A Divine Tragedy on the horizon
[Note: this message will change as I adjust my plans. Once I finish, the message will remain as a description of my Tragedy. Last revised 10/29/06]After sifting through everybody's criticisms of the the official MDLM Seven Circles, I have come up with the following chess training plan, which I call the Divine Tragedy:
Precircle 1: 04/16/05-02/12/06
Work through the first 1500 problems (Steps 1-3) of the Tasc Chess Tutor (TCT) to build up basic chess knowledge. I worked through it in chunks of 200 problems. Every 200 problems, I redid those sections in which I scored below 80% on any tests. Once I got 80% in all the tests for that problem chunk, I moved on to the next 200 problems. I also imposed an 'instant redo' rule: if I scored below 50% on any test, I could not move on to another test until I got above 50%.
I was originally going to work through all of TCT, but after 10 months I had finished Step 3, and was sick of it and wanted to move on. I probably solved 4500 problems in 10 months. In retrospect, the beginner books (see Precircle 2) are better for general chess knowledge, so I should have started withthem and postponed TCT until after the Circles. TCT focused a lot on tactics and mate, which was helpful, but after the first three steps I realized I needed more breadth in my very first formal chess training.
Precircle 2: 02/16/06-04/11/06
Continue to ground myself in more basic knowledge, by slowly reading through Wolff's The Idiot's Guide to Chess.
This was a great book, especially the chapters on tactics, pawn structure, and weak squares. The chapter on the endgame was weak compared to Tasc Chess Tutor's treatment of the same topic. I would recommend that beginners start with this book.
The Circles: Started 04/11/06
I am using Convekta's Chess Tactics for Beginners (hereafter CTB).
CTB has 1300 problems split into 5 Stages of increasing difficulty. At each stage, you can either work through the problems sorted randomly or by tactical theme. For my circles, I am working through each stage many times, until I can do them very quickly (see the answer within a few seconds), without thinking about them. The first time through, I do 5-10 problems/day. Then 20/day. I stay at 20/day until I am doing the problems with low error (95% correct). I then double the number of problems per day until I am doing the entire stage each day. I go until I am doing the entire set of problems each day, 100% correct, with no thinking. Then I will move on to the next Phase of CTB. I also go back and repeat earlier phases periodically to make sure I still remember the problems.
Smoke a cuban cigar (Cohiba) while sitting on my back deck eating a Mounds bar, while serenely watching my dog Buddy chew on a nasty old bone. Three hours should be enough for this stage. After this, I don't plan on adhering to any strict chess-training regimen for some time. Assuming my rating is 1200 by then.
Realistically, I plan to spend a minimum of 15 minutes a day, six days a week, on chess improvement. Day seven is slack for when I have other things on my plate.
May God have mercy on my soul.