Home > Woodpecker Method > Woodpecker Wednesday!

Woodpecker Wednesday!

We have arrived at the official publication day of The Woodpecker Method! For anyone who doesn’t know, or needs a reminder, the Woodpecker Method involves taking a large number of tactical exercises (the ‘set’) and solving them repeatedly, in up to seven cycles, each of which takes less time than the last, due to the benefits of memory and recognition. The point of repeating the same exercises is to supercharge your unconscious ability to spot tactical motifs.

I invite any readers who intend to train using this book/method to share their training goals and timescale in the comments. Make yourself accountable for your training plan now, and (hopefully) you will be more likely to stick to it! In the weeks and months ahead, we can revisit this topic and share our results.

I’ll go first, as I have a clear goal of performing to the best of my ability at the Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia, which starts in just over eight weeks. My plan is…

to take the Easy and Intermediate exercises from the book as my training set, for a total of 984 exercises. (Adding in the 144 Advanced exercises would, in my estimation, add too much to my limited timescale.) I work full time and usually have things occupying my time at the weekends, so this training plan will be a great challenge. Still, I believe that the benefits of improved tactical sharpness will make the effort worthwhile.

Who else is ready to commit to the Woodpecker Method? How many positions do you intend to include in your training set? (As the authors explain, you can adjust the volume of exercises along the way, but it’s best to start with a goal in mind.) Is there a specific tournament you want to be ready for?

Categories: Woodpecker Method Tags:
  1. Robert Coble
    July 25th, 2018 at 19:32 | #1

    I noticed from the Woodpecker History introduction that Hans Tikkanen himself credits Michael de la Maza and his book Rapid Chess Improvement and his Seven Circles (of HELL) as a (possible, but perhaps unintentionally unremembered) inspiration for his “method.”

    Considerable effort was initiated by a group of chess players called the Knights Errant to validate the method. Although there was SOME uneven improvement within the group, no one did anywhere near as well as MdlM apparently did: 400 USCF rating points gained in 12 months and then 300 USCF rating points gained in the next year, for a total of 700 USCF rating points in 2 years, with a subsequent first place at the 2001 World Open, U2000 section and a $10,000 prize!

    On a second note, GM Axel Smith followed the method, and had the following to note about his experience at the end (A Final Session):

    I was close to quitting when I had a breakdown somewhere towards the end, but the 978th and last exercise finally arrived after 22 hours and 18 minutes.

    It would seem that a certain amount of caution would be advised in following this improvement methodology.

    YMMV

    • Jacob Aagaard
      July 25th, 2018 at 20:02 | #2

      I personally think going through the same exercises can be very useful and have a lot of respect for Hans deciding to study psychology in a pursuit on getting deeper into this subject. However, I think seven times is a few too many!

  2. James2
    July 25th, 2018 at 20:24 | #3

    I remember when I was younger (1992 say) and I got chess books out from the local library. One of my absolute favourites was a book called Tal’s Winning Chess Combinations. I wonder if this book might be similar?

    James

  3. Benjamin Fitch
    July 25th, 2018 at 23:44 | #4

    A training book that I would like Andrew to write (he mentioned that he works full time!) is a book on how to hold down a full-time job, maintain an active chess life, and still maintain a pleasant personality (as well as good health). If it comes down to the right combination of supplements, I’d be happy to spend the cost of a book to find out what it is.

  4. Le Bruit Qui Court
    July 26th, 2018 at 07:56 | #5

    Hello,

    I’d like to inform you about an article MODERN METHODS FOR TRAINING A CHESS PLAYER
    written by WGM Irina Mikhailova from April 11th, 2008 (more about it on chessOK).

    She gave results from 3 strong players who used CT-ART 3.0 program to train tactics in 4 stages during 2 year period:

    ELO rating ELO rating Resulting stage I stage II stage III stage IV
    Yevelev V. 2220 2433 60% 75% 85% 90%
    Kurenkov N. 2210 2401 65% 70% 80% 90%
    Gabrielian A. 2330 2447 75% 80% 90% 95%

  5. Andrew Greet
    July 26th, 2018 at 08:09 | #6

    Robert Coble :
    On a second note, GM Axel Smith followed the method, and had the following to note about his experience at the end (A Final Session):
    I was close to quitting when I had a breakdown somewhere towards the end, but the 978th and last exercise finally arrived after 22 hours and 18 minutes.
    It would seem that a certain amount of caution would be advised in following this improvement methodology.
    YMMV

    Axel obviously took an extreme approach to his training, but he does then say they are not advocating this exact method in the book “for humanitarian reasons.”

  6. Le Bruit Qui Court
    July 26th, 2018 at 08:54 | #7

    In his new book, Erik Kislik writes:

    “We remember tactical patterns the best when we go over many tactics in a row with similar pawn-structures because we mentally connect the tactical ideas most simply this way. The fact that I have never seen a tactics book exploiting this feature of the human brain demonstrates a major gap in the market and a flaw in most tactics books.”

    “In my case, I studied “Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games” by Laszlo Polgar (a huge book full of basic mates), as well as “Secrets of Chess Tactics” by Dvoretsky, “Imagination in Chess” by Gaprindashvili, and “Perfect Your Chess” by Volokitin and Grabinsky. At a rate of 10 pages a day, I finished all four of those books in four months. Since then, my tactical play has been perfectly fine for my standard of play.”

  7. Andrew Greet
    July 26th, 2018 at 09:07 | #8

    Benjamin Fitch :
    A training book that I would like Andrew to write (he mentioned that he works full time!) is a book on how to hold down a full-time job, maintain an active chess life, and still maintain a pleasant personality (as well as good health). If it comes down to the right combination of supplements, I’d be happy to spend the cost of a book to find out what it is.

    A coffee supplement in the morning and occasional whisky supplement in the evening is the key!

  8. John Shaw
    July 26th, 2018 at 10:04 | #9

    @Le Bruit Qui Court

    @Le Bruit Qui Court

    Hi, I am not deleting anything yet, but quoting so extensively from other publishers’ works is on the borderline of what is acceptable. It is not just about promoting other publishers’ work, there are also copyright issues. For example, above there are two full paragraphs of someone else’s work, with nothing original added.

  9. Ray
    July 26th, 2018 at 11:00 | #10

    Lots of suggestions for new projects, but no reactions yet on Andrew’s question… So I guess I’ll be first then to accept the challenge: my commitment is to do all easy and intermediate excercises before the start of the new league season (mid september). Depending on how it goes, for the second round I will include the hard exercises as well. I’ll keep you posted on my progress – hopefully QC won’t publish any new opening books in this period 🙂 .

  10. Andrew Greet
    July 26th, 2018 at 11:36 | #11

    @Ray
    Excellent Ray! So that’s virtually the same plan as my own – with the possible exception of the hard exercises. Perhaps I’ll make Woodpecker Wednesday a regular feature for those who want to keep track and share their progress.

  11. SM
    July 26th, 2018 at 12:13 | #12

    Is there a recommended set up for working through the book? I can see the chapter titled “Instructions” is not part of the pdf sample, but I was wondering if there is anything in there that would make purchasing the hard copy or the forward chess version more desirable?
    e.g. since speed is a big part of the process maybe you would want the app version so you can solve on the go if you need to. Also, setting the positions up on a real board would interrupt the “flow” and would cost you time. On the other hand, using a real board may be better because you want your intuition to work while you’re staring at a real board during a real game. If solving on a real board is recommended I might opt for the hard copy instead.

  12. Ray
    July 26th, 2018 at 14:45 | #13

    @ Andrew Greet

    Excellent idea, and great that the QC team ‘walk the talk’:-) . Good luck, I’m very interested to see the results of your effort in the coming Olympiad!

  13. Peter
    July 26th, 2018 at 16:22 | #14

    Just ordered the book and am in once it arrives. I doubt 1000 is on the agenda for the first try at the Woodpecker Method but we’ll see after I read the instructions and see what kind of recommendations they have for a ~2000 player with a full time job (if they even have such types of recommendations).

  14. d.
    July 26th, 2018 at 17:20 | #15

    I’m in. I have the FC version and have worked through the first 300 problems over the last few days. I’m going to follow the book recommendation and see how many I get through after 4 weeks, and then repeat those. If nothing else, I like doing the puzzles. 🙂

  15. Christian
    July 26th, 2018 at 22:08 | #16

    I think I will do the easy and intermediate exercises for a cycle.

    I noticed in my first session that exercise 11 is Steinitz-Meitner, Vienna 1882, but in the solutions it’s George Mackenzie – Wilhelm Steinitz, Vienna 1882 and the solution doesn’t fit the exercise.

  16. Christian
    July 26th, 2018 at 22:14 | #17

    I forget to mention that I really like the idea to only include positions of all world champions!

  17. July 27th, 2018 at 01:41 | #18

    @Andrew Greet
    Had coffee this morning and afternoon. Going for the whiskey now. (Is Jim Beam an acceptable substitute?) Will let everyone know if this helps my game.

  18. July 27th, 2018 at 05:48 | #19

    Great idea and I’m up for it, but will start with caution until I see how a pretty demanding job and 2 year old twins fit with chess training 🙂

    1. set: The easy Exercises: 222. with the first cycle beeing two weeks instead of the recomended four weeks.

    And if everything goes smooth, and my wife haven’t filed for divorce yet, then…

    2. set: The intermediate Exercises: 761

    And then I’m hopefully ready for Øbro Nytår (go there, it’s fun!), or maybe it all changes completely after Axel visits my club on August 18 to talk about the book 🙂

  19. Ray
    July 27th, 2018 at 07:04 | #20

    I received the book yesterday, and after having read the introduction I’ve changed my mind: I’ll skip the Advanced problems, since according to the authors these are suitable for those who are almost GM. That’s far from my current level 🙂 . So I’ll do the same set as Andrew.

    By the way, and off-topic: I read two very positive reviews of Shankland’s and Markos’ books in New In Chess magazine – both books get 5 stars. Fully justified imo – every chess enthousiast should definitely by these books!

  20. Andrew Greet
    July 27th, 2018 at 09:29 | #21

    SM :
    Is there a recommended set up for working through the book? I can see the chapter titled “Instructions” is not part of the pdf sample, but I was wondering if there is anything in there that would make purchasing the hard copy or the forward chess version more desirable?
    e.g. since speed is a big part of the process maybe you would want the app version so you can solve on the go if you need to. Also, setting the positions up on a real board would interrupt the “flow” and would cost you time. On the other hand, using a real board may be better because you want your intuition to work while you’re staring at a real board during a real game. If solving on a real board is recommended I might opt for the hard copy instead.

    The authors discuss all this in detail in the introductory section. (We couldn’t include all of it in the excerpt as it would have made it rather too long.) In short, there are arguments in favour of using a board/pieces, or solving straight from the book/app.
    Personally what I like to do is start by looking at the diagram in the book for a few seconds. If the solution comes to mind within a few seconds, then I see no real value in setting it up on the board. But if, after 10-20 seconds, I haven’t solved it (or at least seen the central idea), I’ll set it up on the board.
    Solving on the move (e.g. on public transport) could be an…

  21. Andrew Greet
    July 27th, 2018 at 09:30 | #22

    … an option, but bear in mind that the hustle and bustle of that environment could be distracting. Personally I like to get home after work, eat dinner, maybe even take a bath or shower to relax and clear my head, and then solve hard for up to an hour or so.

  22. Andrew Greet
    July 27th, 2018 at 09:37 | #23

    Peter :
    Just ordered the book and am in once it arrives. I doubt 1000 is on the agenda for the first try at the Woodpecker Method but we’ll see after I read the instructions and see what kind of recommendations they have for a ~2000 player with a full time job (if they even have such types of recommendations).

    They don’t suggest exact numbers for different categories of player, as each individual has their own ambitions, distractions and motivation level. The general advice though is to set a target amount of time for training (as a ballpark figure, they suggest something like 5-10 hours per week for a working amateur), and stick to it for around four weeks. Whatever number of exercises you have done by that time will be your training set, which you can then repeat for a second cycle (after taking a break of at least a clear day.)

  23. Andrew Greet
    July 27th, 2018 at 09:44 | #24

    Christian :
    I think I will do the easy and intermediate exercises for a cycle.
    I noticed in my first session that exercise 11 is Steinitz-Meitner, Vienna 1882, but in the solutions it’s George Mackenzie – Wilhelm Steinitz, Vienna 1882 and the solution doesn’t fit the exercise.

    Yes, unfortunately we allowed this one wrong position to slip through. Somehow we either shuffled or replaced one or more of these exercises, but forgot to change the diagram for exercise 11. We were able to correct the error in Forward Chess but the book was already being printed by the time we noticed the error. We will, in the near future, publish a PDF of the correct diagram.

  24. Andrew Greet
    July 27th, 2018 at 09:48 | #25

    John Hartmann :
    @Andrew Greet
    Had coffee this morning and afternoon. Going for the whiskey now. (Is Jim Beam an acceptable substitute?) Will let everyone know if this helps my game.

    I can’t remember ever trying Jim Beam as we are rather spoiled for choice with all the Scotch in this part of the world. Let us know the results of your ‘training’ with JB!

  25. TonyRo
    July 27th, 2018 at 15:09 | #26

    Do the authors or QC have any opinion on using a problem set that’s limited to your repertoire? Nowadays with chess tempo you can create custom sets very easily that are only from certain years, ECO codes, rating levels, etc. Not that the provided set is not great, just that there might be more benefit from using a set that already contains similar positions to those you’re likely see in games.

    I think Chessbase can also analyze games for tactics, but something tells me knowing the bugginess of that software that it might explode if you tried to do this for a large number of games in an effort to find 1000 or so exercises. 😉

  26. Stigma
    July 28th, 2018 at 22:10 | #27

    TonyRo :
    Do the authors or QC have any opinion on using a problem set that’s limited to your repertoire?

    Excelling at Combinational Play by a certain Dano-Scottish GM contained only combinations from games in the Sicilian iirc; ECO B20-B99. If we’re lucky maybe he will enlighten us on what methods he used to research that book when he’s back from Elsinore.

  27. Stigma
    July 28th, 2018 at 22:20 | #28

    Andrew Greet :
    Solving on the move (e.g. on public transport) could be an option, but bear in mind that the hustle and bustle of that environment could be distracting.

    I read somewhere that Botvinnik pioneered intentionally training with distractions: Noise, cold room, hot room, cigarette smoke, etc. “The harder the training, the easier the contest”, right?!
    It may have helped him keep focused under all sorts of playing conditions. It’s certainly a tough-minded way to train, and I believe it has a place in a varied training regimen. But it shouldn’t be all the training one engages in.

  28. Jacob Aagaard
    July 29th, 2018 at 10:34 | #29

    @Stigma
    I looked through a lot of games in that ECO code. I know of no way to find good exercises for humans without human effort.

  29. Tim S
    July 30th, 2018 at 08:50 | #30

    Started my first cycle yesterday. I didn’t set myself a volume target but based on how many exercises I did in the first hour and assuming the intermediate ones take twice as long, I think I’ll do about 500.

    I’ve been setting up the positions so far and checking the solution each time. I guess I’ll only do that for the first cycle though, which will help me speed up later. I haven’t seen it mentioned in the dicussions yet but the main problem I find with setting up the positions is that occasionally I set it up incorrectly! Especially true when trying to solve at speed…

  30. July 31st, 2018 at 15:15 | #31

    I had been doing the training with a.o. Chess Tactics from Scratch but only about 5 cycles, and doing around 300 problems.

    Since the FC publishing I have solved 550 and am debating between going the full 4 weeks or calling it a set on, say , 600 and attempting to be ready for my next tournament starting late August.

    Doing a full 4 week cycle would the suddenly bump into the tournament. I certainly feel that doing several cycles is the way to go, never tried 7-

    Another issue I have is having to stop after each cycle… as I am already tight to finish before tournament starts!

    I will certainly also get the book as there are advantages to having the printed edition, as I tick every problem I solve and cross when I failed (with pencil). Funnily enough some problems I fail repeatedly! (but after 2 x I make sure third time I solve!)

  31. AliceB
    July 31st, 2018 at 18:16 | #32

    Quick question: Am i only one who noticed, that position on diagram 11 is same as diagram 18, but 11 should be position from Mackenzie-Steinitz?

  32. dfan
    July 31st, 2018 at 19:10 | #33

    AliceB: it’s mentioned in the comments above (#16 and #24).

  33. Christian
    July 31st, 2018 at 21:37 | #34

    I have a question: Is anybody writing down the solutions while solving?
    I did in my first sessions but noticed it’s not really necessary and time-consuming. After the session the solutions are still fresh in my mind and I can write down my points afterwards.

  34. Hesse_Bub
    August 1st, 2018 at 05:11 | #35

    Christian: I talked to a GM about this topic: he is a great fan of “only what is written down counts”, otherwise he thinks you fool yourself. So in complicated exercises, as you may find in Aagards books, I write down the solutions, in easier exercises I skip the written part. This works out for me as I get good balance between the learning experience and the time needed.

  35. Ray
    August 1st, 2018 at 05:43 | #36

    @ Christian, Hesse_Bub:

    The authors themselves don’t write their solutions down, and don’t particularly recommend it. They say that speed is also important, and the idea is anyway to train patterns by repeating, so the exact number of correct answers is less important. But at the same time they say it’s up to your personal preferences to decide on writing the solutions down. Personally I’m not such a fan of writing down the solutions, since it gets me out of the flow. And besides, I think I have sufficient self discipline not to fool myself by counting points I didn’t deserve.

  36. Andrew Greet
    August 1st, 2018 at 08:49 | #37

    Personally I do write down each solution: certainly not every move of every supporting variation, but just the first move and any key follow-up. I think of it a bit like notating in a rapid game: most people don’t do it as they think it will slow them down, but I find that it hardly takes any time to scribble a couple of moves down.

    Another thing I am doing slightly differently from Axel and Hans is keeping score, but not strictly counting every tick, as I would find that too convoluted. Instead for each exercise I have three possible scores: 1 if it’s correct, 0 if wrong, or half a point if partially correct.

    As usual, the advice is to think about the different options, experiment if you need to, and settle on the system that works best for you.

  37. Jacob Aagaard
    August 1st, 2018 at 09:01 | #38

    I write down moves and strongly recommend it. For the Woodpecker I would say that you have to be very certain you saw this extra point move, and having written it down is usually a good way to check this.

  38. Paolo Nicora
    August 1st, 2018 at 16:19 | #39

    @Jacob Aagaard
    I have just opened the book. Do you suggest to solve from diagram or with chessboard?many thanks
    Paolo

  39. Andrew Greet
    August 1st, 2018 at 16:23 | #40

    Paolo Nicora :
    @Jacob Aagaard
    I have just opened the book. Do you suggest to solve from diagram or with chessboard?many thanks
    Paolo

    Read the intro. There is a whole section about this on page 15.

  40. Christian
    August 1st, 2018 at 17:14 | #41

    @Ray
    “And besides, I think I have sufficient self discipline not to fool myself by counting points I didn’t deserve.”
    In that regard I would say I’m very severe with myself. I also try to use the woodpecker mistake sheet.

  41. Robin
    August 6th, 2018 at 14:08 | #42

    My 12 year old has just started the book, as a ‘pick-me-up’ after a disappointing performance in Hull. He’s had one session so far and quickly dispatched the first 40 puzzles and is enjoying the book so far. He’s notating the key lines for each puzzle, and is looking forward to the more challenging puzzles over the next few sessions. We decided that this level of puzzle could be solved straight from the page to aide progression through the first tranche of material. As the puzzles get harder he’ll set them up at the board for more detailed analysis. As a non-playing parent even I find puzzles very therapeutic, and an easy and enjoyable way to help my son practice.

  42. Pedro
    August 26th, 2018 at 15:46 | #43

    It looks like that the game Piket – Kasparov in the ‘Introduction’ was actually played by Vallejo Pons and Kasparov.

    Sorry if there’s a better way to report such occurrences that I’m not aware of.

  43. Ricardo Sanchez Moreno
    October 9th, 2018 at 08:09 | #44

    Para cuando la versión española, por favor.

  44. Jacob Aagaard
    October 9th, 2018 at 11:20 | #45

    @Pedro
    Thanks

  1. No trackbacks yet.

 Limit your comments to