Michael De La Maza is a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. In his thesis, submitted on May 23,1997 to the MIT, he developed the "together structure idea" and demonstrated the value of this idea using illustrations from chess. He began playing chess competitively in July 1999, and by July 2001 had improved such that his provisional chess rating had risen from 1164, beginner level, to 2041, expert level. In his last tournament he won the Under 2000 section of the World Open the reward was 10 000 dollar and has not played a rated game since. After the tournament, he wrote a two-part article entitled 400 points in 400 days for the Chess Cafe web site, which became the basis for the book Rapid Chess Improvement (ISBN 1-85744-269-5). The article and book are about his methods of improvement, which involves working through a large set of chess puzzles multiple times until they can be solved very quickly. This book and its lessons have generated much interest among improving chess players. An interwoven group of blogs dedicated to using his method have dubbed themselves The Knights Errant.

There are many critics of De La Maza's training methods and of his harsh criticism of chess teachers that emphasize positional concepts. For instance, his method involves focusing exclusively on tactics, with little attention paid to strategy, openings, or the endgame. Some (e.g., Jeremy Silman, see below) have argued that this leads to an overly narrow view of chess.

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