Since working my through McDonald’s How to Play Against 1.e4 twice, I have revised Pandolfini’s Endgame Course, and worked my way through his 111 Winning Endgames (as reported previously). I have also continued to solve various problems of the day from the web, and keep a file of those that gave me more trouble than they should. (For the more complicated problems, I usually record the position where I failed to see something, rather than the start position itself.) I have subsequently revised most of the problems that I have recorded so far. This appears to be a worthwhile exercise. My memory of the troublesome problems is surprisingly good. I have also finished my latest pass through Weteschnik’s Understanding Chess Tactics. My memory retention of these problems is good. I am now using the same time slot to gradually work my way through Reninfeld’s 1,001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations again. I am only solving a few problems at a time on an irregular basis, but my memory retention here is also good.
More recently, I have worked my way through Coakley’s Winning Chess Exercises for Kids (the blue Coakley) again. I previously did as many as six passes for many of these problems, over a period of about two months, but that was more than a year ago. My memory of these problems had faded greatly, which reinforces the fact that closely spaced repetitions contribute little to long term memory. I started with the intention of writing down my own detailed solutions before looking them up in the book, as Coakley recommends. I previously found that this did not help much with Palliser’s Complete Chess Workout, but I thought that the technique would work better with Coakley. Nonetheless, I again found it very time consuming, and was not at all convinced that it helped. I soon decided to write down just sufficient analysis to convince myself that the combination worked. That seemed to work better. Most of my mistakes are arguably mistakes in analysis rather than in seeing things, but these mistakes are probably the result of failing to see things.
My next task was revising McDonald’s How to Play Against 1.e4. I began my third pass through the book about two months after I began the first. I decided that I had to limit the time that I spent on this pass, cutting it from three weeks to two. I had to compromise here. If I cut the time too much, I would end up memorising moves rather than studying games. As it is, I am building up long term memory, and my understanding is increasing with each pass. I have got Shredder on my ipad, which is very useful for playing through the illustrative games and analysing them either manually or with Shredder’s help. I can often find most of the games on the web. This avoids errors in entering the moves, and is useful when McDonald does not give the full game. I have recently also bought Chessbase Online for my ipad. This is very useful for exploring opening moves and playing over the games that began with those moves, which further increases my understanding. Chessbase Online has reputation for bugs, but I have not had any significant problems with it.
McDonald’s book is enough opening study for now. I cannot justify spending any more time on openings at the present time. The main sources that I have pencilled in for the future are McDonald’s Starting Out: Queen’s Gambit Declined, and Collins’ 1.e4 Repertoire. I have played the QGD previously (albeit a long time ago), so I should have a flying start there. I have watched Collins’ DVD a few times over the past year, and should not have too many problems there either.
The current task is revising Albert & Krogius’ Just the Facts! I also intend to revise Chessimo Endgames 01, and go over Coakley’s endgame problems in detail. My endgame skill has improved very significantly since I started this study plan. Revision is currently more than enough here too. When I do have time to take on more material, I am tempted to revisit Keres’ Practical Chess Endings. I tackled this book many years ago, but found it too detailed. It could be just what I need now.