Saturday, September 5, 2009

Thoughts on training from Botvinnik

Probably one of the greatest players ever at training and preparing for competition was Botvinnik. Supposedly he discussed his methods in both the Flohr - Botvinnik match book, and in the book he authored with Ragozin about the 11th Soviet Championship. The discussion in the Flohr match book consists of about 4 pages of text, and I will probably translate it sometime in the near future. There is a bit about his methods in The Dover publication of Botvinnik's 100 Selected Games.

I am in the process of tracking down a translation of the tournament book for the 11th Soviet Championship to see if it has more insights to offer than the 2 pages in 100 Selected Games. It would be an interesting book to have anyways as this was the tournament where Kotov displayed the results of the training regimen put forth in Think Like a Grandmaster.

Here are some of the things Botvinnik had to say in 100 Selected Games:

  • Begins preparation with a review of the chess literature to acquaint himself with new and interesting games, making notes on questions which are of interest to him as he reads.
  • Studies the games of his rivals in the upcoming competition. He studies their peculiarites of play, and their opening repertoire.
  • Studies the lines he intends to employ in the competition. For a competition he usually employs 3-4 systems for each color, and is thoroughly prepared in those systems.
  • Next is to try out these systems in training games.
  • He champions the use of training games to work on all aspects of your chess, using the games to focus on a certain deficiency and to continue training games with that deficiency being the focus until it is eradicated. An example being that if you get into time trouble, you should play training games where the first consideration is the clock, not the quality of play or the result. This continues until you can play at peak strength without time trouble in the time control being trained.
  • He champions resting the final few days before competition to be fresh when it starts.
  • More than anything else to reach top potential you must master the art of analysis. To this end you should publish your analysis so that others can find the faults within it. I imagine you could also use a chess engine to critique your analysis. He makes an interesting point that you should not analyze games in the first hours immediately after it is played, because such analysis will most likely be purely negative and can become a bad habit.

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