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I've been about 1700-1900 Lichess Blitz and 1900-2000 Lichess Rapid for several years, and I'm looking to start some formal chess training (something I've never done before at all.)

Currently, I'm planning on reading Silman's How To Reassess Your Chess as well as Predator at the Chessboard for tactical training. Also (supposedly) good resources I intend to use are Soviet Chess Primer and later on Aagaard's positional chess book and Dvoretsky's endgame manual.

I want to make sure I'm picking a scheme that is both challenging but not above my level so I don't get demotivated since I truly do plan to stick to a regular training scheme. While I understand the importance of tactics and being a well-rounded player, I prefer endgames/positional grinds so I'd like to focus on them as a mix of entertainment/education.

Is How to Reasses Your Chess & Predator at the Chessboard into Soviet Chess Primer into Dvoretsky/Aagaard a good plan? Also, many people advise to study games but I'm not sure how to do this. How far would this training scheme get me rating wise? All of this is very overwhelming after a day of research.

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    I would assume Dvoretsky is still too tough for 2000 lichess. Why don't you start with Silman's (fantastic) endgame course?
    – Hauptideal
    Jul 12 at 17:45
  • @Hauptideal I did not know Silman had an endgame book. It certainly seems more accessible so I will definitely take a look Jul 12 at 20:13

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Textbooks are good of course for improving your play. You are on the right path in that regard. However, there's a slight problem with such a plan. You mentioned you've been playing for several years presumably blitz since online rapid is more like blitz. The FIDE rapid is closer to 25 minutes which is nowadays 15 mins + 10 second increment (equals 25 minutes per 60 moves). Point being: No grandmaster has ever become a grandmaster by playing only blitz games. That's the problem with your plan. Serious chess and fast results require playing long time controls (around two hours per game). That will make your progress much faster. Reading only books and playing only blitz games will slow your progress significantly, way more than you might think.

IMPORTANT CORRECTION AND ADDITION: Dvorestky and Aagaard are writing books for professionals! Books are, of course, a matter of preferences and bias. As to Russian books and studying endgame, I can give an example of Averbakh's books on endgame. They are considered classic. Advice: make sure to solve plenty of tactical puzzles in the books on tactics of your choosing: at least one thousand or many more. Such books really help to improve. However, care should be taken as not to choose wrong level books (beginner or pro would be wrong for you). Examples of popular and well-reputed books which should be suitable (all ballpark FIDE Elo numbers in this answer are for classical chess, unless specified otherwise. For USCF rating approximation you may add 50 points. However below 2000, ratings are extremely volatile and imprecise due to local nature of tournaments, small pools of players, and other variables) for your level of 1600-1900 Elo:

  • Tactics by Seirawan
  • all books by Silman
  • Yusupov books for level 1: Fundamentals, Build Up Your Chess, and finally Evolution
  • The Woodpecker Method by Smith and Tikkanen
  • Test Your Tactical Ability by Neishtadt (superb Russian book)

Mostly you need to solve positions, not just read through them. The books above are mostly of that type. Opinions and preferences might differ. The list above is just an example of books. Some exercises in said books are difficult, approaching professional level. Books by Silman and Seirawan are the easiest in the example given. The book on tactics The Predator at the Chessboard is even easier, probably Elo 1300-1400. There also might be an Elo/strength mismatch problem with your plan: Pro players often have classical Elo higher than that in blitz (sometimes it's also the other way round) because they play tons of long controls and may neglect blitz and rapid. In contrast many amateurs play mostly blitz games (online rapid is like OTB blitz). It means a player whose games are 95% blitz or rapid should expect his/her classical rating to trail behind by 100-300 Elo points, and vice versa for those who neglected fast controls. Almost all chess books target classical controls (puzzles usually take from 2-3 minutes to 10-30 minutes to solve, and often require several variations and subvariations to be found). Therefore, a fast control (=online) player should expect to find chess books more difficult than his/her rapid Elo suggests, even prohibitively difficult if a he/she tries to blitz through them.

Crucially important still remains necessity to play long controls, not just solve through tactics and strategy books. If you can't play 1-2 hour OTB games, you can at least play them vs computer (you can set ballpark Elo levels, for example, on Shredder and Fritz. These numbers are roughly by 100-200 points lower at settings below 2000 vs FIDE numbers of human players but towards 2500 they seem to even out. This usually doesn't hold for other numerous non-professional programs where Elo numbers are slapped onto engine levels so roughly that it hardly make any sense. Tip: use professional programs). Make sure to check the setting computer plays fast or no clock so that you don't wait a couple of minutes each time a program makes a move (it won't influence the simulated level, and if you try to play blitz against that level, you'll find it close to impossible because most programs don't reduce the simulated level when time is reduced even to bullet level). While playing OTB is better, playing long games vs simulated levels is a viable alternative. Also, when books recommend playing out positions with your sparring partner, you can do it vs the program. Some textbooks even explicitly mention that, although it is obvious anyway.

As to analyzing games in books, it's the same as analyzing or solving tactical or strategical chess puzzles. You have to spend 5-20 minutes per problem accounting for variations and best counterplay. Blitzing and guessing through them is much less efficient. Online chess puzzles are usually much faster and hence less efficient. So, you are on the right path choosing actual books on tactics rather than being confined to superfluous online tactics. Good textbooks should set a player on the right path. Pro players play hundreds of long games. Funnily, amateurs may play even far more, say, 10,000 games online but their skills still lag behind. That's because fast controls are of much lower quality. This is very important: Serious preparation and faster improvement require playing long time controls, whereas online slow controls are closer to the FIDE rapid.

Now then, I don't want to be misunderstood here. Some coaches say fast controls are detrimental. I certainly disagree with that as long as the time spent on fast controls is not deducted from the time spent on long games and books (tactics, strategy, openings, endgame, etc), otherwise I agree. As to fast time controls, they are a good practice for time management and time scramble as well as for testing out openings. That's more or less accepted among professionals and not just my opinion about fast chess. Fast controls should not take up a lot of your chess time if you need efficiency. Also, you cannot replace playing long controls with solving through only tactics or strategy books. Some amateurs want it that way really badly (bypass long games) but that's only burying the head in the sand. That's not how the cookie crumbles!

As to analyzing your own long games, the engine will do it pretty fast. Unfortunately, it won't help you with strategic ideas and plans. You will need a high rated player or coach for that. Still, the computer will help a lot and show you all mistakes right away. As to analyzing quick games, you should be able to do it on your own. Besides, it's not worth it spending too much time on analyzing low quality games. Anyway, the computer will help even there.

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    Thank you for your extremely detailed response. It seems that long time controls are absolutely critical, unfortunately I cannot feasibly fit classical OTB tournaments into my lifestyle. What time control would you say is the minimum to be able to truly think about positions? 30+20 or perhaps even 45+45 are formats I can play online but would these suffice? How many slow games a week should I aim for? Jul 12 at 20:11
  • I'd say 45+45 is minimum, and 30+30 is absolute minimum. Probably a couple of games per week. After 20-30 games you already should be improving. Online is probably not a very good idea. Only weak players play such slow controls there. Of course, you should spend thinking 1 hour or more in each game or slow games are meaningless. Critical moves often take 10-20 minutes of calculation. That's when improvement kicks in, i.e. when you start to calculate deep. It's best combined with tactics as it is more forced and you pressed to calculate 4-5 moves ahead and more. Deep calculation is necessary.
    – user32756
    Jul 12 at 21:00
  • If you are not in small town, I also recommend visiting the chess club in your city. Some blitz and rapid game tournaments might take place there often or on weekends. Now then I said, it's not very good to spend a lot of time on it, but it's just for communicating, mixing with real life players rather than just being confined to online. It might be a good experience visiting a local chess club.
    – user32756
    Jul 12 at 21:06
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    @TheAnonymous "Is How to Reassess Your Chess & Predator at the Chessboard into Soviet Chess Primer into Dvoretsky/Aagaard a good plan?" - I don't think so. It looks like going 1700, then 1500, then 1300-1800, and then 2300. I don't think it's going to work well. Sorry for initial bad answer to your question and being sloppy about books. By the way, book recommendations and similar topics about books are usually castigated on the SE as far as I know. This answer and question might be taken down.
    – user32756
    Jul 15 at 2:15
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    And what about books on makruk shogi etc.. are any western writers even interested in it to write book on it?
    – ShadYantra
    Jul 15 at 3:01

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