(Originally posted as a reply on temposchlucker’s blog:)
(Note: OTB means Over-The-Board, as in while playing a rated game in person. “Classical chess” means slow chess played OTB for a rating.)
I’ve spent the last year in particular mostly studying chess, so I’d like to add to your conclusion as well.
The tough Chesstempo problems, and visualization training (of course, these are all done in spots over the year, and not all the time by any means – except for hopefully OTB) have helped quite a bit. I would say that it helped tremendously, except that it overlapped the same skill I was already strong at, just made it stronger.
First, I’d like to preface by saying that there is a lag between training time spent, and when those results kick in consistently OTB.
Okay, deep breath, here is where all this training and results get separated. The number one thing to understand above all other things, for the moment, is that quick-chess and classical chess are simply not the same thing – perhaps for the elite some (Expert and above), but not for most. Okay, it’s already getting annoying having this Grand Chess Tour in Paris right now where it’s all rapid. Carlsen’s last tournament, Altibox in Norway, he went 8/10 blitz, and then with the same GMs he went 4.5/9 in classical chess – it’s even a common occurrence where a player will flag (a loss when time expires) in an equal position, in blitz. (note: Magnus Carlsen, from Norway, is the current World Champion at chess)
The only way to know if these techniques and exercises have worked is to use them in slow, classical chess. I don’t know about your online blitz rating, but mine doesn’t improve and, if you have been studying the way I have, then yours “shouldn’t” improve either. This is not bad, in fact it’s mostly a good thing. If I had to play my average blitz opponent who beats me in online chess, I would probably destroy the lot of them in an OTB, classical time-control setting. These opponents are quite talented, and imaginative tactically, and yes their winning continuations do actually work, but it’s like a gunfight where you can be accurate but if the other guy gets the gun out of the holster first….and yes Classical chess slows all of this down for the stronger player, it’s like letting the slower player get the gun out of the holster first.
Eventually, my blitz skill may close the gap with my OTB skill, but that probably wouldn’t be for many years (and I’m already 50, not a spring-chicken). There is a reason for this gap, but it’s like the difference between playing a 100%, full-strength, no clock, blindfold game, and then doing the same thing except at blitz speed. In any case, blitz-chess should mainly be used for training on lines you don’t know, or to tone up your game before a tournament.
Anyway, now that that’s all out of the way, let’s talk classical chess. It is important to arrive at the game in some kind of decent shape. If you just busted your @ss moving furniture for three days, and then try to play a classical game on that day, then your physical stamina may collapse at an inopportune time. It’s sort of like bad-business, except here it applies to your chess “skill”.
Lastly, and most importantly, the Chesstempo and blindfold training does help with classical OTB chess. 1) When something unexpected happens at the board, you will be far more ready for it. 2) You will look at more lines deeply with more permutations. Depth is often a killer below the Expert level. Experts rarely make mistakes of a depth nature – they usually either do or don’t see the right idea. At the Class level, depth is a killer because Class players often do see the right lines, but _don’t_ have the ability to see them far enough for it to count. So, the Class player typically makes a weak move instead in order to avoid a wrong calculation. This is where a lot of the training we are doing should help.
Yes, it is all about patterns in a way, but if you are overly focused on solving tactics at blitz speed, and only concerned about memorizing patterns, well, let me just say that I don’t think chess works that way, as I like everyone else has tried that before at some point, in some way, and it didn’t work for me. Simple one-move mates could be solved at blitz-speed, and one guy used to do this as his pre-game warmup, but this is not the same thing as “solving” tactics. The biggest difference between blitz and classical chess is when it comes to _solving_ problems. In blitz, it’s at most 2 minutes, and then the clock in your head tells you to move. For me, a typical number would be 6 minutes in classical chess (longer than a blitz game) to solve a problem before I start getting antzy and just wanting to move – naturally, if I’ve spent time on the previous move, where I had mostly solved the same problem, then I would be itching to spend less time on that next move (whether right or wrong to).
I’ll get off the soapbox of my results here, but I really want to stress that the difference between time-controls (and this group generally gets this) is in the quality of _solving_ problems. Quick-chess is more of an I.Q. test than a chess test. Some of us slow-thinkers, I believe, can be talented in a way that we can bring more mental resources to bear on a problem, should we learn to think a more structured way because we naturally have a way our brains work when it comes to solving deeper problems.
Nevertheless, deep problems are not solved at quick-speeds (although one could speed up their solving of deep problems). It’s a little sad that chess, of all endeavors, has been subjected to this information age pressure of pre-digested information (lines, results, etc.). Running these blitz tournaments the night before a regular tournament may be somewhat of a tradition, may appeal to fans and even the ego of the players, an ability unique to them which they can showcase, but in my view, it’s not the same thing, it’s mostly garbage-chess, or even a chess IQ test where there is no time to think, you simply have to “know”, ahead of time.
I don’t know for how many of you, your big thing is OTB, or postal, or online blitz, or casual chess etc. My big thing is OTB chess. I’ve spent a lot of time studying games in books, and my rating went up mostly as a result of calculation ability, before I realized tactical “patterns” were such a big thing – my chess, and even book-collecting, predates the internet, as I used to subscribe to all kinds of chess catalogues back then through the mail. The point I feel I am trying to make is that a site like Chesstempo can improve my strength quite a bit (just got four in a row correct, last one taking 18 minutes!).
The current generation, however, is different. They are getting their strength mostly from studying tactics (the opposite of how I started), blitz chess, playing a lot of chess in locales where the titled players play and hang out, and playing lots of blitz with Experts and Masters. I’ll sneer and say this is a bit of the sleazy approach, dropping off their kids to be “babbysat” by Experts and Masters. Surely, adult chessplayers don’t get quite this level of TLC on average!
Nevertheless, for me tactics helps, and even formally studying endgames, really, because it’s the opposite of where I started from. I never got too much into the formal study of openings, either, but that’s sort of a side-point when it comes to ratings because I can play certain lines (not always, the English Opening is a good exception to this for me) where I have quite a bit of experience built up.