The Woodpecker Method was first described by GM Axel Smith in his groundbreaking training book, Increase your rating. Despite a bit of a clickbait title, this is a top-notch serious training book, covering a wide variety of topics from preparation to tactics, math and more. About the tactic, the author mentions the Woodpecker method, named after the Finnish GM Tikkanen, whose name apparently translates as “small peak”.
The book that started it all
Tikkanen credits him for pulling him out of a rut and helping him get the GM title in a short time. Another player chasing his IM title also had a major leap after adopting it. The promises are big, but above all you need to know: this is serious work and not some silver bullet where chess skill will seep into your brain if you tap your slippers three times. ruby.
Chess Tactics Magic 2
FM Claus Dieter Meyer has put under the microscope a comprehensive fund of topical and timeless games/fragments. In the video, Hamburg’s managing director, Dr. Karsten Müller, outlined the main points of Meyer’s work and created 14 tests plus 10 sets of interactive tests.
The idea is this: you take about 1000 positions in various chess literatures, neither too difficult nor too easy and you have to solve them all. Once this is done, you can take a break (a day, a week, you decide) before doing the same 1000 positions a second time. This time you should strive to solve them all in half the time, or whatever you can manage. Whether or not you remember the solution, you must meticulously play the entire line, and even the alternatives you may have calculated before. Once this process is complete, take a break and…. do it Again!
Eventually, if you can muster the stamina and time, you might want to try to solve all 1000 in a single 24 hour period. Smith says he barely managed to do it, taking just under 23 hours. Yes really.
In both cases, Smith himself and Tikkanen, the problem they faced was actually using a variety of chess tactics books and then referring to the solutions at the end. Even if you assume the solutions are correct, they will often only cover the main line and leave out important things that help confirm the solution. Here is an example:
The main axis of the solution is 1. Qa8+ Kg7 2. Bxe5+ Qxe5 3. Qh8+ Kxh8+ 4. Nxf7+ and is usually the only line found in books that share it. However, a player should first consider why capturing on f7 immediately would not work (this allows perpetual checking).
Also, if you were to believe that a move you found is also good and see no rebuttal, you’ll either have to be content with knowing that it’s not the main line, or… set it up in a chess program and consulting an engine, which can take a lot of time.
Smith comments in their joint follow-up book titled ‘The peak method‘ that one of the tactics books he used for it got so worn out that it fell apart at the seams.
Why Replay Training is Best for the Woodpecker Method
ChessBase 16’s Replay Training feature is extremely well suited for this method, as it not only allows you to test against a large database of tactical positions, but will also give you detailed information on each move you wish to test. It will also help you solve that last problem that can arise: incorrect solutions.
The following pattern is a famous combination that has been passed down from book to book for nearly 100 years:
The solution is 1…Rxf3! 2. Bxf3 Qxf3+!! 3. Kxf3 Nxd4+ 4. Kg4 Bc8+ 5. Kh4 Nf3 comrade. Brilliant, right? Except this is what you see when solving it in Replay Training:
He tells us that we have played the solution move, and he also tells us that it is a blunder costing more than seven pawns. The position has a winner, but it’s 1… Nxd4! The net result is that it saves us from learning wrong analyzes and calculations.
It also means you can experiment with different moves before committing solutions and patterns to memory.
Calculus Training Booster
In this video course, twenty-nine examples with multiple questions are presented in the interactive format, which is ideal for a range of playing strengths. Step by step, you will be guided through the complex positions.
How to train with this combo
The first thing is to have a database of tactics to work with. This can come from a digital product such as one of the many great products in the ChessBase store, or from other sources.
An overview of my personal database of 1000 exercises
Open the first exercise you plan to start with and make sure to click on the Replay Workout tab above the scoring.
Also disable hints. You can request a hint using the Life Saver button.
No matter how many times you’ve looked at the position, whether it’s your first run or your 10th, be sure to meticulously work out the entire solution in your mind. Once the position has been established, press the F11 key on your keyboard. This is the ChessBase shortcut for ‘next game‘ and it will automatically open the next one.
ChessBase will keep score of how correct your solution is, but you might want to consider a spreadsheet to keep track of the number of correct answers and the time you spent in each session. The idea is that you want a benchmark to compare against in terms of improved solutions and overall time required.
I hope you find this guide useful and that you too can apply it with vigor and success.
Video of the Woodpecker method
In the video I illustrate how the method works in practice. In the description of the video you will find a link to the PGN of 1000 exercises that I use.