"The last two circles require special dedication. If you are doing 1000 problems then you will be averaging 500 per day in the 2-day circle. At a rate of 30 seconds per problem, you will spend 4 hours and 10 minutes doing tactics problems on each of these two days. In the 1-day circle you will spend 8 hours and 20 minutes doing tactics problems.
Although these last three days are likely to be painful, do not skimp. They are a critical part of the Seven Circles training. You may feel faint, nauseous, and sick. Blood may start dripping from your forehead. But if you have the courage to push on, you will be rewarded with a greatly enlarged tactical muscle that will leave your opponents in the dust."
If this sounds familiar you probably have read Michael de la Maza's second article in which he explains his program. Although I greatly admire the knights who have followed Michaels example, and have finished the last two circles, I do have my doubts if they have done themselves a favour.
I fail to see how anyone will benefit from solving chess exercises for the seventh time, especially when it involves "solving"puzzles of great complexity within 30 seconds.
There is however no doubt in my mind about the usefulness of following the first cycle, as well as the use of repeating them a few times. For most players the first cycle will be all about learning. They will be confronted with a lot of tactical patterns that they have never seen before.
After this first round the second circle is a bit more more about training and not as much about learning as the first circle. Training is not the same as learning. Learning is getting acquainted with new knowledge. In training the pupil is confronted with tasks which he has not yet accomplished, but is not longer quite incapable of accomplishing. Having seen all the exercises and their solutions in the first cycle, we can expect the pupil to do a lot better than in the first cycle, because he has acquired knowledge (patterns) that enables him to solve problems he couldn't in the first cycle.
In the third cycle an element is added. Besides learning (which still happens because he now has a foundation to grasp the more difficult exercises) and training (the solving of exercises missed in the first cycle) he is also memorising. The repetition of familiar exercises will be stored in his long term memory. Gradually it will be less and less about learning and training and more and more about memorising. But enhanced by the decreasing time the pupil has to solve the puzzles, the memorising of patterns is taken over by the memorising of positions. In this phase the circles do not contribute anything to your skills anymore and may even be harm full. The speed that is required to solve 1.000 puzzles in a day can make you believe that finding and calculating complex combinations in a game, is something that can be done in less than a minute.
This kind of dedication, as Michael calls it, may well take all the fun out of chess training. It may easily convince you that training is completely useless, incredibly boring as well as hopelessly time consuming. Those who have followed Michael all the way may well have walked through the killing fields of chess training.