Michael de la Maza in his outstanding “400 points in 400 days” articles (Part 1 here: http://www.chesscafe.com/text/skittles148.pdf Part 2 here: http://www.chesscafe.com/text/skittles150.pdf) laid out a plan he called “The Seven Circles”.
Michael de la Maza is probably the biggest influence on my chess career, and one of the main reasons that I have created Tactics Time.
I think that he was able to clearly see “The Elusive Obvious” that many chess players have missed.
If you haven’t read his “400 points in 400 days” articles, they are highly recommended, and had a tremendous impact on me.
While I think that his ideas are genius, I do a have a few “nits to pick” about the article.
But one other point of praise before I do that, I also think that de la Maza is a brilliant marketer, whether he is trying to be or not.
Just the title “400 points in 400 days” is brilliant – it is catchy, it has a clear outcome, and it speaks to watch A LOT of chess players want (whether they admit it or not) more rating points. I think that he should have found a way to include this in his book title “Rapid Chess Improvement”, which is good, but more vague.
What does “Rapid” mean? A day? A week? A year?
What does “Improvement” mean? Gaining 100 points? Becoming a GM?
400 points in 400 days is a super title!
His “7 Circles” is also a very catchy idea.
For those not familiar with the idea, he basically says to take 1000 tactics problems, and do them over and over, faster and faster.
I think that this is a great idea.
The main problem is that it just isn’t practical for most people.
It is like saying – get killer abs, by doing 1000 crunches per day, and eating 1000 calories per day. Yes it works, and you will get killer abs if you do this, but it is not practical for most of us.
Having talked to a lot of people about de la Maza’s system, I think that most people read it, and think that it is too impractical, and then the baby gets thrown out with the bath water.
For example here is a thread on chess.com, http://www.chess.com/forum/view/general/400-points-in-400-days, where someone started talking about this method, and the first response was “This method would probably kill your love of the game forever”.
While I certainly advocate lots of tactics study, I would never want to kill anyone’s love of the game. If you read the above thread, the original poster was actually discouraged from entering a program of tactics study because of this, and writes, “Maybe it is not such a good idea. I am a novice at studying chess, so I guess I will not do this program.” I found this statement to be very sad.
It should also be noted that de la Maza was unemployed during the time that he completed his “7 circles”. I realize that many of us have jobs, families, other interests, etc, and that it just isn’t practical to do exactly what he teaches for many of us.
In Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) there is a saying “Progress, not Perfection”.
I think that this idea can be used to modify de la Maza’s idea.
People tend to think in black or white/ yes or no/ day or night.
If they can’t do the de la Maza program as he lays it out, then they don’t do it at all.
Instead they should focus on the main idea that de la Maza has – which is
STUDY CHESS TACTICS FIRST.
and not get wrapped up in the exact details of if there is 5 circles, or 4 triangles, or if you do 1000 problems, or 1500 problems, or if you use software, or books, etc.
With de la Maza’s idea, the devil is not in the details. There is no devil, and the details are not really necessary, other than to fill a book so people will buy it, and then debate the importance of each detail.
It is a very simple, and profound idea – most games at the class player level are won or lost due to tactics. Therefore study chess tactics, and become a master at them, if you want to do well.
Personally I like doing tactics in various different ways. Sometimes I want to pick up a book. Other times I like looking at webpages, or even reading my own chess tactics columns, newsletter, and playing with the tactics database that I created.
Just like with exercise, the main thing is to do it, and get in the habit of doing it.