Home > Jacob Aagaard's training tips > Making a solving collective

Making a solving collective

One thing that many people struggle with is solving puzzles on their own. It requires some discipline to get started and distractions can get you diverted. It is popular to meet up with friends and solve together. It makes it social and a bit competitive. But for most people, this is not an option. Their friends are far away and local players might have no ambition or be unsuitable for other reasons.

The idea I came up with years ago that worked really well, was to have group training on PlayChess (or it could be many other servers or even Whatsapp on your phone).

The way to do it is that one person has gathered positions in advance, preferably from a Quality Chess book of course, but other good exercise books have been published (I have been told).

He presents the first problem to the group.

When you have a solution, you say so.

When only one person is left, he gets an extra minute to find the solution, while the others prepare their solutions (but don’t press return).

When time’s up everyone gives their solutions.

Correct solutions get one point, mistakes get no points. The group decides if the solution is correct in disputes.

Next problem.

After a fixed amount of time, you have a winner.

This worked for a long time with a group I set up. I supplied them with the exercises, but since then these have been published in many books, so there are no excuses…

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  1. Johnnyboy
    August 21st, 2017 at 16:42 | #1

    This sounds great but would need setting for ability. Most modern studies too difficult from the starting position for me. Get rid of the introductory play and I have a chance

  2. Jacob Aagaard
    August 22nd, 2017 at 08:19 | #2

    I would not recommend using studies. I would recommend taking a book of exercises fit for your level. For most people, this could be a great way to do a Yusupov study group. Read two chapters a week, go through the 24 exercises as a group in a two hour session once a week and you can go through four books in a year, which for many is a nice speed.

    For stronger players, I have often fed them my own books, but there are a number of good puzzle books out there you can lift from. Why not?

  3. Johnnyboy
    August 22nd, 2017 at 12:28 | #3

    @Jacob Aagaard

    Do you recommend doing themes eg back rank/deflection etc? Lots of puzzle books set up that way but it gives you a clue what to look for- is it better to consolidate a theme by doing only one type or randomise them so you have no idea which theme it is? Sorry don’t have most of yusupov books to know

  4. Reyk
    August 22nd, 2017 at 13:34 | #4

    Jacob Aagaard :
    I would not recommend using studies.

    Given your recent post on Umnov, I think you are against studies in this context only, and not for training purposes in general?!

    While they are kind of artifical in a sense that you know there is one unique path and no piece is superfluous, they provide often enough natural positions (the Umnov study however doesn’t, but I will still try to solve it). Many authors like Dvoretsky and Luther recommended them as calculation training and source of inspiration.

    But there might be a problem, when using studies only as they influence your thinking and calculation habits too much, so that you have to throw in “non-perfect” game positions from time to time or even by the majority?

    Or is it simply because tactics from puzzle books give you a chance to mix easier and difficult ones, which seems to be fine for a session like this?

  5. Johnnyboy
    August 22nd, 2017 at 17:12 | #5

    Would be good for Jacob to explain why they are not good training materials. I can see that they are limited to endgame play rather than middle game positions so you could not use exclusively studies but thought they would be ideal calculation training as you need to be very precise. Likely candidate moves fail be cause of a minor detail that you need to pick up in your calculation and your intuition may prove to be fallible.
    Over to you Jacob…

  6. Jacob Aagaard
    August 22nd, 2017 at 20:43 | #6

    I did not at all say that studies are not useful for calculation training. I said they did not really work for group training in the format I suggested. Why not? Because very few studies can be solved in 5-10 minutes, which is probably the time you should aim for in this sort of study group.

  7. Johnnyboy
    August 23rd, 2017 at 12:34 | #7

    Thanks for the clarification. Cutting out the introductory play to concentrate on the main idea of the study should bring it into the 5to 10 minute time frame I guess.

  8. Jacob Aagaard
    August 23rd, 2017 at 15:16 | #8

    But then one person will already be disqualified from the solving collective…

  9. Boki
    August 23rd, 2017 at 15:31 | #9

    What about an E-Mail training group? You have still the problem of solving alone but if you get some weekly homework there is some competition and group Pressure to actually do this. Maybe an idea forQC?

  10. Jacob Aagaard
    August 23rd, 2017 at 20:16 | #10

    We are a publishing company, not a training emailing service :-).

  11. London System
    August 26th, 2017 at 22:36 | #11

    I know this is off topic but are there any plans for a Quality Chess book on the currently fashionable London System?

  12. Jacob Aagaard
    August 27th, 2017 at 16:28 | #12
  13. Johnnyboy
    August 27th, 2017 at 17:34 | #13


    really like the Whats app idea but not very it knowledgeable. Any special software would you need (not specialist that you use for type setting) to import a diagram- if you upload a chessbase file etc would it be able to be read etc? Guess an image from a book would work but thats a low tech work around


  14. Johnnyboy
    August 27th, 2017 at 17:35 | #14

    for ” it” read “IT”

  15. Jacob Aagaard
    August 27th, 2017 at 21:47 | #15

    Use Whatsapp on your PC of course. Copy and paste the diagram from ChessBase. The only thing you need to know is that you have to read the QR code on the phone to confirm the account on the computer.

  16. Johnnyboy
    August 28th, 2017 at 12:10 | #16

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Many thanks Jacob. Please forward the IT support bill…

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