In my last post I stated my doubts about the effectiveness of the last circles of Michael de la Maza's program. It is however unfair to criticize without offering an alternative. Therefor I will make some suggestions to improve on Michaels program. These suggestions are based on my assumption that the three phases (learning, training and memorising) each have their own characteristics and function, and that the program can be optimized by incorporating them.
When I worked through the TASC-CHESS CD 2, I used the following method. In the first circle I completely worked through all the lessons and all the exercises (starting at step 2). Each lesson is followed up by an number of sets of 10 positions that have to be solved. As soon as I had completed a step, I would repeat only the sets in which I scored less than 100%. I would repeat this until I scored 100% in every set. Also I would pause every time I didn't solve a position and ask myself: why did I miss that? Didn't I know that pattern? Was there to much fuss/noise that distracted me? Was the solution beyond my horizon of visualisation? I really put in some quality time to make sure I was learning.
By concentrating the next circles on sets with positions missed, I avoided spending to much time on tasks already accomplished. So the second (and if necessary the third and the fourth circle were all about training. When I moved up to the third step, I used the same method. After completing step 3 I would go back to step two and do the mixed (not sorted on theme) sets of exercises of step 2. This way I made sure I had really mastered this step, and memorised the patterns. After completing step 4 I went back to the mixed exercises of step 3 and so on.
I am convinced that this method is more efficient than Michael de la Maza's approach. It does not throw away the strong elements he introduced though. Just like him I use repetition to store the patterns in my memorie. I also make sure that the amount of time used for repetition decreases.
But unlike him I avoid repeating a truckload full of exercises six times, that don't give me any problems any more. Neither do I bring myself in a situation in which I am forced to memorise positions, just to be able to spit out an 'solution' of 9 or more ply within 30 seconds. I am convinced that by focusing on the positions unsolved, quantity is exchanged for quality. This way you will gain more at lower costs.