Monday, June 22, 2009

Steve Stoyko Chess Training Method Revisited

Photo of Steve Stoyko
circa May 2005

I bringing this info in the forefront of this chess blog post about Steve Stoyko's Training Method , that was placed at the tail end of my last blog post, because it will help the amateur chess player grow stronger in his analysis of the middlegame.

The reason for this is to put a spotlight on the middle game analysis and how to approach this form of evaluation and visualization originated by
Steve Stoyko.

First off , let me credit where credit is due. Publication of Steve Stoyko's training method first cropped up in Dan Heisman's Novice Nook column, which by the way is not just for chess novices but for all tournement chess players under the rating of Expert.

Dan's Novice Nook column shows up monthly in the Chess Cafe , an excellent chess page with all kinds of chess columnists.

The full Novice Nook column where Steve Stoyko's Training Method is found is called.
Chess Exercises" aka "you can't play what you don't see "

The part of Dan Heisman's column where Steve Stoyko's Training Method is mentioned is towards the end of that Novice Nook column by Dan Heisman. The excerpted part of Dan's column is listed below entitled " Advanced Exercises, Stoyko Exercise.

Advanced Exercises:
A1. Stoyko Exercise

FM Steve Stoyko suggested to me this very helpful exercise. First the reader
should find a rich middlegame position. You can find them in many Kasparov,
Shirov, or Speelman games, or in the books The Magic of Tactics, Genius in
Chess, or How to Think in Chess. Take out a couple sheets of paper and a pen or

The idea is to write everything you can possibly visualize from the position, like
you were playing the game without a clock and you had to see and record
everything before you move.

Write down every line that you look at (no matter
how bad!), along with that line's evaluation. This should fill up several sheets of
paper and take 45 minutes up to 2+ hours! If you chose a sufficiently complex
positions dozens of variations should be considered. Consider lines to as much
depth as you think is significant.

You can show your judgment of the evaluation (who stands better and by how
much – you don’t always have to say why) with any number of methods:
l A) Traditional: =, ±, ¥, …
l B) Computer - In pawns; negative means Black is better: +0.3, -1.2, …
l C) English: White is a little better, Black has compensation for his lost
pawn, etc.

When you are done, take your analysis to a good instructor, player, or software
program. Look at each line to see how well you visualized the position (any
retained images, illegal moves, etc.?), and also compare your logic (was that move
really forced?) and your evaluation.
In general the Stoyko exercise, if done properly, should help you practice and
evaluate the following skills:
l A) Analysis
l B) Visualization
l C) Evaluation

file:///C|/cafe/heisman/heisman.htm (5 of 8) [09/14/2003 2:35:12 PM]
Novice Nook

Steve claimed that each time he did this exercise he gained about 100 rating

Someone asked me the following question about the evaluation aspect of the
Stoyko exercise:
"I don't understand your point: 'The key is the amateur's evaluation of every line...
you will have your instructor (or Fritz or whatever) compare your evaluation of
every line, resulting in a really good evaluation test.' How is it a 'really good
evaluation test' to analyze a single position from a Kasparov or Shirov type game
for an hour or so?
"I can see how it's a good calculation/visualization exercise - totally agreed. I've
done it in the past for this benefit and I'd do it again. But I'm just not understanding
the evaluation benefit?!"

Answer: Your question is very good (If you misunderstand that purpose of the
exercise, that would help explain my observation as to why so many players are
missing out on using this valuable resource!).
Most players are very poor at even-material evaluation. Therefore they make bad
moves because, assuming they evaluate potential outcomes of various candidate
moves, they choose a move that is not best because they erroneously think the
resultant position(s) from their chosen move are better.

The second (non-analysis) aspect of the Stoyko exercise is to evaluate every line
that you examine in the tree - that could be dozens or even possibly hundreds of
lines for one position since the Stoyko position has unlimited time. By comparing
your evaluations of these hundreds of lines with your instructors' evaluation, you
learn to improve one of the most critical skills you have - what is good and what is
bad and why and how much. It also helps you identify the all-too-common
quiescence errors where weak players stop their line too soon and therefore misevaluate because they did not look to see what might happen with further checks,
captures, and threats.

This capability is so important and its failure so critical that you would think
everyone would want to work on it, especially since the amount of work is an hour
or two, plus additional time for going over it with someone (or even at worst via
computer evaluation).


  1. I used to do something similar when I was doing my PhD in Biochemistry. I made it a point of writing a critique of my work every day no matter what. This was on top of every other bit of work I was doing that day. I couldn't leave the lab. until I wrote the critique. The result was I finished my PhD in 2.5 years most of my contemporaries took at least an extra year. I see the value of the above, it makes you think hard and steer in the right direction. Thanks, for the article sometimes it is difficult to see how to apply your experience in a different area.

  2. Very good and usable post. Thank's to share your experience with us. I will try to remember these tips in my blog commenting task. Chess training Win at chess - we show you how to defeat your enemy. All teaching units are free!