There are different training tools and methods available, with a specific array of virtues and shortcomings in each case. Since none of the following tools is perfect, it might be advisable to use more than one, in order to accomplish a complementary effect. As I will point out, combining them might also be a good idea sometimes.
- Dense information
You find more information in books than in videos, which normally are more superficial.
You can take a book with you where ever you go. You certainly don’t have the same freedom with a notebook, since it occupies more space, is heavier, susceptible to damage and more precious. If you lose your book on the road or if coffee gets spilled over it while you are reading in a cafe, it’s not the end of the world. Also at home, mobility is appreciated very much, as it allows to study in a very comfortable state, for instance on the sofa.
I love to touch a book and to smell the scent of its paper. Books are also nice to look at. Some of them have really artful covers. Letting one’s eyes wander over shelves full of books is pleasurable and animates to snatch at the offer. All these aesthetic qualities help me to attach emotions to the knowledge involved, which can serve as a catalyst for absorbtion.
You cannot change information in a book and adding information with notes can only happen within tight boundaries.
- No engine assistance available
Studying an opening with a book and a chessboard is extremely slow. I stopped doing this a long time ago, I guess in 1994. This combination is good or necessary, however, when it comes to working with strategy books, game collections or tactic exercises.
A video can give you a very quick overview or introduction to a subject. No other tool is as quick as that.
Since you don’t have to do anything but watch, working with a video is extremely comfortable. If the author is witty, it also can be highly entertaining.
Normally, the author cannot go very deep into the variations. He would otherwise destroy the above mentioned qualities of speed and entertainment. This would surely repel the average user of this format. It goes without saying that the ambitious tournament player cannot content himself with the mere consumption of videos.
C) ChessBase Analyses / Variation Trees
Having a game or a variation consisting of several merged games on your computer is the basis for serious opening and middlegame training. Hence, it is by far the most important tool for the ambitious tournament player.
If you compare playing through opening lines with book and board to scrutinizing them within ChessBase, you might come to the conclusion that ChessBase is faster by a factor, which could be easily as huge as 10 (I never bothered to measure it). You will know what I mean, if you only think of having to restore the starting position every time after playing through a sub line.
The topic “speed” is extremely important, if you imagine the vast amount of theory you have to learn as a chess player (not everyone wants to play the London System with White and the Hippopotamus with Black his entire life). Also think about the need to repeatedly moving through the most important lines several times before they will firmly settle in your memory.
- Engine assistance available
The cool thing about a variation tree is the way it can grow and adapt over time. You can add your games or master games, whenever they appear. More importantly, you can change the structure of the tree by upgrading a sideline to mainline status, cutting away faulty branches and adding new lines.
Interactive operations are part of the flexibility topic. The more active you are and the more you use your own head, the better the variation tree will look like. Besides that, only if you are focused and have an inquisitive mindset, neuronal connections will be creates to the fullest, thus burning new insights into your chess understanding and making them available to long term memory.
When playing a tournament, you can only take so many books with you. The number of analyses on your computer, however, is unlimited. In this context, also the speed topic, covered above, comes into play again. You might only have 2 hours or so for your preparation (if you spend much more than that, you might be exhausted during the game). For this reason, you must be prepared to quickly “scan” your analyses.
Working can be painful compared to entertainment and consumption. But it also can be pleasure, once you see the results of your work turn into victories. For some group of people, even that is not necessary. They consider the enrichment of their knowledge and their raising capability of enjoying chess on higher aesthetic levels as an end in itself.
The only real problem is that much chess content is not available in a ChessBase format, but only as video or book.
To overcome this drawback I often used books as a tool for the creation of variation trees. The process runs as follows: For each single line of interest I merge all available games of my database (Mega Database or Online Database) into one tree. Then I structure it according to the author’s model and insert his most important comments. In the end, I have the book on my computer, with all advantages explained above. For me as a professional, it doesn’t stop there, of course. I use the material as a basis for further research and investigation. For the average club player, that is not necessary. Just having the book available in electronic form is already worth a lot.
If you think of all the effort involved in transferring your books, don’t forget about the huge amount of time you would usually spend playing through the lines on a chessboard. And the process of inserting the author’s comments certainly helps you to better understand the essence of the position and to remember the lines later in your games.
D) Private Training
The most expensive but at the same time most efficient form of training is private training. Whether the money can be considered well spent depends on how important chess is for you and on how much relative value you attach to your time (time saved).
A typical training session of mine on a specific opening line contains the following elements:
- Explanation of the strategic essence
I lead the client through the prepared variation tree by commenting on typical structures, plans, manoeuvres and on the logical foundation (including the relation to adjacent lines).
- Interaction with the client
The degree of interaction depends on the client’s taste. Some prefer just to listen, others want to get involved by questions I ask and the more active ones come up with numerous questions by themselves.
After the session the client receives the variation tree per email. He can use it to refresh the session and hardwire the content in his memory. It also serves him well for future purposes. Today’s engines are so strong that most of my analysis should remain permanently valuable.
If so required, I provide my students with a video of the session free of charge, so they can build up their individual video collection of a specific opening.