Here's a question:
When doing tactical exercises, how many of you actually bother to set it up on the board? Or do you solve them straight out of the book?
I admit that I am one the laziest people on this planet. When I do tactical exercises, I use Chessbase/Fritz's 3D board setup to setup the position and then try to solve it from there on the screen.
Okay, I admit that it's not ideal, I don't get a true graphical representation and my hand doesn't touch the pieces.
From the various advice in Daniel King Powerplay DVDs to Arthur Yusupov's Boost Your Chess book series, many chess authors and trainers have recommended doing it over the board.
The basic premise is that by physically moving the pieces, your mind connects the events and this adds as a self-reinforcement tool so that you can better remember the lesson learned.
The problem herein is that when trying to solve 5 tactical exercises, you need to setup the position 5 times. Setting up a board is no easy feat, you spend at least a few minutes just to setup the board. And then once you figured out the tactical puzzle, you replay the solution and this involves going back to the initial board position at the beginning over and over again as you run through the variations.
Some others have recommended setting up 2 boards, one to do the analysis and the other to act as a "variation" board to work through the different variations.
At this point, doing 1 puzzle can easily take as long as 10 minutes in terms of just running through the pieces, if not more. Try it for another 4 puzzles and suddenly, the task becomes extra onerous and you seemed to spend more time setting up the board than doing the tactical puzzles.
By putting the position inside Chessbase/Fritz and seeing it in 3D, I can run through the variations pretty quickly (true the 3D is nowhere near photorealistic as an actual board) with the touch of a mouse click (okay, several mouse clicks).
The point is: how well has my memory recalled the position by doing tactical puzzles this way?
In my case, surprisingly, not too bad. I find that I'm still able to recall certain puzzles once I recognise the formation/pattern and the solution to them but not all. However, if I were to redo the puzzles again and again, I find that the memory of the position somehow got "stuck" in my mind. Run it through 2-3 more times a few weeks later and it becomes embedded somewhere between medium-term and long-term memory.
True, none of us can be a Magnus Carlsen or Alexei Shirov where these GMs don't need to physically see the board to calculate variations so until we are all super GMs, what other recourse is there for us?
So what is your method of doing tactical studies? :)