The Woodpecker Method was introduced in the book Pump Up Your Rating (Google Books) by GM Axel Smith (FIDE), who was inspired by a training method used by GM Hans Tikkanen (FIDE), who used it to improve his chess. A subsequent book The Woodpecker Method (Google Books) was published by the two GMs.

A description of this method is given in Brian Towers's answer, but it involves repeatedly solving tactics problems (not only what's the best move? But, also, what are the critical lines?).

There's some debate online (see e.g. chess.com) as to whether this helped Axel Smith improve, or if this was attributable to other aspects of his chess training. Hence my question:

Question: Has anyone other than GM Axel Smith and GM Hans Tikkanen had success improving their chess through the "Woodpecker Method"?

  • I'm hoping for an answer along the lines of "John Smith used this method for training starting 2013, and his rating improved from 1200 to 1900 in 8 months." Or some other evidence that this method works in practice. [I gave a simple description of the Woodpecker method, and a link to a more detailed description.] May 17 '19 at 19:36

In the chapter Woodpecker History from the book The Woodpecker Method, Hans Tikkanen says this:

I was obviously asked by many people about what I had done to finally take the step from IM to GM. I described the method and my rationale for adopting it, and several others decided to give it a go. One Swedish trainer has apparently invited his students in the north of our country to work dedicatedly on the method for a while.

But, tantalisingly, he does not name names.


What you describe as the Woodpecker method is a standard training regime many players do. Solving tactics over and over is one of the best ways to improve. Explicitly identifying all the critical lines can only help.

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