Chess grandmasters practice their craft in a way that is more applicable in their level, such as filling some gaps in knowledge, doing quick chess puzzles, updating opening repertoire, consulting engines, and debating/analyzing top games.
Being a grand master is the pinnacle of chess success that takes years of effort and experience. Therefore it is always interesting to discuss how they practice their game.
Many grandmaser have gained some unique studying practice that is different from someone just starting to learn. This is a good mine for someone that is only starting to establish their training routine.
Take note that I am not a grandmaster nor do such people openly express the way they study, but is just a pattern I’ve seen from watching tons of interview from such players.
I could miss a whole lots of work ethic that these people apply since it is so vaguely documented.
Here are the ways chess grandmasters study/practice their skills:
1.) Focused Training
Most people that are just starting to learn have yet to found a proper way to systematize their efforts making them indulge in things that don’t give much progress.
Chess grandmasters learn a specific type of concept at a specific time, usually the area they lack that needs attention.
Understanding various things all of once seems to be not a productive as a focused learning, based from interviews that I’ve watched.
2.) Doing fast chess
There’s been a lot of noise saying that faster time formats are detrimental to a player which is true to some extent.
But chess grandmasters don’t usually rely on fast just (blitz/bullet) as their main source of practice, rather just a supplement.
This kind of time control prompts intuition and quick thinking which is useful for conditioning (when in time trouble).
3.) Crushing chess puzzles
Another thing that is not applicable to all chess levels which is doing a lot of chess rushes/puzzles.
These things are great since they are fast-paced game mode that doesn’t require a lot of time, plus they significantly focus on tactical play.
It is questionable though to how extent these expert goes in using this but some tell that it is part of their daily routine.
4.) Absorbing the best chess resources
Also the thing that separates the one that gets ahead from the one who not, which is having access to a great resource.
Grandmasters have a rigorous practice routine. Given that there is not much money in being a regular grandmaster, they need to do their best in becoming a super grandmaster.
Whether it’s a strong chess engine, chess book, or chess course, you bet a grandmaster will have access to these materials.
Knowledge is power in this industry, and everybody wants to keep their skill set in check as much as possible.
5.) Filling gaps in knowledge
Even grandmasters have things that they’ve not focused on enough which they constantly work every day to eliminate.
Maybe it’s playing in a specific ending, opening, or a checkmate pattern, whatever it is.
Such experts are consistently identifying their weaknesses and taking action to reinforce them.
6.) Polishing opening preparations
Openings play a crucial role in the level at which grandmasters reside so they really invest time in preparing it.
With the competition being more competitive, getting a win requires more skill. This is why grandmasters need to practice a lot of chess openings, chess players are just getting stronger on average.
Whether it’s an opening that will be used in a specific tournament/match these people usually plan ahead in time.
They workout different variations for multiple responses and try to understand recurring themes that could become useful.
7.) Updating opening repertoire
Theoretical chess (openings) gets debunked and polished with time, and keeping in the know is extremely important to remain competitive.
As such updating opening knowledge and eliminating outdated ones has become a task that needs to be fulfilled.
This can become a result of participating in the analysis of other player’s games that demonstrates the change in general opinions.
Nothing excites jaded Grandmasters more than a theoretical novelty— Dominic Lawson
8.) Targeting opening plays
High level chess is a field where certain openings work better in different types of people and turned into an important recipe.
And so targeting a specific person to play a specific opening with has become a common practice.
They analyzed a player’s historical games beforehand and try to make interpretations on the best approach to be made.
9.) Using engines to create lines
Engines have become so powerful that almost no human can compete within the same level.
In fact, most theoretical lines are being revamped constantly by such computers so grandmasters also make use of them.
They record and input some of their inspired lines hoping to incorporate it to their preparations.
10.) Working chess with other players
Chess repertoire has become too detailed where a single individual just can’t memorize everything, even grandmasters.
Thus, collaborating with certain players that have a specialty in a particular area becomes the norm.
In fact, some grandmasters even hire chess seconds to specifically perform tasks that they lack expertise with.
11.) Playing against stronger players
This is the reason why these people have become so strong, primarily because they compete in a field of strong players.
This allows them to identify the things they need to accomplish in order to win making them more equipped to handling difficult situations.
As such these people are constantly trying to pit themselves against someone superior in order to get stronger.
12.) Going online chess (not for practice but for playing against stronger opponents)
There’s a lot of danger in playing online such as cases of cheating and a weaker competition.
However it is very convenient in a way that it allows accessibility to any stronger opponent in whatever part of the globe.
This accessibility makes grandmasters cater to online play much more frequently than before in order to face other people.
13.) Participating in tournaments
This is a trademark of a grandmaster, all practice and study are preparation for some kind of tournament.
Frankly this is the reason why they become so strong molded by the harsh environment of the tourneys.
So they jump from tournament to tournament learning every aspect they can along the way.
14.) Watching top games
As most people do they also observe some games from the top elite class of the chess world, although for a different purpose.
They watch games in order to catch some interesting concepts they could apply or learn.
It is not for entertainment, rather it’s for educational and conditioning process involved in being a grandmaster.
15.) Debating/analyzing games
If you have spent any time in any chess online, then you must have seen the amount of debate in almost every top game.
Especially among title players (and grandmaster) who all have something to say about their expertise.
These discussions usually lead to more novelties that could be implemented in the future.
16.) Working with Chess databases
I have seen an interview from Pentala Harikrishna (top grandmaster) stating that his daily routine involves chess databases.
These are collections of prominent games that are being played everyday and where it is analyzed.
Grandmasters always seek to learn something new with other people’s games, which chess databases provide.
17.) Physical conditioning
This might come as a surprise for some people, but top players actually have some physical conditioning in place.
Tournaments last for long hours even almost half a day which is very exhausting without some physical and mental endurance.
So a part of the daily practice in chess is to attain a body that could properly play chess.
18.) Working over and over again
Most people who investigate these kinds of stories are looking for the “silver bullet” that could propel their progress instantly.
This simply doesn’t exist, grandmasters are still following a lot of practices they have before becoming who they are.
They just do it at a different rate with more self-commitment and effort, pure hard work and dedication.
Learning chess vary largely depending on the stage a player is currently at.
These kinds of practices however give us an insight into the things that can perhaps apply to us more conveniently.
We shouldn’t do everything though, since there might be activities that are more useful in your current level (learning basic endgames over openings).
I hope this helps you, sleep well and play chess.