Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How I use the GCTS

Here is a brief synopsis on how I am using the GCTS detailed at ChessOk and summarized here on the blog, modified and altered to fit our needs. I'd also like the readers to post comments on how they use the GCTS and what thier experiences have been so far.

Time
Being a full-time employee for a non-chess company, my 'chess day' is broken into two parts: My pre-work routine and my evening routine. Between these two study segments I try to get as much done as possible, and on occasion I cannot do anything during my Post-work Routine because of other prior commitments. So my pre-work routine is essential in keeping myself fresh with regards to chess.

Originally I had tried getting in 4 time units a day, as called for my the breakdown, by shortening the time unit itself. For example, if I had 2 hours of study time available for the day, my time unit would equal 30 minutes that day. If I had 1 hour, then it would equal 15 minutes. After a while, I found that this resulting in a higher rate of thrashing, so I decided to standardize the time unit to one hour and not stress over getting in 4 units of study a day. For me, it is more like a 16 unit study cycle that I step through, starting with Day1 and progressing, as time permits, through the schedule. The standard schedule looks like this:

Day1 - SO2, VT1, SG1
Day2 - VE2, PL1, VT1
Day3 - SG1, VG1, PL1, VT1
Day4 - SO2, VE1, VT1

(see this post here for what this all means)

The 4-Day routine gets translated into a 16-unit cycle:
SO2, VT1, SG1, VE2, PL1, VT1, SG1, VG1, PL1, VT1, SO2, VE1, VT1

Further, I have made some modifications thanks to feedback from jaxter here (because your input is vital to the collective):
VE2 = SE1 + VE1

I have also broken up each of the SO2's into two SO1's each so they are more manageable in my cycle.

The end result is:
SO1, VT1, SG1, VE1, SO1, PL1, VT1, SE1, SG1, SO1, VG1, PL1, VT1, SO1, VE1, VT1

I list these on a whiteboard and check them off as I do them. I am not married to the order, so if the opportunity comes to play, I play and mark off 'PL1', or if I'm feeling kind of 'endgamey', I'll study or solve endgames. I do make sure I hit each segment before I begin a new cycle. This ensures homogeneous studying across the chess spectrum. I periodically review the cycle every couple months or so based on feedback from my losses and my chess coach.

Pre-Work Routine (non-cycle training)
I have discovered very recently that actually reading a chess book in the early morning hours is not a good way to awaken from my dreams! With that in mind, I avoid any study routines that require written materials. I have gotten into the habit of doing about 30 minutes of tactical problems at the Chess Tactics Server each morning. This gets me thinking about chess right off the bat in the morning, and after a couple of problems my head is clear and I am thinking as I should. These problems are generally not too difficult. However, the trick to scoring well is solving them in under 3 seconds! I try and concentrate on recognizing ideas and getting the tactics correct, even if I lose a point or two in the process. I have noticed that I sometimes go into a 'funk' in my solving abilities, missing several in a row at times. This can really kill your rating on the site. I have found that I think better if I do not know what my rating is at that moment, so I tape an index card to my screen to cover my rating that is displayed below the board. It helps.

Remember, It is more important for us to solve the problem correctly than to rush a move and get it wrong, so I would aim at higher rates of solving than rating points. The site is primarily for tactics training as it pertains to blitz chess, so for that reason the 3 second limit is used. I would guess that the better blitz player you are, the better score you'd get at this site.

In Summary, I am able to do 1/2 unit of Basic Tactics Solving each day. I refer to this as non-cycle training as it is not included in my Cycle. It is in addition to any training I do in the Cycle.

Post-Work Routine (Cycle Training)
My Post-Work Routine includes all of my other study routines that require sit-down, book in hand, board in front studying, including Openings, Strategy/Middlegame Theory and play, Endgame theory and play, and intense tactical training on difficult positions (remember that my non-cycle training is all about basic tactical drills). This is the meat and potatoes of my studying. It includes at least one weekly G60 game played on ICC (PL1), and one simul against an IM or better (PL1) on weekends if I can get it in. Otherwise, I play a bunch of G5, G10, or G15's. I inherently get in about 30 minutes of strategy/middlegame studying due to my ongoing correspondence games, and this helps me recognize and develop useful plans during these games. If you are playing correspondence games, you'll agree it is a great way to train your analysis skills and strategical sense. Otherwise, I consult my cycle and decide if I want to study the next item on the list, and go from there.

I hope this helps give other players an idea of how I use the GCTS to promote good, homogeneous study in chess. It's important to concentrate on all aspects of the game when you are in training at the sub-2200 level, and the GCTS gives you that.

Please post your ideas, comments, and criticisms here at the chess training blog and good luck to everyone!

4 comments:

Chessbuzz said...

Your posts are incredibly helpful, and have helped me to focus on what’s important in my chess studies. I did have a couple of observations and suggestions which I plan on applying to my studies and I thought it might be helpful to bring up here.

The ChessOK article was geared towards 2000+ level players who need additional opening study / preparation. I recommend droppin the 4 units dedicated to opening study and expand on studying endings and solving tactics which are so important to the club-level chess players.

I would drop opening study from 4U to 2U and eliminate solving strategy altogether from the program. I would also drop solving endings from 2U to 1U, but increase study endings from 1U to 3U, and increase solving tactics back to 4U.

The end result would look something like this:
Day 1
SO1 VT1 SE1 SG1

Day 2
SE1 VT1 PL1 SG1

Day 3
SG1 VT1 VE1 SO1

Day 4
VT1 SE1 SG1 PL1

Just my 2 cents worth…keep up the excellent work.

Mark said...

chessbuzz writes:

"The ChessOK article was geared towards 2000+ level players who need additional opening study / preparation."

Actually, our GCTS is a hybrid of the 'baseline' described in the article, and the article itself does map out what a <2200 player needs as a 'baseline' to improve:

Training and trials, 'base line' before the initial ELO rating (2200) is achieved.

The very initial stage we call conditionally our 'base line'. The aim at this stage is to acquire a playing skill of approximately 2200 ELO. At this stage a chess player must have a successfully tested opening repertoire which includes 2 openings as White and 2 openings with the black pieces. The chess player must master tactics (60-70 per cent of a success rate solving problems of an intermediate difficulty), acquire a firm knowledge of the basics of chess strategy, ie. How a position's evaluation is developed and what are its components, familiarize with about 15-25 common plans from the chess classic examples, know typical chess endings: evaluation, plan of play and standard tactical methods for approximately 250 endgame positions. It is necessary to acquire the skills of working with a computer and with chess software.


...and the study program put forth by the writer. You 'gear' it towards you own level based entirely upon what source of study materials you use.

But your point is well-taken: the system really shows it's strength in it's pliability across the chess skill spectrum.

My personal belief is that eliminating solving strategy or 'VG', is a risk at any level below 2200. You need to develop a good strategic sense with 'SG' (you have that), but you also need to practice it as well away from games using 'VG', which you have canned.

My opinion only, but I think you should always have at least one unit of each type in any Cycle you construct.

I really appreciate the feedback and good luck to you.

Bob said...

I find your postings on GCTS and allocation of time very useful and as I have posted elsewhere on this blog, I've set up my own training schedule based on the GCTS general principles. What I like is the idea of not neglecting any area while still concentrating on the areas with the most payback.

I believe that the study mix varies with skill level, and I invite your own comments on how that might look. For instance, I read somewhere (I think an authoritative source) that at the lowest levels, time should be spent 80% on play and 20% on study while at the highest levels it should be 20% play and 80% study). Similarly, we are told at the lower levels to do lots of tactics and very little on openings.

To whatever degree these statements may be true (probably they have at least some merit), the schedules for a USCF 1000 player, a 1400 player, an 1800 player, and a 2200 player, just to pick a few points, would differ. However, the idea of allocation of time and cyclic study seems rather inspired, and you in turn have articulated and developed it well.

You could (and perhaps ought to) write a book on this. If Michael de la Maza can make a book out of his tactical study circles, surely there is much more here!

Mark said...

Bob writes:
"I read somewhere (I think an authoritative source) that at the lowest levels, time should be spent 80% on play and 20% on study while at the highest levels it should be 20% play and 80% study). Similarly, we are told at the lower levels to do lots of tactics and very little on openings."

I've never read anything that articulated an 80-20 or 20-80 split like that.

At all levels a player needs to use his own games as a feedback mechanism. He needs to be honest with himself about what parts of his game he feels comfortable in, and what parts of his game he needs work in. With that, it's hard to say that 'all 1000 rated players should do very little on openings'. It's my feeling that you do what you need to do in the opening to be comfortable with the positions you get. You need to fix your problems in the opening as they become evident to you through tournament play. You can play well in the opening from memory but get devastated in the middlegame. Until you have a great deal of evidence from your own games, you probably should not make adjustments to the basic GCTS.

"To whatever degree these statements may be true (probably they have at least some merit), the schedules for a USCF 1000 player, a 1400 player, an 1800 player, and a 2200 player, just to pick a few points, would differ. However, the idea of allocation of time and cyclic study seems rather inspired, and you in turn have articulated and developed it well."

Every player is different. Every player has different strengths and weaknesses in their games. Each player needs to have a good, homogeneous study cycle and adjust it from there after they collect enough evidence from their own games/losses that would indicate a defficiency in one area and a strength in another. Simply doing it based on a rating is insufficient as it does not address that players particular play profile.

One could say that 1000 players are lacking in tactics skill, but one cannot say that all 1000 players are lacking in tactics AND also do not need work in the opening. You have to take a pragmatic look at your games and decide from the evidence they present.

Great observations and great comments!