Review – September 2016 – Tactics, tactics, tactics

I am glad to report that I have continued to stick to the undertaking I made at the end of July to not change my study plan for at least the rest of 2016.

This means that I do a bunch of tactics, record my opening repertoire, work through Yusupov’s course, watch some Tiger Chess videos and work on endgames.

For tactics, I still do mostly spaced repetition on ChessTempo, using custom sets that I have created. These sets are all low rated (in the range 900 to 1,100) and split into mates and non-mates. I also do some Mixed Mode tactics on ChessTempo and to engage with a different medium, I use the Manual of Chess Combinations.

In September I did 7,229 tactics. You read that correctly. For some reason I just found myself in a mood to do loads of tactics this month, so I did. The idea is to build up an awareness of and then internalise, as many patterns as possible. So although the volume is huge, I deliberately aim to see the underlying pattern in each problem and make connections across problems. I doubt I’ll keep up this volume, but I do want to at the very least meet my 1,500 per month target every month.

With the huge amount of tactics I did in September, I didn’t do too much on the other areas. I made some progress in recording my opening repertoire and now have 24% to go. Including the opening videos, I watched 32 Tiger Chess videos, a bit short of my target. I did only 20 pages of Pandolfini’s Endgame Course and only one lesson in Yusupov’s Build Up Your Chess 1: The Fundamentals (Yusupov’s Chess School.


The Yusupov book is very time consuming, because I do it in the way he prescribes. This entails setting up every position on a real chessboard and first visualising variations and moves before playing them. For each question in the tests (there are 12 questions in each end-of-chapter test), I also set up the position on a board, then try to work it out without moving pieces, test my thoughts by physically moving the pieces and then writing down my answers. Because I am still somewhat rubbish at chess, but do want to move through the books, I’ve had to limit myself to 10 minutes of mental analysis and then 5 minutes of physical analysis, after which I write down my answers. Including the setting up and writing down time, this means around 20 minutes per question, so around 4 hours to get through 12 questions.

Finally, I planned to play in two congresses in September, but had to withdraw. Therefore I have played only 2 games, a draw against a 1615 rated player and a loss against a player rated 1705.  The loss was a little disappointing, because although I was out of book after move 2 and without a plan for maybe 15 moves, I built up a really good position (Stockfish evaluation +1 for me), only to throw it away. I attempted a breakthrough when I just needed to be patient and create a second weakness. Lesson learnt.

I will be less active in October as I will be away for a couple of weeks.

5 thoughts on “Review – September 2016 – Tactics, tactics, tactics

  • 30th September 2016 at 10:37 pm

    I would be curious to know how your otb performance changes if you keep up that high volume of tactical study. From what I’ve heard and it is my belief too, that is the most important study up to around 1800. I would also be curious to know what you think about the value you get from Yusupov’s method, as in the knowledge for time spent ratio.

    • 1st October 2016 at 9:27 am

      I have heard that said too about tactics and I will be very glad if it contributes to an increase in chess playing ability (and thereby eventually rating).

      I wonder though if it is more correct to say that “most games between players rated under 1800 are lost or won due to tactical errors”, instead of “tactics is the most important training component”. And no, I don’t think that it is a contradictio in terminis. To take the argument to an extreme, if an alien landed, was introduced to chess and told to do only tactics training, how would they know how to get through the first few moves (they don’t know about opening principles)? How long would they have to do tactics training before they realised good positions (from strategic training) lead to tactical opportunities? Just a thought and maybe an irrelevant one, because I do not think anybody who breached 1800 can honestly say that they studies only tactics.

      I have done only 6 chapters of the first book in the Yusupov series, but so far I do think it will yield long term results. I can feel my visualisation ability improving and I am considering candidates which previously I would not have. They are not necessarily the best candidates moves (see note on game 2 in this update), but I believe Yusupov lays the foundation for real, progressive long term improvement. Time will tell.

      Incidentally, I notice Jacob Aargaard recently put Yusupov’s books above his own in a route map to improvement.

  • 1st October 2016 at 6:37 pm

    You have a good training plan, and the amount of tactics you managed in one month is impressive !

    However, I think you need to raise the # of OTB games in some way to fully benefit from your training.

    • 1st October 2016 at 7:00 pm

      Hi, thanks for the comment. I agree with your statement and if I managed the two congresses in September, I would have been at 56 games YTD. As it is I will break the 50-mark shortly. Yes, 150 would be better, but real life has a habit of getting in the way.

  • 9th October 2016 at 6:52 pm

    I have done the Yusupov study exactly as you have, as directed by the books’ intros. I almost fell out of my chair when I saw the amount of time you put into each chapter’s problem set. It has never taken me much more than an hour to do a chapter, otherwise, I would not have made it through so many of the books. (I did retests of each book, if you recall, and found my retention and improvement[!!!] since making my pass in the texts pretty unreal.) Who knows what’s best, as far as time spent on each chapter, but I suggest keeping it up, so long as you feel it is working. Possibly, the books are as difficult as I thought when I was first going through them, and so a couple of hundred points of difference between players will induce a precipitous increase in time spent whenever seeking similar effects. The texts are hard, plain and simple.

    I’m on the verge of getting in on the Tiger Chess stuff, just to get some info on openings, now that I’ve crossed 1800 and have begun working on openings. I’ll probably start doing Tiger, once I’ve begun more thoroughly ripping through’s related videos.

    Great numbers on the tactics. Unfortunately, my experience and opinion suggests that these kinds of numbers are what we need to be hitting to make our old brains absorb the patterns adequately quickly. Efficiency, and therefore the consequent time disadvantage, is why youths can climb 300-400 points a year. There’s a saying in math and science departments, which you may have come across, and I feel applies very well to the situation: If only the young knew, if only the old were able.


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