Synced chess videos: How to strengthen recall with a fresh new mode of review

By David Kramaley / On / In Chess science, Chessable news

I have only shared this with a few people, but one of the reasons I co-founded Chessable, was that I had watched almost every single chess video available on my favourite openings, and yet remembered nothing.

I listened carefully, and I reviewed some of the videos more than once. However, time after time, nothing stuck, and I kept forgetting. It was at this stage that I turned to opening theory books, and found a similar problem.

Fast-forward a few years, and we have convincingly shown that studying chess openings is more fruitful if done with MoveTrainer™.

I have not heard of a diligent student who after putting the effort in, did not remember their lines. However, I always had this painful memory of all that time spent watching chess opening videos with no success at all. I really wanted to do something about it back then, and here we are now.

First of all, why even bother with video? Is studying in Chessable and MoveTrainer™ not enough? Of course, the platform we have built is already very powerful, and many have had success with it in one way or another. Adding video takes nothing away from that.

However, there are several reasons why video on Chessable supercharges your learning:

1. Learning styles:

Psychologists are still trying to agree on whether there are educational benefits to be attained by the “learning style” theories. These theories consider the fact that we are all different. For some of us, they say, the presentation of certain content is better one way rather than another. For instance, one of us might retain more information when we have read it, another when we have repeated it and yet another might remember better if they have heard it. A final one, might do best if they combine two of these learning modes together.

While research around this area remains inconclusive, and we do not aim to change the world by proving these theories right or wrong, one thing is for certain. We have all had a day where we would rather watch a chess video than do our daily repetitions. Now, if you ever have such a day, you have the choice of a refresher with a video that directly applies to your training material. Sit back, get a cup of tea and relax while listening to the presenter go over lines that you play.

Back to learning styles though, I have had at least a couple of messages from people who fully believe that one learning mode is more beneficial to them than another. So of course, when the dust settles, and scientists stop arguing, if learning theories pan out to be right, then for those of you who truly benefit from information presented audio-visually, well then, this one is for you.

2. It is more than just video, part 1:

Video on Chessable is directly integrated with MoveTrainer™ books. This means that when you are watching the video, either before or after studying the book, the watching you are doing will activate and strengthen the same synapses responsible for helping you remember your training material (geeky bit: well-myelinated synapses are shown to be key for good recall and retention).

A small disclaimer, we have not conducted studies to show that this is factually true, but once we grow a bit more, maybe we can commission MRI studies of students watching Chessable video, and then doing their reps to see what truly is going on inside that wonderful brain. Now that would be cool. All the neuroscience journals I have read, would lead me to stipulate that my hypothesis would indeed prove true, and thus in the experiment, I would seek to negate it. Hmm, now that is a good neuroscience Masters or PhD thesis idea…!

Synapses are responsible for communication between your brain’s neurons.

3. It is more than just video, part 2:

As a direct by-product of part 1, by tying in video with our MoveTrainer™ technology, we have been able to improve the learning experience for those of you who exclusively like to watch chess opening videos. There is a large proportion of chess students, who have never owned a chess book. They have never used MoveTrainer™, but they have, like me, watched a lot of chess instructional videos.

Many of these students are likely struggling just like I did. Today, however, if they watch one of our Chessable videos, they will have more than one opportunity to pause the video and easily analyse the position themselves. They can turn the engine on if they need to. Moreover, if all of this work results in nothing, they can ask a question that can be answered either by another student or the author themselves. What chess video platform can offer this? I don’t know of any. Thus I am very excited to be able to innovate and help the lovers of chess videos learn better.

4. It’s all in the game, yo:

You might have noticed that I am a big fan of gamification (done right), and the benefits to be gained by adding a bit of dopamine release to our learning activities. As far as I am aware, no other platform gamifies video watching to the extent we have done. Due to the benefits of gamification, several general studies learning platforms have done this for video, my favourite one being KhanAcademy (check it out if you haven’t!). So why had it not been done for chess? It was about time!

While version 1 of our video platform is not yet entirely gamified, there are already points, badges, and more things to be earned while watching video on Chessable. You can also keep track of what you’ve watched and what you haven’t. Soon, we might spice this up so much more, that you might not want to watch chess videos unless it is on Chessable! I have good news here though, we have built the platform in such a way, that it is not too hard for us to bring some of your most favourite existing videos and re-publish them on the Chessable platform. Any suggestions? Head to this thread.

We do not claim our video platform is perfect. Nothing is. In fact, there are a couple of minor bug reports in video-sync that we are currently investigating. Of course, if you have been using Chessable for a while, you know that nothing ever stays the same around here. It is all always changing and improving. So with your feedback, I am very excited about the possibilities going forward. Together, we will keep improving chess education and showing the world what we can achieve with the right support of technology. I look forward to hearing from you, in this discussion thread.

If you haven’t heard yet, IM Christof Sielecki’s Keep It Simple: 1.e4 is the first (of many to come), Chessable MoveTrainer™ books to have video with video-sync available. If you haven’t yet, check it out now, click here.

FastTrack: The new PRO feature that lets you set the pace

By David Kramaley / On / In Chessable news

This is a long overdue change that’s finally arrived for PRO members.

As many of you will know, Chessable uses a spaced repetition scheduling algorithm to test you and refresh your memory at optimal times.

The more answers in a row you get correctly, the more the scheduling spaces out reviews.

However, what if:

  1. You have already mastered, say, Rook Endgames, but you still want to be reminded and tested on them once in a while? You don’t want to have to go through the first seven repetitions so soon.
  2. You already know the opening of your liking to FM/IM strength and don’t want to go through the first few steps in the scheduling? Yet, it still would be useful if Chessable tested you on this every few weeks or months, just to keep you fresh and tournament ready.
  3. You are studying tactics on Chessable and you feel like you don’t calculate well after the first few reviews because the move is so fresh in your mind? You’d rather space it out more and force yourself to calculate the answer again when enough time has gone by?


Enter FastTrack. This feature lets you pick two advanced modes of scheduling, “Fast” and “Super Fast”.

When you set this in your book options, the scheduling will fast forward through the early reviews and present the position to you only after a week or a month, depending on what you’ve chosen.

After that, the scheduling behaves much the same, and if you should get the move wrong in the review that happens in a week, it would still drop down to rock bottom and force you to start from scratch.

FastTrack gives a student more control over their reviews, making it a more enjoyable learning experience.

However, remember, a wise superhero once told us that “with great power comes great responsibility”. This saying is entirely relevant here.

You should set this feature up only for those books where you are confident you stand to benefit. Don’t get lazy and set it on those opening books that still give you trouble in the first few reviews.

After all, making mistakes is a huge part of learning, and you don’t want to skip on that. If you are completing reviews with 95%+ accuracy in the first few rounds, that’s when this feature becomes worth it.

Below is a picture of how you’d set it, and you can see, I’ve got it on for my tactics training. Any feedback, please post it in this thread (must be logged in). Enjoy.

Chessable FastTrack Demo
FastTrack is an option found inside your book’s options panel.

The pause study session feature is here, here is how to find it

By David Kramaley / On / In Chessable news

The pause study session feature is finally here. It’s a simple concept and a seemingly simple function, yet it took us a while as we had to polish up a few different things under the hood before it was possible. So without further ado, here it is, while studying, click on the pause icon to pause your study session. Then, simply click the play icon to resume when you are ready to do so. We look forward to hearing your feedback about it, so that we may add more improvements wherever possible.

The Pause Button:

The Resume Button

We hope you find this useful!

PS.- As an unwanted side effect we’ve had to remove a setting to disable the “focus mode view”. Only 30 active users were affected by the removal of this option, and if you were one of them and really miss it, you can get in touch and let us know. You can also keep up with all changes to Chessable in our change log.

Review as “whole variation” is Chessable’s new default setting. What does this mean for you?

By David Kramaley / On / In Chessable news

This is a short blog post to announce a site-wide change, from today on the default setting for all Chessable books is to review variations as “whole variation”. For most of you, this should go unnoticed, and the site will continue to work the same. However, for some of you, if you have noticed that “Overstudy” is coming up a lot more often, or you seem to be reviewing more moves than before, then this post is for you. It’s very easy to switch back to the “old way”.

Whole Variation Review
In this mode, the moves you need to review will always be part of the entire variation they belong to. In other words you will be quizzed on the complete series of moves leading up to the move you need to review. You will not always get points for this. In the cases you do not get points, you will see “Overstudy” pop up. Whole Variation review is the most popular setting on Chessable, and most books and members already have it on by default.

Random or Randomized Position Review
This is Chessable’s original study mode, where every position can be shown independent of the variation it belongs to. This mode is considerably harder to study with as you always have to stop and re-assess the whole position. This mode is useful if you are very confident in the book you reviewing and want to quickly solve positions. You can even get Chessable to serve you up to 100 moves in one study session if you are using random mode.

How to swap between the two?
The setting is available on a per book basis. Meaning that if you change it on a book, it won’t affect all of your other books. So feel free to play around and experiment with each mode, so you get familiar with what they do. To find the setting navigate to the chapter or variation list inside a book and on the right side (or bottom on mobile), find the “Book Defaults” box. Here, you can change between the modes.

The section highlighted in yellow is what you need to use to change book default review.

If you were one of the few(ish) users affected by the sitewide change, please accept our apologies for the inconvenience, but once you’ve changed the setting to your preferred option, it will remain there and work as you expect it.


Happy New Year! The 2017 year in review + 2018 spoiler.

By David Kramaley / On / In Chessable news, Start-up life

Dear Chessable learners,

At the end of 2016, I wrote about how, with your backing, we had a fantastic year. Having been so incredibly overwhelmed by your support then, I lack words this New Year’s Day to express our gratitude for your backing during 2017. Your continued choice to use Chessable as part of your chess training is hugely appreciated. Not only did we want to send you a big thank you from the team, but I wanted to let you know that we will continue to work hard to improve Chessable to make it even better.

Here is our brief year in review:

  1. Our learning community is almost 30,000 strong (nearly tripled!)
  2. We’ve gone from 2,2 million chess positions studied to a staggering 6.4 million positions.
  3. We are now backed by private investors.
  4. We’ve gone from a chess openings trainer to nearly a complete chess training suite, with endgames and tactics, bringing several classic print books to life in the process.

Last year my New Year’s resolution was to help us all study beyond the opening, and we’ve done that. However, you may have noticed I said we are “nearly” a complete training tool. This is not because our endgame or tactics courses are lacking, not at all, you’ve all loved them so much that both those books have impeccable five-star ratings. I’ve said nearly because in my own quest for chess improvement I know there are several things still lacking in the chess world, and we plan to make them, hopefully, you’ll know exactly what we mean by this Spring. We can’t wait.

Finally, I promised you a spoiler so here it is. We plan to have a regular publishing schedule for more great print books that can be brought to life. So far it’s been a bit here and there, but we plan to up our game. We have three print titles almost ready for their interactive release. One great tactics book and two awesome openings books. The titles are: Improve Your Chess Tactics by Neishtadt, The Hyper-Accelerated Dragon by Raja Panjwani and My First Chess Opening Repertoire for Black by Vincent Moret. By letting you know of these books in advance, I hope to start a new trend where you will always know what’s coming soon so that you can plan around it on your quest for chess improvement.

Thanks so much for your support again, wishing you the best New Year possible, and please stay tuned for more exciting releases…!

Learn chess tactics: for beginners and beyond!

By David Kramaley / On / In Chess news, Chessable news, Features, Learning chess

Today we’ve reached another milestone. You can now learn chess tactics for beginners (and beyond) right here on Chessable. We’ve taken the classic puzzle book, 1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners, by New in Chess, and made it fully interactive! Ever wanted to apply the Woodpecker method to an excellent tactics book? Well, here is your chance.

There are plenty of chess tactics training resources out there, so why another one? Here are three good reasons. Every tactics trainer that I know of has lacked at least in one of these categories:

We wanted to offer guided tactics courses with puzzles of the highest quality
We don’t want you to study any randomised tactic set. We are working with some of the most highly regarded chess trainers and authors out there. In this manner, we can bring you some of the best-curated tactics compilations that exist. The author’s teaching experience shines through, maximising instructional value.

We wanted for tactic solving to be all about learning and nothing else
Many of the existing tactics trainers constantly remind you of your changing rating (or unchanging!). In others, you are stuck with a very fast timer. It shows you how much faster others are than you. Having carefully studied the psychology of learning, I assure you none of these things are optimal or conducive to good learning. We want you to be free to take as much time as you need and we won’t give you a tactics rating. Instead, you should care about solving for accuracy, ultimately increasing the number of tactical patterns you know.

We wanted to take advantage of spaced repetition, and the Woodpecker method
In his award-winning book, GM Axel Smith credits the “Woodpecker method” for a large part of his quick improvement.  In a nutshell, it involves selecting a set of chess tactics exercises, and once you have solved them all, to repeat them many times. This is a good strategy, but inefficient. With Chessable’s spaced repetition, you will go over the same set of exercises as many times as you need (the Woodpecker method). However, we will show you the ones you know really well, less often, and slowly phase them out. The ones you struggle with? We’ll give you a nudge!

For those reasons and more, we are super excited to have 1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners on Chessable. Of course, there will be more exciting books to come! So for the new year, let us know what you’d like to see. Do you want to learn more chess tactics? Or would you prefer more opening books? Send us a tweet or an e-mail and let us know. Happy holidays, and enjoy your chess learning.

Do you want to learn chess tactics, chess openings, something else? Let us know!Click To Tweet

Chessable’s new study flow is here!

By David Kramaley / On / In Chessable news, Features

At Chessable, our mission is to make learning chess as effective, as fun and as easy as possible. If this means re-engineering part of our core features, then that’s exactly what we’ll do. Today, the long awaited and highly requested change to Chessable’s study flow is finally here. From today on your learning experience should feel quicker, smoother and more natural.

The main goal of this update was to make the study experience more efficient. To achieve this, we have stopped redirecting you from page to page as much as possible. Instead, you will be given an opportunity to complete whatever lesson you’ve chosen while saving your progress on the go!

For instance, if you have 231 moves to review, and you want to do them all in one go without browsing away? Now that’s possible! Want to continue learning things within a chapter of the new book you picked up without distractions? Now that’s possible! Feel like you are in the flow and just want to keep going? This is it!

The new study flow on a phone

We are pretty excited about this update because beyond all that, it is expected to speed up Chessable as a whole, so it can feel even snappier and faster than you are already used to.

Together with a very kind and gregarious group of beta testers (thank you!), we’ve worked hard the whole of last month testing this update for you. We have polished it up as much as we could for the launch date, but already the new ideas and suggestions are flowing! After all, it is a shiny new feature, and it does open up a ton of possibilities. We’ll work on them next year, and make this even better.

However, next year is still some time away, so to begin with, we’ve added five shiny new badges for you to earn. And to put the cherry on the top, this feature will allow us to release a new print book that we are really excited about. Really, really, really soon. Can you guess what book it is? If you’ve guessed it without cheating, we’ll give you a prize. Send us a tweet @chessable!

The new badges.

We hope you enjoy it and if you have any feedback, check the forums, or please e-mail us via the contact us link at the bottom of the site.

PS.- Don’t like it? The old study flow is still available in your study settings 🙂

Can you guess what new book we are bringing to life this week? Let us know via a tweet!Click To Tweet


The MVP approach is contagious: taking it step by step is a wonderful idea.

By David Kramaley / On / In Chessable news, Features

MVP. We’ve thrown this acronym around here a lot. It stands for Minimum Viable Product. While we are fortunate that the days when Chessable was a bare-bones MVP are now long gone, I still remember those days fondly. The MVP idea is simple, build just enough to see if there is an interest, and then make it better. This approach allows for constant improvement without the need for substantial upfront investment. This is useful when you don’t yet know if anyone will find your creation useful.

Since the MVP approach has always been part of the Chessable culture, I was delighted to see that many of our eBook authors have embraced it. We’ve always talked about Chessable eBooks being different because they are like living, evolving organisms. The authors are free to update the variations, clarify concerns and add more content whenever they need to. This is not something you can do while publishing a traditional book! Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Even if you find an embarrassing error, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to change it. Not so in Chessable!

In the last month alone, we’ve had many authors updating their books. The co-author of GM Rafael Leitao’s Sicilian Najdorf published an exciting massive revamp of his book. In October we revamped and re-launched IM John Bartholomew’s Scandinavian. All of these updates to books are infectious, during launch month FM Marko Makaj has added nearly 20 variations and over a thousand words of instruction to his Fighting Sicilian eBook. Perhaps the most impressive update yet was announced today: GM Alex Colovic has added over 13,000 words of instruction to his Queen’s Gambit Declined eBook!

GM Colovic was one of the first masters to embrace working with Chessable when the platform was much smaller. Investing the time to write a 17,000-word book back then may have been perceived as stretch and a bit risky. We weren’t even investor backed yet! He did, however, launch a book that revealed his entire Grandmaster preparation, and annotated his lines at a high level (2000+). Many students found it useful, but this being a GM-level repertoire, it was not easy going for those lower-rated but ambitious players who dived into the deep end.

Well, over the last year GM Colovic’s students have asked many questions. I started studying the book myself, and contributed my fair share of queries. The result? GM Colovic has put pen to paper (or keyboard to screen?) and added 13,000 words worth of instruction. This is extremely useful for club level players and below! The repertoire now thoroughly explains all plans and ideas, weaknesses, opportunities, double-edged positions and much more! A true display of the MVP approach. Start small and solid, and grow into an amazing and great work. The overhaul has been so massive that we had to change the name, from a Grandmaster’s Guide to the Queen’s Gambit Declined to the new title, Queen’s Gambit Declined: A Grandmaster Explains.

Such incremental work by authors will always be what sets Chessable eBooks apart from the rest. I am thrilled to be part of a community where learning is everyone’s priority and incredibly grateful to all the hard working teachers who make it possible. I’ll see you on the leaderboards!

Beating Magnus after a month of training: the neuroscience of why learning chess is so much harder than learning a language

By David Kramaley / On / In Chess improvement, Chess science, Learning chess

By now, most of the chess world is familiar with the story of Max Deutsch, so I will keep it brief. Max is a 24-year-old chess amateur who wanted to beat World Champion Magnus Carlsen with a month’s worth of practice. No handicaps.

Max completed 11 other learning challenges, one each month. Perhaps the most impressive one was to learn Hebrew up to a conversational level in just a month. His success attracted large levels of attention, and his last challenge was upgraded from beating the top level of a chess app, to beating the man himself.

If one can learn a new language in a month, why is it that the game we love so much is so difficult to master? I spent over a year reading scientific journals about learning chess asking this very question. I also happen to speak five languages. I would love to share some valuable insights from cognitive neuroscience with you.

Learning chess and playing it well, is an infinitely more complex challenge than learning a new language.Click To Tweet

Learning a Language
Learning a new language is no easy feat. It requires hard work, motivation and daily practice. It is so tough that neuroscientists have shown that if you do not hear the sounds of some languages during your baby years, you may never acquire them up to a native’s standard. Could this be why many countries of the world remain primarily monolingual?

If you do however make the effort, learning a new language has pronounced effects on your brain. Neuroimaging has shown growth in the brain areas of the hippocampus and superior temporal gyrus. Your brain changes as you learn a new language. Like a muscle, it gets bigger and better.

Once you have acquired a new language, you will have to use it. When you speak it, you will use the left inferior frontal gyrus (Broca’s area) for the motor act of speech. You might also tap into the hippocampus for vocabulary. Your superior temporal gyrus will mediate these functions and help you form sentences rich with meaning.

Learning a Language vs. Learning Chess
Okay, so learning a language is no easy feat, but doable. So why is chess so much harder? The answer is simpler than you might think. While speaking a new language taps into a few skills, chess requires a much wider variety of skills to come together in perfect sync. Like the difference between the sound of an instrument, and that of an orchestra. Chess needs the orchestra. Let’s look at some of the skills that you will need on your path to mastery:

Parts of your brain grow as you learn new skills. How does one’s brain change while learning chess? Let’s find out.

Learning Chess: Visualisation & Calculation
When we calculate a few moves ahead, we need to visualise chess positions. The visual cortex part of your brain is hard at work. Your mind’s eye recreates what your eyes would otherwise do for you. Have you tried playing a game of blindfold chess? It is tough, but it is a required skill. Most masters can do this.

The better you are at visualising, the easier it will be to do everything else. This is because the cognitive load caused by calculation will not be as high, freeing up valuable brain resources for other tasks such as evaluating positions, strategising, etc. This is why famous chess psychologist De Groot noted that strong players no longer see the pieces on the board, but rather the lines of force and pressure that the pieces are exerting on the squares.

Learning Chess: Decision Making
Once you have calculated a few lines, it is time to make a decision. Will you play a prophylactic move or an aggressive move? Will you open the position up and go for the tactical line or play the solid positional line? So many options, so little time! Neuroscientists stipulate that areas like the anterior cingulate cortex, amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, among others, have important roles during decision making. Not much overlap with the brain areas required for visualisation, right? This is a skill in its own right.

Learning Chess: Impulse Control
Grandmaster Alexander Kotov noted that one of the fundamental differences between amateurs and masters is their discipline in thought processes. Do you always look at all you candidate moves? Do you always perform a blunder check? Do you always maintain a disciplined thinking process? Chances are that you do not. This is because this is an entirely separate skill set relying on different parts of your brain.

It is well known by neuroscientists that development of the brain area responsible for impulse control is not normally completed until at least the mid-20s. This is why they have the metaphor, “teenagers are all gas and no brakes”. Their prefrontal cortex is simply not developed enough, and in chess like in life, they might impulsively go for an action (or a variation) without completing their calculations. Of course, it is not only about teenagers, and once fully developed, there may yet be training to do to ensure we are all operating at the best of our abilities.

Learning Chess: Pattern Recognition
Pattern recognition is everywhere in chess, from tactical motifs and common combinations to typical plans and strategies. The more you play, the more your brain builds up its pattern recognition system. A fascinating finding from neuroscience is that your brain starts using the fusiform face area (FFA) to store chess positions! This is the part of the brain usually responsible for human face recognition. How can you tell your mom from a stranger? The FFA is hard at work. In expert chess players, this area doubles as a face recognition system for chess positions. Yet another skill to train up.

The fusiform face brain area helps you tell friend from foe. In chess players, it treats chess positions as faces!Click To Tweet


I hope that in this short(ish) article I have shown how learning chess and playing it well, is an infinitely more complex challenge than learning a new language. It is why some stipulate it may take up to 10 years of practice to attain master status. It is not by chance that many of us have fallen in love with this beautiful game, as what could be sweeter than to master one of the hardest human activities known to us? A game so infinite in possibilities that it is said there are more different chess positions than atoms in the universe.

In my work for Chessable, I am working hard to continue to develop tools that may help us tone down the training required to the tune of a few years instead of 10. This is why we are bringing print chess books to interactive life. Other than our work, technology has generally been improving learning for us anyway. This is perhaps why modern-day grandmasters are getting younger and younger.

I believe this trend of faster learning will definitely continue. It is also 100% possible to pick up the basics of chess and get playing within a few hours. It is also within the realms of achievable to increase your ELO by a very respectable level with a month of practice. However, beating the World Champion? I don’t think so. Unless we get the technology from The Matrix, it is unlikely this will happen in our lifetimes, if ever.

For those of us who practice chess daily though, and with technology constantly improving, the day of your Master status may be closer than you think. Good luck and I wish you success on your journey for improvement.

An Evening of Chess with John Bartholomew (and friends!)

By David Kramaley / On / In Chessable news

First things first, happy thanksgiving everyone!

With the occasion of Chessable’s second birthday, and IM John Bartholomew’s hunt for a GM norm in London, we are organising an awesome evening of chess at the Battersea Chess Club on Wednesday, the 29th of November from 17:00 to 21:30 PM.

This blog post is a reminder for you to RSVP, but also a special update. We now have some really awesome guests coming to take part, and we might just tell you who it is in the next couple of days 😉

The event is FREE to attend, but please RSVP early if you want to be guaranteed to play some chess and have a potential crack at John. And remember,  get your study sessions in and keep your streak up, as we might have a surprise or two in store for those with their activity calendars up to date and streaks on fire.

See you there.