The key secret to Sam Shankland’s success – by Jacob Aagaard

It is clear that there is such a thing as talent in chess. It is also clear that there are certain degrees of it. Mark Dvoretsky said of Artur Yusupov had he had no more talent than me or Peter Heine Nielsen, and that it was serious and consistent work that took him to no. 3 in the world.

The same can be said of Sam. He had the talent of a local champion. Many of us do. But Sam has always had a decent work ethic. Even during the pandemic, we had regular interaction online, with playing positions and solving exercises. He did some ChessAble courses to earn a living and worked a lot on the rook ending book (due out in 2022).

Although the three weeks spent training in Glasgow helped Sam a lot before Prague, they were only the visible top of the iceberg. As I have been saying to everyone throughout the pandemic, the training done now will provide us with a big advantage over those streaming, playing blitz and watching the same sort of things…

If you have goals in chess and want a sure way to achieve them, it is consistency. Do regular training. Here are a few key points:

  • The first thing to understand is that every day you work on chess, you improve. There are things happening when we sleep, meaning that every day we work on chess, changes our brain. Doing seven times the amount of work, but only once a week, does not give the same improvement.
  • Thus, develop consistency. Try to learn something each day. Even if it is just for 10 minutes.
  • Attend a few lessons or watch the recordings. Decide on one or two courses you want to watch till the end and remember to watch them every week. Try to solve the positions. If you are watching the video, stop it and put up the positions on a board. If you are watching live, try. Even if you get everything wrong, the habit of making decisions is important to establish.
  • Start with the homework club sheet on Wednesdays. Do the Mixed Sheet in one session. Solve the Calculation sheet in a different session. Or two! If you are not doing much other solving, do the MS on Wednesdays, the Calculation on Thursday and Friday. And submit! Then have a look at the positions again when you get the feedback. Find one or two things that you did not see the first time around. It’s a start.

Consistency is the key. Recently I read this on 9GAG: “Everything that is worth doing, is worth doing badly.” The point was that 10 minutes of half-hearted exercise is better than no exercise. The same goes with chess training. Not every day is going to be a good training day. But the work you do at bad training days are no less important.

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