Sadly, there are still a lot of Charlatans and get-rich-quick schemes in Online Chess improvement. They all have one thing in common: they try to make Chess improvement look very easy.
Their marketing will suggest that buying their product or course will give you a very easy way to improve. Only by watching some course, you will basically instantly improve and your worries are over.
Let me tell you the ugly truth: Chess improvement is not and will never be easy.
Make It As Simple As Possible
What you are really searching for in your Chess improvement is to make it more simple. Some of you might think: but wait, aren’t simple and easy the same thing?
I have thought so too for a long time. But there is actually a huge difference between these two words.
Difference Between Simple And Easy
Easy means something that is achieved without or with only minimal effort. It is the opposite of difficult.
Simple means something that is uncomplicated. It is the opposite of complicated.
Do you need an example? Here you are:
Starting from one and then adding one push-up every day is a very SIMPLE workout plan. There is nothing hard to understand or complex in it. But on day 100 you have to do 100 push-ups. That is far away from EASY.
Let me give you two different Chess training plans. One is simple but far from easy, and the other one is easy but not simple.
- Every day from 5 PM to 6 PM 1 hour of studying with Yusupov’s book series (starting from book 1, working all the way up to book 10).
- Whenever I feel like I lie on the couch and watch some kind of chess video.
In the first one, there is nothing to misunderstand. The time is set and also the what to train is straightforward. But the hourly training will be far from easy! You will need to strain yourself daily.
The second one is much harder to understand. The time and nature of “training” are not clearly defined. You might already lose yourself in some other YouTube video before even starting the “training”.
What is clear is that the “training” is supposed to be easy. Lying on the couch and watching some video is done with a lot of ease.
I guess you get my point. You won’t get anywhere if you prioritize the easy way.
But obviously, we all are lazy and would love to find out about some secret easy way. And that is what scammy ads play into. Again, take my word for it: there is no quick way to easily improve in Chess.
How Can You Make Your Training Simple?
Now that you hopefully understand that easy improvement is only a lucid dream for most of us, we can get to work and make your training as simple as possible.
What I see with most amateurs is that their training routine is way too complex.
Mixing several online courses with books, trying out one opening after another, and not having a clear time plan for training are some of the worst mistakes I see.
By using the 5 outlined steps you can go from your overwhelmed & complex routine to a simple and fun chess routine.
1. Fixed Time Slots
It is way more simple to study chess at the same time every day/week. If you have different weekly schedules, at least take the time to plan the upcoming week at the end of the previous week.
I used to prepare my training week on Fridays (Saturday+Sunday were off for me).
Start with an amount that you will be surely able to do. Consistency is key. If you want a more detailed guide, then read how to set up your training plan.
Make sure to also include a slot for weekly reviews & setting up the next plan.
The most important thing: get the Quality of your training right.
2. Reduce Information Intake
The more different sources and opinions, the more difficult it gets to have a simple plan. There are many ways to improve your Chess. But you should not always change your way because somebody does something different.
Focus on 1-3 sources you really like and trust. Then follow their suggestions for at least 6 months. Only then you can really see if that is a good fit for you. Find out whom you should trust and whom not in this article.
Also make sure to reduce the amount of books, courses, and openings you work on.
For most Amateurs, playing one opening well is more than enough.
You don’t need to know more openings (if somebody tells you anything else, that is most likely a sales pitch for their new course…).
You don’t want to be unsure what exactly to study when you sit down for your training. It should be as simple as possible! One thing at a time.
3. Use the One-Third-Rule
It can be overwhelming to think about the right chess training plan. Should you study openings, tactics, endgames, strategy, or play some games?
For this reason, I created the One-Third-Rule. Whenever you are unsure what you should spend your time on, use each 1/3 of your time on:
- Playing & Analyzing
- The rest (Openings, Endgames, Strategy)
This rule alone has helped dozens if not hundreds of my readers & students to create a simple and yet effective chess training routine.
You will work most of the time on things that really matter and avoid any overwhelm. I find it so important that I wrote a whole article on it. Make sure to check it out if you want to get more details.
Less But Better
I hope this article helps you go in the direction of “less but better”.
Keep things simple!
You will be less overwhelmed and have more energy & willpower to do the hard but necessary things!
If you want to go deeper into the rabbit hole of simplicity and “less but better”, then I can wholeheartedly recommend two amazing books:
Both were written by the same author, Greg McKeown.
Essentialism & Effortless.
In case you prefer to first listen to the man before buying his books, you can listen to two amazing Episodes of the Tim Ferriss show with Greg McKeown:
- “How To Master Essentialism”, with a focus on his first book
- “The Art Of Effortless results” with a focus on his second book
I’m applying the things I learned through these amazing books & conversations not only in Chess but everywhere in my life.
And funnily enough, a much simpler life makes things also easier in the end. With more brainpower for the really important things, you will flow through life much easier.
PS: If you want to be guided to create a simple & effective training plan, make sure to check out my course Next Level Training. That’s where I teach 200+ students step-by-step how to study chess more effectively.
It is alwways a real pleasure to read your articles. Yusupov’s books are a very good idea : theory and high level exercices to improve, level by level, step by step.
Consistency and regularity are the hardest things in my opinion.
The 1/3 rule is the simpliest thing to apply !
As you said here, if we do not progress any more, it is time trying an other training program.
I find some good ideas with James Altucher.
Hi Francois, thanks for your kind words.
Consistency can indeed be tough. But once you stick to something for a while, it actually gets easier by the day. Good habits make other good habits easier.
Sadly this works also the other way. The more we break our good routines and stick to bad habits, the harder it gets to get back to the good ones.
Simplicity helps me enter the positive cycle, not the negative one.
I do love James Altucher’s Podcast & writing as well!
Hi Noel, thanks for the tips.
How can one improve their consistency in tournaments? I always do either great or play very poorly
That is one of the biggest challenges in Chess. I would try to work on the mindset in case things go badly. Here are some ideas:
– Set lower expectations
– Set process & skill goals instead of result-oriented goals
– Focus on having fun & improving
In the mental part of the blog, you’ll find many articles about my own experience with bad results. Hope this helps!
You really seem to be a great guy. Just found your blog and I’m quite impressed. I just read 5 articles in a row and I’m not done. I’m currently in the process of getting a FIDE rating after 4 years of intensive online chess +training and I still find everything you write so helpful and apt.
Keep on the good work (and looking forward to the moment you’ll announce you get back to oaching 😉 )
Have a great day,
Hey Antoine, thank you so much for your nice words :-). So happy that you find my blog useful.
Good luck in your OTB tournaments, let me know how it goes!
For now, I’m working on a video course. I will let you know when it is ready (still need some time…).
Thanks again for the nice feedback and for taking the time to read my articles. Have a great week!
Thank you, very good reminder and useful approach. Will definitely apply the concept in my training.
Happy to help, thanks for your nice feedback 🙂
Hi Noel! I want to improve my endings like my level is average and want to improve from there but don’t know from where to start.
My Strength is 2100 lichess, I want to become a top class player, I can spend 5-6 hrs on chess and my style is kind of like fischer.
Hey Vedant! If you look for theoretical endgame knowledge, then nothing beats Dvoretsky’s, “Endgame Manual”. Make sure to read the intro in order to know which positions you should study and which you can leave aside for the first read.
In case you prefer video courses, then check out Chessmood. They have some amazing endgame material, as well as a course with classical endgames from real games.
Enjoy your study!
Hi Noel! Just read your reply. Thanks for the recommendations.
I appreciate it
I like it
Thank you, GM Noel Studer!!
Thanks for taking the time to read, Nabhan! Enjoy your journey 🙂
I started working with Yusupov’s book as you suggest. At the time in which I’m writing I’m around 1650 FIDE and I have to admit that event the first book has some challenging exercise.
From your experience did you find the rating estimate for which the books are indicated accurate?
the Yusupov books seem to be a bit harder than marketed. But for your level, I do believe it can be a good fit.
In general, you want to solve 60-70% of exercises right in less than 15 Minutes. That also means that you can be wrong 3-4/10 times, which is a considerable amount.
If you are wrong on more than 50% of the exercises, it is a clear sign the book is not yet right for you.
I hope this helps!
I am a 74 year old who has played ‘around ‘ chess since high school but never did hard study. I’m only about 1250. What would you recommend to start with?
I love Chessmood, especially their new course “Tactic Ninja” can be a great place to start for your level. You can also check out some resources on my “resource” page. “How to beat your dad at chess” would be a cool book to read. The title is a bit misleading, this is also a great tool for adult improvers 🙂
Thanks for your advice!
Amazing article, really gets inside the philosophy of improvement and winning. Amateurs often over complicate things because they can’t differentiate yet what’s important or not. And thank you for the many helpful recommendations and links. Would Bobby Fisher Teaches Chess book be a good place to start? Thoughts?
Thanks for your kind words, Dave! I did not read that book, so I can’t help with that one. It might be good as well, but I like to recommend only things I did read myself. Enjoy the process!
Lots and lots of insights and practical advise!!!!
Thank you verymuch????????
Great to hear my writing helps you, Vinish. Wish you all the best!
That was really thought provoking and useful. Thank you for writing this.
Thank you, William, for taking the time to read. Hope this will simplify some things for you!
Wow! That was quite helpful
I always feel I have hit a wall at 1800. I have been in this level for like 3 years now. I hope your advice works for me
I do hope so too, Sachin. If you feel like hitting a wall, try out new approaches. I’m certain that when you find the right approach, you will continue to improve in Chess. Good luck and stay strong!