Science has shown that deliberate practice was the main factor for expert performance. It is not talent, but the actual number of hours you dedicate to your craft.
For more on the science, you can read “the role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance” or the making of an expert for a lighter read.
What exactly is deliberate practice?
- focuses on ONE specific activity.
- stretches you beyond your current capabilities.
- is NOT just maintaining the level of performance, but actually IMPROVING.
- involves LOTS of repetition.
- requires immediate FEEDBACK.
- is unsustainable for long periods of time.
- is emotionally difficult because it focuses on areas that we are not as good at.
How do we use this concept to improve at chess?
- When we are studying chess, we should focus only on one area. Studying every part of the game will harm your progress.
- The material should be hard but not too hard. Don’t study Dvoretsky’s book if you’re not at least 2000!
- If we are not making mistakes, we won’t improve.
- The material should help us drill the skill we are trying to learn. Every move we are trying to find should be an exercise.
- We should be able to correct our mistakes immediately with instant feedback. We should know if the move we made is good or not after we made it. For example, when you solve diagrams, check the answer after every puzzle.
- It is OK to not be able to study for long because the quality of our training is more important than the length of it.
- The area we should focus on must be one of our weaknesses.
Examples of deliberate practice for chess
- Guess the move: here you are training your thinking system. Good resources are games collections where every move is explained. For example: Logical Chess: Move By Move , Grandmaster Chess Move by Move, or The Grandmaster’s Secrets .
- Solving puzzles: they can be tactical, strategical or endgame puzzles. One great resources of puzzles is the series build, boost and evolution by Yusupov. The only drawback regarding deliberate practice is the repetition part: you only have 12 puzzles per chapter. The “fundamentals” serie is for players under 1500 :Build Up Your Chess 1: The Fundamentals , Boost Your Chess 1: The Fundamentals , Chess Evolution 1: The Fundamentals. The “beyond the basics” serie is for players under 1800 : Build Up Your Chess 2, Boost Your Chess 2, Chess Evolution 2. The “mastery” serie is for players under 2100 : Build Up Your Chess 3, Boost Your Chess 3, Chess Evolution 3. I’d recommend to only try one book before investing in the complete series, because the puzzles are very hard and I found it difficult to complete the first serie. It was really hard work!
- Playing against stronger opposition: here the feedback will come immediately since if you make a mistake, you will be punished the following move. You can play against a computer at full strength or against a really good player. If you play against a better player, ask for a post-mortem. That way your opponent can explain why your bad moves were mistakes and they will tell you what moves to play instead.
If you have other suggestions for deliberate practice for chess, please leave a comment.