Have you fallen into the chess training trap?

In this article I want to share a few important thoughts on what I call the “chess training trap”. It’s important to avoid this trap if you want to enjoy the game!

The “7 Skills” Chess Training Model

In 1931, Dr Siegbert Tarrash released his book “Das Schachspiel” (The Game of Chess). In the foreword he famously wrote:

Chess, like music, like love, has the power to make men happy.

And for the most part it’s true. However, as some chess players may have experienced, it could also read:

Chess, like music, like love, has the power to make men sad.

Let me explain.

How chess can make you sad

You get a lot of enjoyment from chess when you’re new to the game. It’s an absolute thrill to unleash your creative ideas on the board. Even when you fail you readily accept your losses as part of the game.

You improve quickly. But then you start to face stronger players. Eventually you get to the point where some players seem impossible to beat. You need to train more. Maybe you buy a few books and watch some instructional chess videos. You may even go as far as buying chess courses online. It’s all great and you thoroughly enjoy learning so many new things!

But then you play a few games. And for some strange reason, you find that you didn’t improve much. You’re confused. You’ve learnt so many useful things. Then why didn’t you improve?

Maybe you should train harder and longer? The trap door opens. You question the training you did. You question the way you did it. Chess isn’t fun anymore. Chess starts to make you sad.

Chess, like music, like love, has the power to make men sad.

And then you fall into the chess training trap.

What is the chess training trap and how can you avoid it?

The chess training trap is when you fall into a habit of training a lot – at the expense of enjoying the game. Because let’s face it – studying chess in the comfort of your study room is not nearly as intimidating as facing the risk of losing an actual game!

To help you avoid the training trap you must consider this:

Capablanca said you must lose many games before you can be good.

You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player. – JR Capablanca, World Chess Champion, 1921-1927

I like that. Because no amount of training can teach you the lessons you will learn from losing a 1000 games! How many games have you played this year?


The most important training activity a chess player can do is to “play and review.” In other words, play often and review your games. Identify your mistakes and try to absorb the lesson from it. It will be particularly valuable if you can analyze your game with the assistance of a stronger player (or a chess engine). Then focus your training on the skills that you find lacking. The 7-Skills Training Model provides a reference of the important skills you need to work on.