How to get better at Chess

Improving in chess is hard work. There are no tricks or shortcuts to getting better, you have to put in the hours to improve. However there are many different ways to get to the master level, and also many things you can do to waste your time. Here are some of our main tips on how to get better at chess.

1. Play lots of games with long time controls

Like in anything else in life, the best way to learn something is by doing it, a lot. Try to play as many chess games as you can. Play online, on your phone, join a local club, or challenge your colleague to a match on your lunch break.

Most chess players play mostly blitz and bullet online but this is definitely not the best way to learn. In blitz (and especially in bullet) you are never really able to spend enough time to calculate important positions and you will make lots of mistakes. Try to play with longer time controls, preferably with at least 10 minutes for both players, but even better with 15 or 20 minutes for each.

2. Analyse your games

After each game you play, remember to analyse it thoroughly. Go through the game on a real board if you can. Try to understand what mistakes you made during the game, what moves resulted in your advantage or disadvantage and what could’ve been done better. Analysing your games is the most important thing to get better at chess.

3. Analyse your games again with an engine

After you’ve spent some time analysing your game, go through it again with an engine. It’s better to try to analyse your game first without an engine since this way you can try to find the answers yourself first. Afterwards, you can have a look through the game again with an engine to see if you missed something crucial.

4. Study master games

Learning from the best is an effective way to get better at anything and it’s also true for chess. Going through games of the best players in the world can seem overwhelming at first. You might not understand or foresee the moves in the beginning, but don’t give up! Well analysed games can be truly magical when they open up to you. One good way to get into this habit is to follow the current top tournaments live. High-level chess tournaments are played around wht world constantly and many of them are streamed online by other high-level players and these events are a great learning opportunity. For example streams most of the top tournaments live.

For example, My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer is an absolute classic and contains many great matches.

5. Study endgames

Even if you manage to get a winning advantage in the middle game, if you don’t know how to win your endgames, you won’t be leaving the board as a winner. Learning the basic endgames is the bread and butter of playing chess and it will make your life a lot easier. Start by learning the basic checkmating patterns with King+Queen vs. King and King+Rook vs. King Move onto basic pawn endgames and understand what an opposition means in chess. From there on you’ll have many different directions to go, there is a lot to learn in chess endgames.

If you are looking for a good book to get started with chess endgames, Silman’s Complete Endgame Course: From Beginner to Master is a great starting point.

6. Don’t memorize openings

..but try to understand the basic ideas. Many beginning chess players spend too much time reading chess opening books and memorising moves. The problem with this is that the moment your opponent plays an unknown move (which will happen quite soon when you play against other beginners) you are out of theory and if you don’t understand the opening, you might be in trouble. Instead, try to understand the ideas behind the openings and follow the basic principles in any chess opening: fight for the centre, develop your pieces, secure your king, don’t attack with your queen first etc.

7. Solve chess puzzles

Improving your tactics skills in chess is probably the fastest way to improve your level in chess. There are many good ways to do this as most chess servers offer their own chess puzzles. However if you just want to focus on puzzles, ChessTempo is the place to go. Set yourself a goal of solving as many puzzles as you can with a daily/weekly/monthly goal. Use a physical board if you get stuck and try as hard as you can to solve the puzzles before giving up.

If you prefer to solve puzzles from a book, Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games is an excellent choice and will last you a long time.

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