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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Chess Exam, results and changes to study schedule

I retook the Chess Exam and Training Guide by Igor Khmelnitsky. The previous exam was ~3 years ago. The results below show the both the previous and current estimates of my status in the 12 categories measured.

10 categories had increased scores while 2 had decreases. The Opening gain is probably an illusion as only 6 of the 100 questions addressed this category.

My major concerns are the sharp decreases in Calculation and Counterattack, these scores may indicate why my Over-the-Board USCF rating is in decline. My fear is that this decline may be a by-product of aging. Stay tuned as I try to correct this.

The following is my study schedule with some changes made to address the above deficiencies:

· Endgame Practice – 15 minutes each morning going over Pandolfini’s Endgame Course by Bruce Pandolfini. The problems are in a database and I play the endgames against the Houdini chess engine. My current pass is to refresh the understanding of all the endgames presented. My intention is to take another pass to isolate for further review those problems which fail on the first attempt.

· Strategy Study – 20 minutes each morning reading Modern Chess Strategy by Paduk Pachman. This is the first serious attempt to completely read and understand this book and I am currently about half way through it. The examples are being played on the computer, but many of the strategies seem vague even with the examples. Many of Pachman’s variations would also benefit from a computer accuracy check. I ordered a copy of Horowitz’ Point Count Chess which is claimed to be easier to understand and, if so, will probably replace this book.

· Tactic Problems – 30 minutes (average time) each morning to solve 10 problems on chesstempo.com with a difficulty level of 1300-1500. I am trying to see the solution before making the first move (i.e. no guessing) to simulate game conditions, which should also address the Calculation weakness found in the Chess Exam. Under consideration is raising the difficulty level, but this would require either more time or less problems per day.

· Games – (a) Twice a week I am playing a long game, either at my local chess club (G90) or against a Chessmaster10 opponent (G45). On the non-game days, (b) replaying master games from The Mammoth Book of The World’s Greatest Chess Games by Burgess, Nunn and Emms and/or from Three Hundred Chess Games by Tarrasch, while trying to understand the reasons behind the moves of the winning player.

· Complex Endgames – 20 minutes each afternoon reading and replaying the problems in Practical Chess Endings by Irving Chernev. Looking at the results of my Chess Exam, this will be replaced by the 800 problems presented in Chess Visualization Course, Book 1 General Tactics by Ian Anderson with the goal of improving my visualization and calculation skills.

· Opening Study – 10 minutes each afternoon studying my opening repertoire using Chess Positional Training. This is the only item in my daily studies that seems more work than fun, but I believe it is necessary to keep my repertoire up to date and in my current memory.

· Counterattack – 15 minutes each day solving the problems in Dan Heisman’s Looking for Trouble. Although my exam Threat results are acceptable, my recent games have suffered from missed threats. This book covers both defending against threats and counterattacking. I have read it once before in its entirety (it really helped my game) and have repeated the middlegame section.

For the readers who are wondering how I can expend 2-3 hours daily on chess, most of my morning studies and my morning physical exercises are finished prior to 8 a.m. In the evening, I find few television shows interesting enough to watch.

Comments and suggestions for improvement of the above study schedule will be appreciated.


  1. The strategy books of Pachman are not that good, the examples are often "not right". You should read additional other books about this for example Euwe/Kramers Middlegame. Point Count Chess is something complete different, it does try to explain how to evaluate a position and not how to play a position.

    I think you are doing to many different things in to small time units. my personal experience is, that a 10 or a 15 min session is of low value, better at least 30 min. At school the smallest time unit is 45 min and this is based on hundred years of experience.

  2. I would tend to agree with Aox here. I find it difficult to incorporate more than 3 chunks of training in a daily routine, and I usually only use 2 (for example tactics warm-up 15' and analyzing my games 1h)

  3. Thank you for the feedback. I am in the process of reworking my study schedule, incorporating much of your comments, especially longer chunks of time and Euwe & Kramer's two books. The concentration looks to be be on strategic study, and problems solving.

    The study schedule seems to be fluid with changes as deemed necessary. I will try out the changes and post the updated schedule when it appears more solid.

  4. Interesting breakdown and diagnosis, must be nice to see the progress spelled out like that.

    Re: calculation, I have my good days and bad days, which are largely a function of overall tiredness and the amount of focus/effort I put into the specific task. My own calculation mistakes can be due to the lack of proper board vision/visualization, but often times it seems that I am just lazy and don't calculate as much as I should.

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