Chess engines have a place in training, but most masters I’ve talked to prefer to do the work themselves, using programs to check databases and make a quick check of really complicated lines. The goal is to raise their understanding and most think this can’t be achieved by fiddling around with engines all the time. Improvement is achieved through hard, meaningful work. Chess is about understanding.
Obviously there are a variety of ways to use computers but how do GMs utilize them? For GMs, games databases are high on the list. As for opening preparation, most GMs believe deep opening preparation can wait until a player is around 2200-2300.
Engines are excellent and efficient tactical training tools. Even so, most GMs recommend staying away from chess engines until reaching an advanced level. The reason is that the use of chess engines for the beginner to average player is a waste of time. Why is this? Simple. Most players can’t resist the urge to race through whatever material they are studying without actually comprehending anything.
Irina Mikhailova, a GM trainer at the Petrosian Chess Club in Moscow has pretty well defined what it takes to become a master and therefore, what things one must study to get there.
1-The 2200 level a player must have a good opening repertoire which includes 2 openings as White and 2 defenses as Black.
2-Tactics: a 60-70 per cent of a success rate solving problems of intermediate difficulty
3-a firm knowledge of the basics of chess strategy. Strategy includes how a position's evaluation is developed and what are its components. This includes: familiarization with about 15-25 common plans from classic examples.
4- typical endings: evaluation, plan of play and standard tactical methods for approximately 250 endgame positions.
Mikhailova also states that it is necessary to acquire the skills of working with a computer and with chess software at this level (i.e.2200).
There you have it. Use your set and board, buy a bunch of notebooks, some opening books, tactics books, strategy books and endgame books, then devise a study plan that covers all phases of the game.
USCF Senior Master Mark Buckley said it best. When he got serious about studying, his goal was to become an all around player.
Sounds like a plan.