Woodpecker Wednesday (Week 8 recap)

September 19th, 2018 26 comments

Welcome to my eighth and final Woodpecker Method training blog. It was the 25th of July when I started on this journey, with the initial aim of solving 984 exercises (comprising all 222 Easy and 762 Medium exercises in the book) over a 28-day period, followed by repeated cycles with the final goal of solving all 984 within a single day.

As usual, I’ll start by recapping my results from previous cycles.

1st cycle: 1033 minutes; 88.9% accuracy

2nd cycle: 663 minutes; 93.7% accuracy

3rd cycle: 366 minutes; 98.7% accuracy

As I explained in last week’s blog post, I decided to adapt the schedule in order to finish early and give myself time to recover before the Batumi Olympiad. So, rather than three more cycles lasting 4 days, 2 days and 1 day, I went for two more cycles, lasting 3 days and 1 day respectively.

Cycle 4

I solved all exercises in a combined 267 minutes. I was happy with this time, which knocked 27% off my time from the previous cycle. I didn’t write down my answers or keep score this time, for a couple of reasons:

* In my third cycle I was already close to 99% accuracy, so there didn’t seem much point in tracking what could only have been a small improvement.

* I already knew most of the solutions quite thoroughly, so it seemed logical to skip writing/checking answers in order to save time.

There were still a few positions where certain details of the solutions remained unclear in my head. Whenever that happened, I noted the number of the exercise and my answer, then checked the solution at the end of the session.

Cycle 5

The big one! Solving 984 exercises in one day sounded daunting at the beginning, especially after reading Axel’s story on page 9 of the book about spending 22 hours in a basement! Read more…

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Chessable – The Woodpecker Method

September 17th, 2018 16 comments

On Monday 24th September we will release a Quality Chess book in what for us is a new format: Chessable. In case you are not familiar with Chessable, I offer a couple of extra links: the first about Chessable and the next about the science behind their methods.

My summary: Chessable offers chess courses that are accessible online, and uses a technique based on “spaced-repetition”.

When we decided to experiment by putting one Quality Chess book on Chessable, we needed to decide which book. So, learning and improving using repetition: does that suggest any recent Quality Chess book?

The Woodpecker Method will be available on Chessable from Monday 24th September. The normal Chessable price will be the same as our book, though I would suggest keeping an eye out for an introductory sale price, which is a Chessable tradition.

If this experiment is a success, then we may try other QC books in Chessable format.

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Practical Chess Beauty by Yochanan Afek

September 14th, 2018 10 comments

I am happy to announce we have a new book on the way: Practical Chess Beauty by Yochanan Afek. To quote from the cover:

“Solving studies is well established as an effective method of chess improvement. In Practical Chess Beauty one of the world’s greatest study composers, Yochanan Afek, shares his finest creations.

Fire your imagination, gain a greater appreciation of chess geometry, and develop a finer feeling for the pieces’ potential by trying to find the ideas hidden in the hundreds of studies in this book. Or simply wonder at some of the most stunning chess moves ever conceived.”

Publishers claiming “our books are great” always look suspicious, given our obvious bias, but this book really is great. There have been so many times in editing when we have boggled at a move, and said: “That can’t possibly work!” But then it does.

The author has framed his book to be useful for the practical player seeking improvement, but it also works wonderfully as pure entertainment. It’s too early for an excerpt (maybe next week) and I will guess at a publication date in late October or the start of November.

I will give one example from the book. White to play and win (I will give the solution next week). The main line is only 5 moves long, but you will do well to spot the winners and the best defensive try. Stretch your brain – do not switch on that engine.

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Woodpecker Wednesday (Week 7 recap)

September 12th, 2018 22 comments

Welcome to the latest Woodpecker Method training blog. It feels strange to say that the training program is approaching its end when I am only up to my third cycle, but the ever-shortening time limits mean that there is, indeed, not much time remaining. First, let me recap my results from previous cycles, using a set of 984 exercises.

1st cycle: 1033 minutes; 88.9% accuracy

2nd cycle: 663 minutes; 93.7% accuracy

Adapting the Schedule

I finished my second cycle on the night of Wednesday the 5th. After taking a look ahead at the number of days before the Olympiad, I decided to bend one of the ‘rules’ of the method, and avoided taking a rest day before starting my third cycle. I wouldn’t normally have skipped the rest day, but if I followed the exact schedule of training days and rest days as prescribed in the book, I would have had to solve 984 exercises in the morning before the first round of the Olympiad!

Despite making that change to save myself a day, the prospect of burnout and insufficient recovery time was still weighing on my mind these past few days. To solve 984 exercises in a day, then plunge straight into a high-level event the very next day, seemed to be asking for trouble. I asked Axel and Hans Read more…

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Updates on Quality Chess Academy

September 9th, 2018 No comments
As many off you know by now, Quality Chess Academy is having it first camp in less than two months away; GMs Gelfand and Aagaard, 4-10/11 on Crete, in case you you’ve missed it.

What we noticed is that it collides with Schachbundesliga and 4NCL on the 10th of November.
So, for those ones that are interested in participating in the camp, but haven’t registered yet, due to your commitment to your teams, we can offer a proportional discount on the participation fee. That way, you can still make it to both events, since you need to head back home earlier.
Yes, you will miss the party on the last night but you will have lots of fun during the week, as you can see on the schedule 🙂

For more information, advise the page www.qualitychessacademy.com and don’t hesitate to contact me via email for anything you need; kallia@qualitychess.co.uk 
Kallia Kleisarchaki
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Woodpecker Wednesday (Week 6 recap)

September 5th, 2018 37 comments


Welcome to the sixth of our weekly Woodpecker Method training blogs. I have one day remaining in my second (14-day) cycle, and I know several of our blog readers are at a similar stage. In last week’s post, I noted my numbers in the second cycle as 450 exercises (222 Easy, 228 Medium), solved at over 95% accuracy in 238 minutes. As of last night, the totals were 858 exercises, with accuracy at 93.8% and time 548 minutes. Average speed and accuracy have declined slightly since last week, which is to be expected, since the Easy exercises made up a significant chunk of last week’s total. Although I don’t yet have a final second-cycle total to compare with my first, it’s obvious that my overall speed and accuracy are on track to be considerably better.

I’ve left myself 126 exercises to solve on the last day, which is a little on the high side, but I should manage it okay – Read more…

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Woodpecker Wednesday (Week 5 recap)

August 29th, 2018 29 comments

Welcome to the latest Woodpecker Method training blog. It’s now five weeks since the book was published, which for me has meant spending four weeks completing my first cycle of exercises (984 in total), followed by one rest day with no chess, followed by the last six days working on my second cycle. From the comments to previous blog posts, I see that a number of you guys have already finished your first cycles and several others are approaching that stage.

Since my rest day last Wednesday, I have worked through 450 exercises, 222 of which were Easy and the other 228 Medium. My accuracy so far in this cycle has been over 95% and the solving time has been 238 minutes.

Of course, it’s a near certainty that speed and accuracy will increase to some degree when solving exercises for the second time – but even so, I am happy with those numbers – especially the speed, which has improved considerably since my first cycle.

My ‘deadline’ for completing the second cycle is Read more…

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ECF Book of the Year shortlist

August 28th, 2018 19 comments

The English Chess Federation has just announced its four-book shortlist for the ECF Book of the Year prize, and two Quality Chess books made the cut:

Small Steps to Giant Improvement by Sam Shankland

And Under the Surface by Jan Markos.


Congratulations to Sam and Jan!

The rules of the competition allow each publisher to nominate only two books, so things are going as well as possible. It was already tough to choose which two of our books to nominate, with one magazine editor trying on his own to nominate The Thinkers by David Llada – an understandable point of view, but sadly not allowed by the rules.

The winner should be announced at the start of October.

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