Holiday Training Plan

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”
Muhammad Ali

Term is over, and with the Christmas holidays comes the chance to do some serious training.  I’ll be aiming for 30 hours a week, with the exception of this week as Christmas will get in the way.  I intend to do 5 hours a day, which leaves 1 day a week spare for a break or for making up the hours if I haven’t managed them earlier in the week.  The daily plan is as follows:

1 hour of tactics problems
Sources: Chess Tempo, ICC TrainingBot, PlayChess tactics trainer, and CT-Art 4.0 if I can get it to work
Method: I will alternate between sources, using them approximately evenly. With TrainingBot I will continue to use JimGrange’s method, as described here.

1 hour of opening study
Sources: Various DVDs, books, databases, chess engines and online sources
Method: I will be creating ChessBase databases covering my repertoire, using all of the above-named sources to determine the most desirable moves.

1 hour of middlegame study
Sources: Jeremy Silman’s How to Reassess Your Chess, Garry Kasparov’s My Great Predecessors: Part 1, Maurice Ashley’s ‘The Secret To Chess’
Method: I will be changing the source each day, and so should use each twice a week. After looking over my games, Ken Neat, the leader of Durham City Chess Club, has suggested that a more thorough grounding in classic games would be of benefit, which is why I will be studying ‘My Great Predecessors’.

1 hour of endgame study
Sources: Mark Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual
Method: A thorough, cover-to-cover study, with a board and a computer engine running to answer any questions about variations which the book doesn’t explain.

1 hour of miscellaneous study
Sources: Various
Method: This can include playing and analysing games, or extra time on any of the previously mentioned areas. Twice a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays, it will consist of working through Livshitz’s ‘Test Your Chess IQ: book 2’ (probably this, though my copy has a different cover).

I will also be playing at least one more Team 45 45 league game, and will be going to the London Junior Chess Championships from the 28th to the 30th, which will disrupt the schedule but will certainly be useful.  I haven’t put very much playing into the plan, as I will try to do a lot of that in tournaments and league games next term.  As always, I’d be interested to know your thoughts, and any suggested improvements.

15 thoughts on “Holiday Training Plan

  1. My thought: drop (most of) the opening study. Learning the moves by heart (as in “I will be creating ChessBase databases covering my repertoire, using all of the above-named sources to determine the most desirable moves.”) will not increase your chess knownledge.

    You learn the moves, forget them some time later, learn them again, and forget them again. That does not make much sense.

    Instead I would use your ‘opening study hour’ to solve studies. If you do that for a while, your calculation skills will increase enourmous.

    1. Hello, and thanks for your comment.

      I don’t agree with you, as I think I am now reaching the level where being well prepared in the opening is important. There are plenty of recent examples of me getting a worse or even losing position out of the opening (such as my game against Steven Jones from the British Rapidplay), and it seems to me that the only way to prevent this is by studying the opening. Of course, it’s not just about learning exact sequences of moves, which I agree will take some time to do to a good depth without forgetting, but also about gaining familiarity with common kinds of middlegame position in a given opening.

      I already have an hour a day set aside for tactics problems, which I think is important. Is that what you meant by solving studies, or something different?


      1. You should of course know something about the opening. To me, judging from, for example, the game you mentioned, you know enough about the opening.
        In that game the real mistake appears to be 15….f4. (15….c5 looks better e.g. 16.dxc6 (16.Ba3?! Rxa5 (or bxa5) and white has pressure, but you have a pawn. The game looks far from lost for black)) Nxc6 17.Ba3 and black can take on a5 someway, or play Nd4. In both cases black looks ok.)
        15….f4 however shows positional misundestanding. It is probably played for a kingside attack which is never going to happen because blacks queenside is just too weak.

        This was a quick analysis (with the help of an engine). It however shows to me that the game was not lost in the opening, but rather in the middlegame.

        With studies I do not mean tactics. For example: which has a PGN file with studies, and a link to another website with studies.
        Or if you want to buy a book e.g.

        Solving studies takes probably more time than solving tactics, they are however, as I said above, good for your calculation skills.

        1. You may be right about the main mistake in that game, but I still think that knowing the lines after Nd2 would really have helped me. Firstly, I would have had a better (or at least easier to play) position, and an idea about the typical middlegame plans in that line. Secondly, I’d have saved time on the clock. Finally, I’d have been more confident, which may not sound important but in my opinion really is.

          I’ve had a quick look at those links, and it looks like solving some endgame studies could be useful. My only concern is whether or not most of the positions are realistic (i.e. could well occur in a game), and have solutions which are widely applicable to similar positions, or whether they’re just designed to show off a cool method which would never occur over the board. Of course, as you’re suggesting them to help my calculation, maybe that doesn’t really matter. (Also, the Dvoretsky book contains exercises/studies, so I will be doing something similar to what you’re suggesting during part of the endgame hour.)

  2. Hey Will,

    I must agree with Jan – as you may remember I’m about 1950 elo on the same path as you; so being of similar levels, I can understand what you are saying about needing opening preparation. But instead of creating databases for the sake of knowing the “best move” in the variation, it will be good to link up the opening study with the middlegame study. Of course, if you are playing (say) ultra-sharp variations in the Najdorf, you need to know masses of variations. But, if (like me) you are playing more ‘blunt’ lines, variations are less important. It is the study of typical middlegame plans in the type of position which arises in our openings which will serve us best. And- endgame studies are, I think, useful: they help develop imagination and calculation, both. At our level, our next step of progress is going to be the ability to calculate and evaluate; training hard in those two areas should take us to 2200+, after which perhaps we can focus on up-to-date opening variations.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Nani,

      It strikes me that spending 1/5th of my time on openings isn’t really a lot, and I do play some sharp lines (most notably the King’s Indian). Also, at the moment I can be ‘out of book’ really early on in some lines – for example 1. e4 e5 2. f4 and now I have a decision to make, and don’t really know any of the lines. In general you’re probably right though, so I won’t be spending my opening hour memorising King’s Indian lines to move 30 for a while yet.

      Now that it’s had two votes in its favour, I’ll try to add an endgame study solving session once or twice a week.


  3. I think you have a point; especially with the sharper lines. I guess we can look at opening variatons for the critical opening; while some others we can be content with broad outlines. So for me (say) with white, I play the english where broader ideas are more helpful. So I’m doing that through studying in detail the 30 games annotated by Karpov in his booklet on the opening. With black, with the Benko, I’m trying to have some concrete variations to move 10-15 memorised; and am spending a good deal of time analysing the position at the end of the variation. The point I’m making perhaps is this- that while in certain opening, ‘theory’ may be 25 moves deep, its probably enough to know how to get a decent position 15 moves into the game, and knowing what to do with that position (without having the variation till move 25 by heart).

    I’m working on the english and the catalan from white’s perspective; and a rather dull looking and fort knox french. The latter has relatrively poor theoretical evaluations, but I find myself being able to grind out that allegedly ‘worse’ position to a plus deep into the game against opponents of level quality. So let’s see. Let me know any ideas you have on hw best to deal with opening preparation, if there’s something different u like!

  4. I think you need to be aware that ageing British 2100 players know quite a lot about frequently played openings (and they are your likely opponents in UK opens) . It’s part of chess erudition to know the main lines in lots of positions, in other words moves that have been previously played. I don’t think you become an expert on theory until you know the moves that haven’t been played yet, or are little known.

    Catching up on chess history by studying positions that occur frequently is in my opinion a better use of time than one in a million tactics.

    1. Interesting view, and almost the opposite of that expressed by others in response to this training plan. I agree with you that a good knowledge of the openings I play is important, but you seem to be implying that I should also know main lines in openings that I don’t play. While that certainly wouldn’t do me any harm, I’m not sure it’s the most efficient use of time. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘one in a million tactics’. The point of tactics problems is not that the exact position in one or more of them may occur in your games, but rather that the tactical motifs – pins, discovered attacks, f7 and h7 sacs and the like – will occur. I think doing plenty of tactics problems will allow me to spot these blows more easily when the opportunities inevitably arise.

  5. Just one more thing- regarding endgames. It appears to me that you’re going to go through the Endgame Manual with an engine running. I’d suggest that while working with the book you try to work out the variations yourself, and really try hard. You could perhaps list out positions which you couldn’t work out and maybe on one particular day of the week sit with an engine. That way, you’l also have a weekly revision; and attempting to find your way though your own analysis will be more beneficial…

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