Kotov's Method for Chess Improvement

The Road to Chess Improvement

Ruke Vin Hansen in his amazing article Mind Games: Who is Doing the Playing? comes to the conclusion that the best way to improve chess skill is not through reading chess books or watching DVDs. He argues that reading more books only helps fill your short term memory whereas quality moves are a result of the subconscious processes which are not affected by the “conscious” short term memory.


Hansen asserts that the best way to improve playing strength, improve judgement and to combat blunder tendencies is to follow a similar approach as that found in Kotov’s Think Like a Grandmaster.

Here is the process described by Hansen:

No matter what position you choose to analyse, opening, middle game or end game, complex or simple; find annotated games and play through them till you to come to the point with the greatest number of variations.

Cover up the annotations with a sheet of paper and, without moving the pieces, analyze the position from 30 minutes to an hour. If the variations are extremely complex, you might write down your analyzes while analyzing.

When time is out, stop analyzing and uncover the annotations in the book or magazine, and compare your notes with the annotator’s. (This is crucial since this trains and disciplines the brain’s ability to perceive positions correctly)

Strictly speaking, this, and not his highly criticized graphic presentation of tree-analyzes, is the Kotov-method. This was the method catapulting Kotov to super GM strength and even if Kotov was unable to, we can partly explain why it works, and in short, it can be put as TWT or “Targeted Wiring Training”. As long as thinking is subconscious, we have no idea what the mind looks like when pondering or producing chess moves or analysing positions. This method simultaneously teaches a whole array of different chess skills even if not targeted individually or specifically.

When starting out, there might be a great discrepancy between your analysis and the annotators’ but with time, you learn to delineate relevant moves and variations as this training and final comparison will exercise and target the mind’s ability to perceive chess positions and produce high quality moves. Initially, this system of training may appear time consuming and even monotonous, but patience and diligence will return generous rewards since you will:

* Achieve total mastery of a new and important position

* Broaden your opening repertoire and theoretical knowledge.

* Become better acquainted with positions of similar pawn structures or themes (note; not “pattern”)

* Absorb motifs which you can also apply to other positions.

* Dramatically improve combinative skill.

* Improve both long and short range planning.

* Analyze more deeply, accurately and efficiently.

* Increase concentration and attention span.

* Sharpen board visualization.

* Develop patience and perseverance

* control impulsive tendencies.

For the full article please go to: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=5055

For those of you who follow Dan Heisman, this training technique is very similar to Stoyko Exercises.

Stoyko Exercises
from Dan Heisman’s Exercises page

A summary of Stoyko exercise:

1) Find a fairly complicated position

2) Get out a pen/pencil and paper

3) You have unlimited time

4) Write down every (pertinent) line for as deep as you can see, making sure to include an evaluation at the end of the line. This will likely include dozens of lines and several first ply candidate moves. Evaluations can be any type you like:

a) Computer (in pawns, like +.3)
b) MCO/Informant (=, +/=, etc.)
c) English (“White is a little better”)

5) At the end state which move you would play and it’s “best play for both sides” line becomes the PV

6) When you are done, go over each line and its evaluation with a strong player and/or a computer. Look for:

a) Lines/moves you should have analyzed but missed
b) Any errors in visualization (retained images, etc.)
c) Any lines where you stopped analyzing too soon, thus causing a big error in evaluation (quiescence errors)
d) Any large errors in evaluation of any line
e) Whether the above caused you to chose the wrong move

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