CL&R had an article about how Fischer trained at a spa in the Adirondacks for an upcoming match.

One thing he did was swim and also hold his breath for as long as he could. Not sure that latter was good.

Recent reports have Caruana and Chirila going for long runs, playing tennis, basketball, and also swimming.

Anand does 2 hours of cardio each night to help stop him from dreaming about chess.

Carlsen went to the Olympic center with his father and they had him change his diet. Less orange juice with sugar and substitute a mix of chocolate/regular milk. He also trained by skiing and hired a personal chef to balance his carbs protein, and calcium.

Carlsen even optimized his sitting position.

Further he reduced his schedule to about 7 tournaments a year instead of about 13. And took time off after each to recuperate.

So GMs do many things other than study chess. Are there any books or good articles prescribing what would be best for training our bodies to play tournaments not just learning chess more itself.


I do not think that there are any books devoted specifically to this topic, probably since the subject is not big enough, and most physical training is covered by books devoted to that subject, in general (not with chess in mind). The topic may be touched upon in other books.

For example, probably first to take a modern approach to training the body was Kasparov, and his trainer goes into that in his two-volume series on Kasparov's development. In fact, on the cover of volume 2, you can see a picture of them running. Even so, the book does not spend a lot of time on this aspect as most people are more concerned with the purely chess aspects of his training.

Coaching Kasparov, Year by Year and Move by Move, Volume I + 2 by Alexander Nikitin.

I believe that Botvinnik was probably the first to espouse the benefits of physical training SERIOUSLY, and I have seen this written about in passing, but again, there was not enough material for a whole book.

Here is a nice article on Botvinnik on "Sports Illustrated". It discusses his physical training a little.

Here is another webpage that discusses the training activities of various modern GMs.

Here is another very good article on the subject. "How physical activity can help you play chess better?"

  • Good answer. The problem is what physical effects does chess have on players and how to best prepare for that. Clearly being physically fit seems to be a key factor to top level GM chess. I recall a club full of old fat out of shape people when I first learned the game as a kid. But maybe at club level even lower class tournaments it is not that important. Although I know a NM that still plays but takes that bye round to sleep for an afternoon. I doubt he could place if he had to play every game like I used to have to do when I played in tournaments. – edwina oliver Feb 22 '20 at 16:04
  • I do wonder if there are any booklets or other instructions by FIDE or national chess groups to help players. I would expect there might be some that are 'secret' to help a countries players do better than others. – edwina oliver Feb 22 '20 at 16:06
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    As you are a decade, or two, older than my 58 years, you surely remember how physical fitness was approached in the 1960's and 1970's, and how it is compared to today. It has developed a lot over the decades, and a lot more science has been introduced to it...at least compared to they club you recalled above. – PhishMaster Feb 22 '20 at 16:06
  • I do not recall anything applied to chess players fitness back then. Hearst noted some of the effects but I am unaware of anyone acting on what he found to further the knowledge domain nor to prescribe approaches to dealing with those effects. FYI I am 79 so two decades earlier than you. – edwina oliver Feb 22 '20 at 16:08
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    I was talking about general fitness, and how the average person approached it, and how you would see it in sports on television. Compare American football players of today to those in the 1960's. Yes, steroids are a factor, but so much more in terms of nutrition, and how they work out...they are HUGE now. That is just an example. – PhishMaster Feb 22 '20 at 16:12

Long time ago (near 1975 ) The Grand Master Alexander Kotov wrote two excellent books:

  1. Think Like a Grand Master and 2. Train Like a Grand Master.

edited: I forgot Play like a Grand Master.

I don't know if there are web copies availabe. I studied the first and was self-promoted from Elo 1870 to Elo 2195 in 1976.

  • He was asking more about physical preparation. I could just be forgetting, but I don't recall anything about physical training in "Think" or "Play". I had it, but never read "Train". – PhishMaster Feb 23 '20 at 12:48
  • @PhishMaster There is a bit small diference between read and studied. I read it. Not studied. There are other books like Polugaievski's "Chess player laboratory" and Koblenz "Training Chess" but not focused on G.M. title. Thus did not talk on them. – quevedo Feb 23 '20 at 23:12

The book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker might be relevant. It is about the (immense) benefits of sleep on learning and concentration, and the damage that comes from not getting enough high-quality sleep. Acute or chronic sleep deprivation can have very harmful effects on athletic performance and concentration, and conversely sleep is literally needed to consolidate memories and learn skills. It also talks about how the quality of sleep declines with age and how this can be overcome.

On another note, a Botvinnik quote comes to mind: "If you want to become world champion, never play in open tournaments." He thought that playing others who were much weaker or stronger than oneself can be detrimental to one's morale and thought process. The old cliche is that to get stronger, one should try to play people slightly stronger than oneself.

As you've noted, cardio exercise seems to be a trend among top GMs. Cardio can induce growth of the hippocampus, which is relevant for short-term memory. Chess learning is very much about the ability to memorize patterns, so cardio exercise is very useful.

Another trend among top "mind-sports" athletes, including high-stakes poker player Jason Koon, is to reduce the amount of refined carbohydrates in one's diet. They are said to impair concentration. Instead, it is better to rely on energy from healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, olive oil, and fish (or, in Carlsen's case, milk).

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