In the previous article we talked about the typical problems many chess players have. You may want to refer to the first part here. In short, people read A LOT of chess books, but the benefit is MARGINALat best. Why is this the case?
I’ll tell you something seemingly obvious, yet it will have a tremendous effect! There is a HUGE (I mean, extremely HUGE) difference between reading and studying. Unfortunately, most players don’t fully understand this, so let me explain this difference in detail:
How much time do you spend reading a book? Usually you will spend for one book from a few days till several weeks. Thus, reading can be quick.
Studyinga text book can take a month or a lifetime! I’m not exaggerating. For instance, studying a religious book can take a lifetime, and even then you may still not fully understand it. This is closely connected with the next item.
Once you have read a book, you never read it again. It seems boring and unnecessary. When you study certain material, you try to implement it in your practice. In this case you’ll need to repeat the process several times to make sure that you understood completely before proceeding.
Once you’ve applied this knowledge in a practical application, you will develop new questions. You will then need to study this material again to find solutions for your new questions. This process may occur many times until you finally get 100% effect out of this knowledge (book).
3. YOUR ACTIVENESS
When you read a book or watch a video, the author of this material is active. He prepared some materials and is providing them to you. You go over this material, however, by yourself, without really doing anything active. This is passive learning, much the same as when you watch a new Hollywood movie – you are a passive viewer.
When you study something, you are independently active. You try and develop solutions yourself, and only after that will you compare your ideas with those of the author. You try to understand every author’s idea. If you don’t understand something – you don’t skip it, but study the material over and over again until all insight come to you.
You try to understand and remember everything. After that you go and try it in practice. You may fail, but you keep trying until you train this new skill enough to get good results.
Studying requires one to be very active.
4. LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
As you may have guessed, reading is easy. That’s why most of people like it so much! You read something, you feel like you should be getting smarter. You digest ready-made material with little or no effort required from you. This comfortable situation makes you feel good because it is not difficult.
Studying is much harder. Here you have to face your weaknesses, admit them and then put in a hard effort to confront them. You need to spend a lot of time and effort, do unusual things and develop new habits. Inwardly you have to admit that somebody is smarter than you in this area, which is painful for a lot of people.
Reading is entertainment. Studying is a hard work.
A few months after you read something, you only remember the most general ideas from that material.
Let’s create a little test. Have you studied any of my paid courses? Do you remember the titles of each video lesson? What rules were presented in each lesson? How many practical tasks were presented in this course?
Unfortunately, most people can only give very general answers. It means you have NOTstudied these lessons. When you study something seriously, you won’t forget it later because it is learned. It becomes a part of your nature, your new habit.
In many countries people shake hands after a meeting. You never forget to do this. You don’t need to write it in your notebook – it is automatic and becomes a habit.
Studying develops new habits. Reading develops… nothing.
Not always, but often you can get reading material for free. More often than not, you have to pay for your study course materials.
There is some good news for you here. I’ve been an active chess coach for the past 12 years. During this period I’ve charged $0 (in other words, helped for free) and as much as $100 per hour. I’ve noticed an interesting thing: the more the student pays, the better results he/she gets.
I always try to do my best, so my coaching is the same but the students’ ATTITUDEis very different. For instance, those who paid a lot never come late to the lesson. Free students sometimes even skip the lessons.
Those who made serious investments write down all important information. Some of them even use a voice recorder, so as to repeat the lesson later on. Those who paid little never do. After an expensive lesson, a student always performs his home tasks (even when it seems unnecessary for him).
In the same way, you will probably eat the dish if you paid a lot for it in a restaurant (even if the dish looks unusual for you). It seems silly to pay for something and then not use it. We avoid making silly mistakes.
After a free lesson, a student decides by himself which tasks to perform and how. So he distorts the training and doesn’t get any real results.
All in all, when you pay for something you take it much more seriously. That’s why some tricky guys download tons of free chess materials from the internet, but their real progress is miserable. It’s just fair.
After you study something new, you can take a qualitative leap forward. You develop new (more effective) skills. You change (improve) your way of playing. You start getting outstandingly great results.
After readingsomething, you feel good. You may be enthusiastic. But when it comes to practice – nothing changes.You still get the same results as before. This upsets you. You want to bring your mood up again and… you start reading another exciting book…
Now that we have discussed this topic in great detail, it’s time for you to ask yourself “Am I reading or studying chess materials?” Be honest with yourself. Be objective and take all criteria (your results) into account.
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There are literally millions of chess books and tutorials that are available to us these days and all chess learners study from this same pool of material.
However, only a very small group of players (less than 5%) will experience any significant progress. The majority of players (95%) will unfortunately experience only slight advancement or, worse, no progress at all.
How to deal with such a sad situation? There are two typical approaches:
1. The players belonging to the first group are a little confused and they ask themselves the question (or send the question to me ), “Why am I not progressing despite all of my desire and efforts?“ If you are in this group, please accept my congratulations – you have very good chances for improvement!
2. The second group of players prefers to believe in what they want to believe. They think that they are “experienced,” “advanced,” “experts” or that they “know all the chess basics already,” etc. However, there is a well-known refutation proverb, “If you are so smart, then why are you so poor?” In regards to chess, this proverb basically translates to: “If you know so many things about chess, then why your rating is so low?”
In reply to this obvious question, this 2nd group of players will start providing various lame excuses such as:
“ I’m a good player, but only have problems with tactics (or opening repertoire or anything else)”.
“I don’t want to memorise opening lines, because I like creativity.”
“I have problems with concentration, and sometimes make blunders.”
Being under the delusion of their “advanced” level, such people produce a lot of lame excuses for their poor practical results. They also start blaming chess books, authors, teachers, etc. OK, maybe a certain book was bad, but it’s quite unlikely that all of them are bad, right? So maybe the problem is not there?
All in all, if you are a 2000-rated player and honestly believe that you’ve learned all of the main strategic and tactical motifs – you are in this second group. In this case, I wish you good luck, because there’s nothing else that can help you. Yes, I’m not here to say pleasant things, but to tell you the REAL situation.
Now let’s get back to the first group of people, who wonder, “Why am I not progressing despite all of my desire and efforts?“
Please think about this question. I’ll give you the answer in the next lesson, but in the meantime your independent thinking is very important. Perhaps you’ve learnt A LOT from chess books (or other tutorial materials). Why didn’t it bring you A LOT of a progress?
P.S. Write your opinion in the comments. After thinking about the above question, you may read the second part here.