The Woodpecker Method

We have sent off the Woodpecker method to the printer on Wednesday. We have to unscramble our brains and work out what that means regarding the publication date, especially after a personal change with our printer, meaning some things have to be relearned there. But it is coming and it is coming soon. The final page count is 392 pages, but as you should go through it many times, by design, it is much more than this!

55 thoughts on “The Woodpecker Method”



    Can you please tell us what kind of potions for solving will be in the book, and how many of them.

  2. Exercises are split into three sections: Easy (222); Intermediate (762); Advanced (144) for a total of 1,128 test positions.

    Readers are instructed to start from the beginning and solve an appropriate number of exercises (the authors explain how to determine what number is right for you), before repeating the cycle a number of times. If it works as planned, you will finish the process a far better tactician than when you started.

  3. I would love if there was a potion that improves your tactics! As it is, consistent work is sadly needed :-). But we all have auto-correct on our phones of course ;-).

  4. CK :
    Excellent, will this be available on ForwardChess sooner than a week before publishing?

    No, it will be on Forward Chess just one week before our Woodpecker hardcovers arrive at the chess shops on August 1. So 25th July on Forward Chess.


    It certainly would be beneficial to have woodpecker method also on:

    – key strategic/positional positions

    – key endgame positions

    So lets call tactics a volume 1 🙂

  6. Chessable would be a perfect platform for this type of book! Have you guys considered selling your books on that site? thanks for all your hard work!

  7. Is the main point of this new book well-selected positions for drilling, or will the method also be fleshed out in more detail? I was wondering if there really is much more to say about it than what’s already in “Pump …”(which is a great book). Some discussion of why we shouldn’t just use the similar but scientifically derived method of “spaced repetition” would be useful.

    Maybe you could consider using the Woodpecker Method with the puzzles in other QC books, for example Positional Play?

    I did the Woodpecker Method with the puzzles in Positional Play and just the orange books of the Yusupov series over the last couple of years, and it resulted in an ECF grade jump of approx. 15-20 points (after having a stable grade for approx. 5 years).

  9. That said, it still would be great to have a Woodpecker Method vols. 2 & 3 with positional/strategic and endgame puzzles!

  10. What is the relationship between Quality Chess Puzzle Book and The Woodpecker Method … ? Which book should be done first … ? Or it doesn’t matter, these two books can be done in any order … ? Thanks …

  11. Jacob Aagaard

    We have kept the same prices on our books for about 14 years. Learn from the Legends was €25.99 in 2004. We have decided to increase our pperback prices to €27.99, which is still cheaper than NIC, Thinkers and Gambit. The hardcover edition comes first, yes not Amazon or other discount shops before we publish the paperback edition. This is in everyone’s long term interest. Without the specialist there is no chess books.

  12. On the formatting side – I see that most QualityChess books have coordinates on the diagrams. Given that most QC books are for advanced readers – do most people still find coordinates helpful? Or is that just the way things are laid out in your Indesign documents/publishing system?

  13. Dear Jacob,

    Could you tell us what is the relationship between Quality Chess Puzzle Book and The Woodpecker Method … ? Which book should be worked first … ? Or it doesn’t matter, these two books can be done in any order … ?


  14. Tom Tidom :
    Is it a coincidence that all books (co-)authored by Axel Smith have a cover with a yellow background?

    With Axel’s first book, Pump Up Your Rating, we went for bright colours but we had no special reason for choosing those colours other than we liked how the cover looked. But since Pump sold well and received a lot of praise from readers and reviewers, it seemed logical to keep the same colour scheme for e3 Poison and Woodpecker to make the most of the positive associations with Axel’s previous work. Hopefully anyone browsing a chess shop or bookstall will know from the colours alone that this is an Axel Smith book and therefore something worth checking out.

  15. It would have been much better to have Black at the bottom in positions with Black to move. Do you expect that all players will be setting up 1000 positions several times on the board? LOL

  16. @Egis
    This is similar to the argument that we should have black at the bottom of diagrams in black repertoire books. We understand that some people would prefer it that way, but we have our house style and for diagrams this means white stays on the bottom side. It shouldn’t matter anyway, as this type of training is just as much about being able to spot ideas for the opponent as for yourself.

  17. Also I should add that the question of whether to solve from the book or using a board and pieces is an important topic in itself, and the authors discuss the pros and cons of each approach in some detail in their introduction. For some people, a combination of the two may well be best.

  18. @Egis
    The Forward Chess version of the book allows you to swap the colours of a diagram. If I am not mistaken. Personally, I prefer electronic versions for puzzle books, I find it easier to handle.

  19. I always solve from White’s side even when it is Black to move. My rationale is gives me practice analyzing the the other person’s threats.

  20. Andrew Greet :

    Then some White to move positions shall be reversed too :))

    After reading the excerpt – what was the original book Alex and Hans were using in their training? Was it mentioned in Pump…?

    Thnx for mentioning the e-version. Personally I prefer real books, though will suggest to others for convenience.

  21. @Andrew Greet

    Maybe but i think there is a bias when you always solve positions with white at the bottom side of the board : it makes the process harder/slower with the other side !

  22. @Pinpon
    there is an excellent puzzle book by Blokh where each position can be solve from white and from black side with white on bottom of diagrams. It is a good way to train on tactics for you .. and also spot tactics for your opponent

  23. Dear Jacob and Andrew,

    Is there any chance that QC will publish an updated version of Accelerated Dragon by Dr. Greet … ? It was a good book 10 years ago … Could you please update it and even make it a grandmaster repertoire … ?


  24. @Leaf
    Thanks for the kind words. But no, there will be no update of this book. Among other reasons, I haven’t played the Accelerated Dragon for many years so there are better things I could write about, if I was inclined to write another book.

  25. Egis :

    Andrew Greet :

    Then some White to move positions shall be reversed too :))
    After reading the excerpt – what was the original book Alex and Hans were using in their training? Was it mentioned in Pump…?

    Personally I would always start by setting up each position, unless I spot the solution within a few seconds; either way, the orientation of the diagram made no difference. Once a few solving cycles have been completed, the benefit of memory will make solving easier and quicker in subsequent cycles, regardless of which colour is on this or that side of diagrams.

    And no the authors didn’t mention which books they used; I think it was a deliberate decision, as the actual choice of books was less important than the method itself. Personally, I have attempted some Woodpecker-style training before the 2014 and 2016 Olympiads, but mistimed it such that I only got through two to three cycles of solving. I still felt some benefit though. In 2014 I used Chess Tactics From Scratch and in 2016 I used Tactimania. But any similar exercises books would have been fine.

  26. Andrew Greet :
    In 2014 I used Chess Tactics From Scratch and in 2016 I used Tactimania. But any similar exercises books would have been fine.

    Interesting. Many would think these tactics books too easy for an IM. But I do the same thing myself sometimes, solving tactics sets that are supposed to be too easy for me, but then the goal changes from merely solving to speed: Seeing the solutions as fast as possible. There is a lot of practical value in being able to spot easy tactics instantly. Or any kind of pattern, not just tactics. It frees up time for deeper thinking and the really difficult decisions.

  27. Hi everyone,
    i doing the woodpecker method, should one write the solutions ( to compare them with the one on the book) only on the first circle of solving, or i should keep writing the solutions?

  28. @Stigma
    Yes exactly – it would be a mistake to think of those books as not being suitable for players above a certain rating. My percentage score was pretty high (especially beyond the first cycle) but there were some exercises which I got wrong, and others which took me several minutes to solve correctly. But in general, one of the key elements of Woodpecker training is that most of the exercises should not be too difficult. Hans and Axel talk more about this in their introduction of course.

  29. Juan Martinez

    First- Congratulations for the quality of the books. Is a good think that the quality in the name is a real aim of the publisher and not a commercial trick.

    Second- I read the same idea of the woodpecker book in a other book “Rapid Chess Improvement” by the la Maza. It’s obvius that the Woodpecker book is not a copy because is a original work that contains a selection of problems by good trainings and is an improvement and refinement over the other method. However I think that the la Maza deserves some chess recognition for his ideas.

  30. Hi. As a chess lover I’m looking for new videos of chess, so maybe I could embed the videos from your channel into Topchessvideos: a website where I pretend to collect not only great games (old and new) but especially content from real enthusiasts of the game, and having a blog and a youtube channel, I see you’re one of them!. Thanks in advance for your time 🙂

  31. I’m glad there’s a discussion as to whether to set up the positions on a board or not.

    I will pass on one tip to use with physical books. If you don’t want to get a board out and are solving from the black side you can always turn the book upside down. It doesn’t take very long to get used to the pieces being the wrong way up.

  32. 392 pages – Expected Publication (hardcover) 25 July 2018

    Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-78483-055-7

    25th is getting nearer 🙂

  33. fernando semprun

    @RYV I did Chess tactics from Scratch (a.o.) , 2nd edition of course (which has 300 exercises). Did it 5 times and thought they were too many, just found out that it is seven times…

  34. Hi,

    Just started easy section of Woodpecker system and noticed that puzzle 11 has an error. It says at page 33 it’s from Steinitz – Meitner, Vienna 1882 but answer at page 224 gives

    11. George Mackenzie – Wilhelm Steinitz, Vienna 1882 34.¥e4! The only drawing move, and easy to find, as Black’s mate threat means White has no other sensible try. 34.¦g1?? loses to everything, but is mated most swiftly by 34…£xg2†!. 34…£xe4 Obviously not 34…¦xe4?? 35.£f8 mate. 35.¥f6† ¥xf6 36.£xf6†  ½–½ White has a perpetual on f6 and f7.

    Anyway no biggie. Gave myself 2pts for getting first move correct game can be found here


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top