Deliberate Practice

When Danish IM Andreas Skytte Hagen and I started to work together, he asked me to implement the concept of Deliberate Practice into the training sessions to optimize it as much as possible. The idea of deliberate practice was developed by Geoff Colvin in his inspiring work Talent is Overrated.

Sharp Endgames was the natural choice for me as training material, since it lives up to the 5 essential points that constitutes deliberate practice. At the same time, this was a golden opportunity for me to collect training material and test it prior to the release of the book. Here are the 5 points:

  1. It’s designed specifically to improve performance
  2. It can be repeated a lot
  3. Feedback on results is continuously available
  4. It’s highly demanding mentally
  5. It isn’t much fun

In the course of our training, I used 16 Parameters to describe and measure how well Andreas did in the exercises. By doing so, I was able to pinpoint his strengths and weaknesses (I shall not reveal them here!) and thus I was able to design the training more specifically to his needs (1). The keyword of point 1 is performance.

I have a huge amount of training material, so constantly feeding Andreas with new exercises in order to improve on the parameters was not a problem (2). And if Andreas failed in an exercise at some point, I would notice his mistake and repeat the exact same exercise weeks or months later.

Andreas was playing the exercises against a chess engine and myself, and thus it was possible for me to give concrete feedback after every exercise (3).

The exercises were highly demanding mentally, both on the board and due to time pressure (4). The exercises are of level 1-5 in the rating span 1900-2600.

The last point (5) is arguable – at least some chess players believe that chess is fun no matter what. However, it takes will strength to keep training on a ‘bad chess day’, and this is where motivation alone is not enough. I did hear a lot of deep sighs from Andreas during our training sessions, which confirmed to me that the selection and level of the exercises were about right.