000+ and nobody was wanting to play him when he was coming to the school chessclub because he was so strong. I did play him and I learned a lot. My rating went to 1900 in one year. The year after the assistant was gone but with my new rating I was now top board of the town team and played against 1900-2200 opponents. My rating raised to 2000.

    Then four years in University, I spent all my free time in the chess club but there was no master or pro to play against, I was playing only fellows my strength, say 1800-2100, open tournaments, league competitions, and in four years I did not win a single Elo point.

    Then I moved. My new club organized a Scheveningen tournament (5 players with 2200-2350 FIDE ratings against 5 unrated players, double round robin), I liked it it a lot and began to search for Scheveningen or Closed (IM-norm) tournaments all over the world. I liked the closed (IM-norm) tournaments best because I was playing against pros or pro-wannabees and they had to win a prize to make a living and therefore were always playing at full strength against me. Typically they were 2300-2450 and I was 2100-2200. I always ended last or second to last but always gained some Elo points and lot of knowledge, plus a few highlights here or there, like when I defeated Levon Aronian, who of course by then was not yet a GM.

    All in all I did not play much, maybe a grand total of 50 or 60 tournament games in Closed tournaments or Scheveningens, but still it brought me to 2250, when I basically retired from chess.

    You take the level of your opponents. Same range of strength, you plateau. Much stronger opponents, tough games for you but guaranteed progress.

    1. Sounds like good advice; I’ll certainly be trying to play stronger players as often as possible. Congrats on beating Aronian! 🙂

  11. In your case I can’t recommend Silman’s ‘Reassess your chess’. It’s too formulaic and doesn’t seriously challenge you to think like a chess master. It’s great if you want aformula to become a strong 1800 player but you are aiming much (much) higher!

  12. Hello,
    I am scientist, who also has high asperations in the learning of high level chess; here are a few useful insights that I have run across in my pursuit of chess mastery.

    (1) Learn what your personality type is by taking a Myers-Briggs test. The vast majority of good chess players are either INTJ or ISTJ. Knowing your personality type will yield insights into your strengths/weaknesses not to mention your opponents; Sensors tend to be tactical & dogmatic, Intuitives, creative & strategical.
    (2) Study a concept called, “Deliberate Practice” and apply it directly to the study of chess, especially during the quite times. I use the Fred Reinfeld books-1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate & 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations. Both of these books give you insights, patterns, and create your own ‘puzzles’ which will yield more insights.
    (3) Play thru a book such as, “Chess Openings for Dummies” then select the 3 openings for Wt and 3 openings for Bk which feel ‘right’ to you. Study these 6 choices in depth up to at least move 10, which gives you confidence and time on the clock when playing in a tournament/match.
    (4) Limit your play against computer programs; they are very tactical and don’t play like humans whatsoever, rather balance your practice 50% human, 50% computers.
    (5) Study endgames, but rather slowly and look first at the basic ones, K+P vs K, Q endgames, and rook endgames. Since the endgame is rather mathematical in nature, don’t overwhelm yourself with these ideas.
    (6) Study the middlegame with these books by Max Euwe; both of them are rather unknown except to those who ‘know’ Book 1: Static Features, Book 2: Dynamic & Subjective Features. These books dominate Silman’s ‘Reasses Your Chess’
    (7) Don’t get caught up in buy every new book or what people suggest; check them out on the internet, amazon first; when you get a good book (I own very few) work those books hard, by re-reading them, setting up positions from memory, etc… then practice against people/programs and test your new found knowledge.
    (8) Check out something called, “Shuhari” which is how Go players learn their art form, and is applicable to chess players.
    Conclusion: If it is important, do it every day; if it is not important, don’t do it at all-Dan Gable

    1. Hi Don,

      Thanks for a very interesting post, and apologies for taking so long to respond to it (I’ve had my finals). I’ll respond to each point in turn.

      1. I’ve taken a free online test which claims to be similar to the Myers-Briggs test. I’m sure it’s less reliable, but I got INTJ.
      2. I’ve been familiar with the concept of deliberate practice for a while now – here’s a post from September with some of my thoughts shortly after hearing of it: It seems more difficult to apply deliberate practice to chess than to many sports, but I intend to try and will post shortly about a new study plan.
      3. I’ve selected an opening to work on for now, but am not sure about the whole of my repertoire, so I may try this later.
      4. I don’t play against computers at all at the moment (though I do analyse with them). I’m not convinced that it would be terribly useful, as it’s hard to motivate yourself to try hard in a game where there is only one possible outcome (your loss), and the games would also probably be quite different in nature to any tournament game against a human opponent.
      5. I’m intending to work through Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual carefully, but may try something a bit more accessible first (Silman, for example, or Mueller’s DVDs).
      6. I’ve not heard of those books, but will look them up.
      7. Good advice, and something I try to do (see my non-committal reply to point 6!).
      8. I’ve been a Go player for quite a few years now (more-or-less ‘retired’ since starting this project), but hadn’t heard of this. I’d be interested to learn more about it should the opportunity arise.

      Great Dan Gable quote.


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