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I would like input from actual experience of improving calculation and visualization: can anyone testify to achieving actual and significant improvement in ability to calculate and visualize as a result of deliberately doing exercises set to train this skill? If so, if you could describe the delta of improvement (before, after), and the time it took, that would be appreciated.

My own definition of significant improvement would mean going from missing move possibilities that lie 4-5 moves down the road, to actually seeing them as almost as easily as if the position was on the board now.

  • Do you have a special kind of exercises on mind ? I would think that solving any type of chess exercise helps your visualisation. – Evargalo Feb 27 '18 at 13:58
  • I mean exercises specifically designed to train calculation, such as where you're given a few moves to visualize and from that point find a tactics. I, too, would imagine it helps, but I'm interested in hearing feedback from people who've experienced actual improvement due to such exercises. What lies behind this question is ascertaining to what extent this is indeed a trainable skill and to what extent it's talent based. – acye Feb 27 '18 at 14:23
  • I see - I don't think I ever encountered such exercise, but it makes sense. Maybe you should add this description of "visualisation-oriented" exercises in the question; for me at least in was not obvious what it was. – Evargalo Feb 27 '18 at 14:26
  • From exercises I've gained a sense of patterns and positions, I haven't been able to double my capacity to calculate, but I've recognize certain areas that may seem promising. – TheAutomaton Feb 27 '18 at 21:05
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My performance rating was four to five hundred points above my actual rating in tournaments where I prepared primarily with calculation/visualization exercises; while tournaments without tactical training showed a performance rating closer to actual. So, I would say these exercises definitely make you sharper. There are permanent gains over time but I think you have to continue to use the ability or it will atrophy to some extent.

  • That's very interesting! May I ask what rating range we're talking about, approximately? – acye Feb 27 '18 at 17:15
  • When I was USCF ~2050. Within a year I was over 2200 mostly from working Informant puzzles until my head hurt. – Ywapom Feb 27 '18 at 17:45
  • That's very useful and encouraging to hear. I too feel that this is my the absolutely prime factor holding me back. Basically, I understand pretty well what needs to be done, but then there are mistakes in execution, mostly due to missing move, say 8 ply down the road, and not necessarily a major tactic.. I will also dedicate serious energy to this. – acye Feb 27 '18 at 19:19
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I have heard that solving chess puzzles is not exactly the greatest thing to do to help improve your chess game. That being said though, I myself have seen a major improvement once I started working puzzles on a regular basis. I would say that some of this is talent-based, however you can teach yourself pretty much anything you put your mind to.

My advice is this: Don't work yourself too hard with puzzles, if you do, you'll start making mistakes and bad habits. If you over do it, then you will become bored quickly, do just enough so that you improve a little, but don't try to make a giant leap in improvement in a short amount of time.

  • Did you do exercises specifically geared towards improving visualization, or regular tactics puzzles? – acye Feb 27 '18 at 17:20
  • I am not exactly sure what puzzles were tactical or viz, because I chose them at random. However tactical puzzles do require a certain amount of vizualization. – TMcSquared Feb 27 '18 at 17:31
  • I like doing tactics so I'm not going to get bored of it, and if I do I'll stop. But I'm interested to know how doing tactics will increase the number of mistakes and bad habits I have. I use Lichess which give you puzzles from actual matches, and let you see how any moves play out using Stockfish. – user14518 Feb 27 '18 at 19:11
  • If you work your brain too hard, you will start not thinking things through fully and thus make bad mistakes. If you do that often enough, then it becomes a bad habit to not think through a position fully. Usually these bad habits can be dealt with quite easily by pacing your self or by taking 5-10 minute breaks every 20-30 minutes of doing the puzzles. – TMcSquared Feb 27 '18 at 20:18
  • @TMcSquared Hmm. You can say that about anything. Don't play chess because you might play chess too much and get bored of it and make mistakes. It's not really a criticism of tactics per se. – user14518 Feb 28 '18 at 17:06

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