## Woodpecker Wednesday (Week 6 recap)

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 – especially as I already did 36 of them this morning before leaving for work. Overall I think my scheduling has been decent. I was away on a mini-holiday for most of the weekend and my numbers dropped way down to 12 and 24 for those days; but, in anticipation of this, I compensated by solving 72, 84 or 96 exercises on several other days last week. Unlike the first (28-day) cycle, I decided not to allow myself any days off. So no matter what else was happening, I made sure to do at least 12 exercises at some point in the day to keep moving forward.

My other general observations are similar to last week. For instance, I haven’t needed to use a board and pieces much. There have been a few more tricky exercises which I’ve got wrong for the second time, and others where I’ve repeated the same smaller errors such as getting the first move and general idea right, but not planning a response to some important defensive try. Still, I’m happy with the improvements in my solving results and my overall sharpness. I feel that if the Olympiad started tomorrow, the training so far would set me up to perform better than the previous version of myself six weeks ago. Hopefully the greater improvements still lie ahead if the method works as planned.

How has everyone else been doing this week?

I have been training by repeated study of checkmate puzzles since the US Open concluded a month ago. I scored 50% there, disappointing. And so I sort of found ‘religion.’ The day after the tournament I set goals to paper and signed my name.

I absolutely love my new life as a puzzle-solving fanatic: I did 900 puzzles three times and am getting much more pleasure from solving than in the past. And I just had a chance to put things to the test.

At the state championship this last weekend, I tied for 3-5 with a plus score, winning the under-1800 prize, and gaining 40 rating points.

Thanks for all of your comments. It really helps to know what you all do to improve.

“I feel that if the Olympiad started tomorrow, the training so far would set me up to perform better than the previous version of myself six weeks ago.”

You results in the Olimpiad are going to be the definitive test to know if the woodpeciker method works for you.

Well done Robert – thanks for sharing. 3 cycles of 900 puzzles is good going. Will you stop there and train another part of your game, or do you intend to go ‘full Woodpecker’ and halve the solving time with the goal of completing the entire set in a day?

Here’s a brief update as I finished my second cycle last night, so am now able to compare my results between cycles.

1st cycle: 1033 minutes; 88.9% accuracy

2nd cycle: 663 minutes; 93.7% accuracy

I’m happy with the level of improvement, and ready to tackle the next challenge of 984 exercises within 7 days.

I also decided to check the average solving time per day in each cycle. 1033 minutes, averaged across the first 28 days, is 36.9 minutes per day. In the second cycle, I reduced my overall solving time by 35.8%. This meant that despite halving the number of days in the cycle, my daily average solving time was only 47.4 minutes, which is not such a dramatic increase. (These figures do not include time spent checking solutions.)

It will be interesting to see the next set of results after the third cycle to see if I can maintain anywhere near the same rate of improvement.

I ended up limiting my ambitions on the second cycle, and went through just the 222 easy problems before looping back to start a third cycle on just the easies. So far, the third cycle is going lightning quick for most problems, with about 15% requiring serious thought. This feels like the right scope for my available time / ability, and I think this way I can have a realistic goal of complete mastery of this set of problems after another couple of cycles.

@Andrew: 1033/2= 516 minutes, so you spent too much time. If a IM can’t do it, it’s impossible for one amateur

I’m literally about to start Woodpecker training.

Any advice beyond the Woodpecker instructions in the book would be gratefully received

Andy

@Andy Couchman

Good to have another new recruit on board! Aside from the useful instructions in the book, the main things I would say are:

1) If you’re going to keep score, consider my simplified system of one point for a fully correct answer and half for getting the correct first move but missing one or more important details in the ensuing variations. I find it much quicker and simpler, and some of the blog readers have reported that they also prefer it over the more convoluted system of counting ticks.

2) Have a target number of exercises in mind, and work out an approximate daily average – while taking into account that the first 222 exercises are easy, and anything beyond that will inevitably involve a drop in your average speed. You don’t have to do that exact number every single day – but it will help you to stay on track.

3) Try as hard as you can to hit your target number of exercises in 28 days or thereabouts – but be ready to adjust your goals. Better to work through the program with a lower number of exercises than let your first cycle drag on forever.

@Andrew Greet

Are you setting every postion up on a chessboard?

If not, when are you? (before or after you start calculating?)

Good luck with your next cycle!

28/2 = 14 days to complete the second cycle. That was the goal and I did it. In no place in the book does it say you have to halve the number of minutes in the next cycle.

@d

I take this to mean you included some Medium puzzles in your first set but then decided you’d taken on too much, and so just decided to solve the Easy ones in later cycles. I’m sure this will sharpen your vision and provide a foundation to take on a set of Medium exercises in future. Hopefully you’ll be able to play some tournaments in the meantime and put the improvements into practice.

If I’m training with difficult positions, then I use a board and pieces every time. However, when it comes to the kind of high-speed, high-volume solving involved here, I would be far too laborious setting up every position. In many cases I would spot the solution before setting up the position!

So my general rule is to start by glancing at each position in the book. If I solve it within a few seconds, then obviously I didn’t need a board and pieces. If I spot the makings of a combination but not a full solution, I’ll give myself a bit more time, perhaps up to a minute or so, although I don’t time this exactly. If I’m still unure then I’ll set it up on the board.

I find this a good balance between using the board and pieces when I need to, while still maintaining speed. Others should do what feels right to them. For instance, if you have more time available, and/or don’t have as many exercises in your set, you may want to use the board and pieces more often. Young players who have analysed on laptops their whole lives may not want to use the board and pieces at all.

Excellent! No pressure then.

As the famous quote says: “The harder I practise, the luckier I get.”

Just a wee heads up for those who like Axel’s work in Woodpecker Method. His e3 poison book is on sale this month through Forward chess- says half price in the email I got but can’t check if this is true with the 20% VAT in UK as I have already purchased it. I think its a great wee book and underrated. Go spoil yourselves

@Andrew Greet

I’m going ‘half-woodpecker’, you might say, taking a day-and a half for the last cycle. But I do reduce the time of each stage by half. Since I do the work while doing physical exercise there is time for Yusupov and other heavy lifting.

Hi Andrew /Jacob

What is the QC view on Chessable? I know there are profit margins to think about as well as what is best for the readers but New in Chess seems to have taken the plunge. You may not decide to have all your books on Chessable but the repetitive nature of Woodpecker makes it ideal for Chessable treatment for training. Any plans?

So far I finished 342 exercises in the second cycle, in 370 minutes. My score so far is 96%. My score has gone up and I need less time, so I’m satisfied with that. I still have another week to finish the remaining 150 exercises. I noticed that the exercises I did wrong, I also did wrong in the first cycle.

I finished my second cycle yesterday. I wrote down at least the main line of my calculations and used 12 hours and 27 minutes to complete my set of 510 exercises. The success rate remained 97 % as after week one of the second cycle. Two of the exercises I got completely wrong by repeating the same mistake as in cycle one which surprised me somewhat. It seems getting older my memory is not the same as before ;-).

I´m not sure if I will be able to do my third cycle in one week. Might take a day or two longer. To speed up I will not write down any of my solutions for the easy exercices and only the first move for the intermediate ones.

@Andrew, it’s your only preparation for the Olympiad?

Also finished my second cycle of 984 exercises on time yesterday. Will start the third cycle on Tuesday, I expect. The speed has increased and the error ratio has decreased, so that it is great.

I did another session today of 110 minutes. My total score is now 402 exercises in 480 minutes, with a success rate of 95%. One more session, and my second cycle is finished 🙂 .

Thanks Robert, Ray, Tom & Pabstars for the progress updates. That’s quite a few blog readers who have finished, or are close to finishing, the second cycle. I am well into my third, but will say more about this in Wednesday’s blog post.

Ray and Tom – you both noted having repeated the same mistakes in certain exercises in your second cycles. I did this a few times as well. In the third cycles, you should hopefully recognize these positions and take extra care when solving them. Consider setting them up on a board if you think that will help. If you get anything wrong for a third time, it would probably be a good idea to play through the variations when checking solutions to drill them into your mind.

And BZH92 – the Woodpecker Method is not quite 100% of my Olympiad training, but it’s close.

Chessable seems to me an interesting area for an experiment. I may say more in a few weeks.

@John Shaw

As a chessable user since it first started, this seems like a very exciting development!

@John Shaw

Fantastic idea, one which many Chessable users have been waiting for.

https://www.chessable.com/discussion/thread/26751/books-from-quality-chess/30562/

@Andrew

How many cycles is your goal?

Keep up the good work! 🙂

@Lasse

If I can continue halving the number of days per cycle, then my sixth cycle will be all exercises in a single day. If I can do it, that will be the end.

after finishing my 2nd cycle I can observe a massive increase in solving speed (from 2min per intermediate exercise to 1min) with roughly constant accuracy.

some exercises I failed in the 1st cycle caught me again, but some more I solved correctly. All in all seems to be good progess, will start the 3rd cylce tomorrow and try to focus a little bit more on accuracy, but an average of 91% seems still to be ok (have to admit that my estimations for the 1st cylce were a bit to optimistic after i kept track of my sessions in a more detailed way for the 2nd cycle)

all in all woodpecking is hard work, but thats the way to improve.

@tarsitius

Well done, that’s an excellent improvement in speed.

When you say your estimations for the first cycle were optimistic, do you mean you didn’t check the solutions so carefully and may have overestimated your accuracy?

It seems you’re progressing well anyway, and it’s good to focus on accuracy having already made a big improvement in speed – and try to focus especially hard on any exercises which you’ve got wrong both times.

I just finished my final session of the second cycle with zero mistakes – I think Euwe’s combinations are easier to spot than Alekhine’s 🙂 . Anyway, my numbers are as follows:

473 exercises in 580 minutes, with a score of 95%

In the first cycle I did the same number of exercises in 995 minutes, with a score of 92%. So definite progress both in speed and accuracy 🙂 .Looking forward to the third cycle – memory should now start kicking in!

I have finished my first cycle with 570 exercices and a score of 87%

@Ray

Well done Ray, those are good increases, especially in speed.

@BZH92

Well done! Be sure to let us know how your speed and accuracy improves in the second cycle.

@Andrew, I didn’t count the time but I’m pretty slow.

I’m curious to see if woodpecker method is also good at my age. I’m 57.

@BZH92

I don’t see any reason why the method should not be beneficial to players of different ages.

Consider noting your solving time for each session to make a total for each cycle from now on. You don’t have to share it here, but it’s a source of motivation and will also help you keep track of your improvement from one cycle to the next.

@Andrew, but a few days ago, you said to me “28/2 = 14 days to complete the second cycle. That was the goal and I did it. In no place in the book does it say you have to halve the number of minutes in the next cycle”.

I find it boring noting the time.

@BZH92

The goal for each cycle is, indeed, to halve the number of days compared to the previous cycle.

At the same time, it is a good personal motivator to try and reduce the number of minutes spent solving. There are no fixed targets for the number of minutes per cycle – but I assure you it feels good to be able to track the improvements.

@Andrew Greet

I absolutely agree it is motivating to see a reduction in time, even if it’s not a target. Besides, it’s really not much effort to note down the start and end time per session. If you add the number of minutes in the spreadsheet provided by QC, you can automatically add them up.