Grandmaster Preparation: Calculation

If you want to get better at chess you must train. Everybody knows this. But in my view there is one word missing at the end of that sentence. That word is hard.

After the passing of Mark Dvoretsky it is Jacob Aagaard who has assumed the mantle of the “world’s best coach.” Aagaard has worked with Dvoretsky and his work is a direct continuation of Dvoretsky’s method.

What is this method then? Its essence consists of having the best possible examples to demonstrate a theme. In the case of Chessable’s latest course, the theme is calculation.

The importance of calculation cannot be overstated. To train it you need good exercises. And this is where Aagaard comes in.

Just like Dvoretsky’s before him, Aagaard’s exercises are hard. They force you to apply your brain and if the brain is not in good shape the results will be disappointing – it is not possible to just guess the solution, you must calculate.

On the brighter side, if you manage to persist for a while and cross the resistance barrier of your brain, you will notice that you are becoming better. You will start calculating and noticing things. The exercises will not feel that hard anymore.

Aagaard’s book is a workbook. It does cover some technical aspects of calculation, like Candidate Moves, Intermediate Moves, Elimination, Prophylaxis etc. but the core of the book are the exercises. The book expects you to work hard, full stop.

The principle “from simple to complex” has been observed so the student should be able to get the momentum going in the beginning. What I noticed is that it helps to start on a positive note, though it will only get you so far. After a certain point you would really start to suffer.

I don’t want to sound masochistic, because I’m not, but suffering is good for chess improvement. Suffering means that you have left your comfort zone and you’re in an unknown territory where additional mental effort is required. Your task is to become comfortable in that unknown territory. Then it will become your new comfort zone, when the process will repeat with the next level of difficulty.

Aagaard’s book is an excellent tool for the tough characters, hell-bent on succeeding. They will know that suffering is part of the process and they have the will to endure it. Aagaard, like his teacher Dvoretsky, is looking for that kind of students.

Using the book on Chessable’s platform is a different experience when compared to just reading it or solving the exercises in one’s head. The fact that I was forced to make the moves on the board made me feel much more responsible with my thinking. Often I would make the correct move but completely miss the opponent’s response, which is of course unforgivable. These misses would feel like a sting and they forced me to get a better grip on my (lazy) thinking.

Will solving the exercises in Aagaard’s book make you a better player? Yes. Just don’t expect it to be easy. If you see it as a challenge to take the best out of you, you will succeed.

Grandmaster Preparation: Calculation is out on Chessable

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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