How to Get Better at Chess

Updated on June 24, 2020
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Ben has been a geek all of his life, and as such, his expertise tends to fall into gaming and technology.

As you undoubtedly already know, chess is a two-player board game played on an 8 x 8 square board. The rules are simple, but depending on the opponent, the game can be extremely challenging. The simplicity of the rules is what made this game popular throughout the centuries.

What you probably didn’t know is that the game is believed to originate from the Indian game Chaturanga. It was first known from the Gupta Empire somewhere around the 6th century. A century later, it was adopted in Sassanid, Persia and was later brought to medieval Europe.

There is only one way to win the chess game, and it’s by performing a checkmate. However, there are unlimited ways to do that. There are also some well-known patterns that famous chess players often use, and you can apply them in your game, too.

In this article, we will talk about how you can get better at chess. We will discuss different openings, patterns, and practices, so be sure to read the whole article to get all the information you need. Without further ado, let's get right into it.

Solve Tactics Every Day

This is the first thing that should be mentioned, and one of the most essential things about improving your game. As with every other thing in our lives, constant practice is what leads to perfection. However, there are a few things that you should have in mind while working on tactics.

At first, don’t spend the whole training session on solving tactics. It’s enough to spend between 15 to 20 minutes a day, but do it almost every day.

Another thing to pay attention to is how hard the tactics are. If you need half an hour to solve a problem, then it’s too hard for you. You should spend less than 3 minutes on a single problem, solve it, and move on to the next one. That way, you will be able to solve between 7 and 10 tactics a day. It might not seem a lot, but it’s almost 3,500 per year!

So, if you solve hard ones, you will lose time, and it won’t be effective. Think about it as a gym - you can’t lift heavy weights immediately. Instead, you have to build your way up to the heavier ones and progress over time. Lifting too heavy will leave you exhausted and will only cause harm to your muscles. It’s the same when it comes to developing certain parts of your brain, for example, the ones used when playing chess.

Analyze Your Losses

Most people tend to concentrate only on winning. However, until you become a good player, you will lose tons of games. In fact, you won’t become a good player if you don’t analyze the lost ones. It allows you to see where you have mistaken so that you can improve it in the next game. Improving yourself is, of course, the most important part of becoming better at anything.

It’s even easier if you play chess online. Most websites allow you to undo your moves after the game is over, so you can notice the moment when it all went wrong.

Play Competitive Chess

Playing chess online is good for analyzing your moves, and you should definitely play online now and then. However, playing online can’t be compared to playing on-board, face-to-face chess. You can always play online for fun, but don’t underestimate the power of playing with a real person on a real board.

Also, don’t play with the same people all the time. You have to challenge yourself. You have to play with people who are a level above you, but slightly above. Playing with weak opponents won’t make you progress, and neither will playing with much better ones. Always play with different people who are just slightly better at chess than you are.

Use Technology, But Use It Wisely

Most people make a huge mistake when it comes to technology. But what is it all about? The fact is that modern technology is amazing, and this is no exception when it comes to chess technology. People have developed software that can literally beat World Champions at ease. Those programs store information about millions of chess games, even those played back in the 1200s.

Basically, those programs can analyze games for you and tell you all the right moves and the possible mistakes - and that’s the problem. Instead of analyzing your lost games on your own, it feels much easier to use software instead. It’s much simpler and much faster, but it doesn’t actually develop your chess skills.

The fact is that players usually get “addicted” to these programs. However, when you analyze the game yourself, you actually develop a particular way of thinking when it comes to a chess game. For example, you can tell your child a hundred times not to touch the hot plate, and they won’t listen. However, once the child burns their hand, they will realize where their “mistake” was. It’s very similar when it comes to chess.

Follow the 20/40/40 Rule

It is very common that chess players, especially beginners, focus all of their training only on one aspect of the game. Some of them don’t even think about different aspects, but rather just play chess as much as they can.

Chess game has three “parts”, which are the opening, the middlegame, and the endgame. Each of these three parts is equally important. Basically, you should focus 20% of your training on the opening, 40% on the midgame, and 40% on the endgame. Of course, if you lack skills at some of these aspects, you can dedicate it a bit more time.

Get a Chess Mentor

Getting a mentor can significantly speed up the process of improving your chess skills. However, keep in mind that a chess mentor is not a chess coach. A mentor is simply a person that you can talk to about your chess. For example, you can talk to him or her about the specific difficulties that you have when it comes to chess. Of course, it’s advised that your mentor is a more experienced person than you are.

Study Games Played by Grand Masters

Grand Master is a title that chess players get awarded by the World Chess Organization. It’s the highest title a chess player can get, besides being a World Champion. By studying their games, you can learn many moves and tactics that you would never discover yourself.

When studying their games, at first you should try to understand why certain moves were played. You need to put yourself in the position of one of the two players who played the game. Then, think about what you would have played. If you make your brain work while going over those incredible Grand Master games, it will work the same when you play your own game.

Learn the Values of the Pieces

Obviously, not every piece is worth the same. A common rule says that the pawn is worth 1 point. Then, Knights and Bishops are worth 3 points, and a Rook is worth 4 points. In the end, a Queen is worth 9 points. However, this is more like a rule of a thumb, and kind of a guideline.

The fact is, you shouldn’t lose pieces because of poor planning. Of course, sometimes, it is useful to make a sacrifice, but bad planning can put you in a bad position in a matter of a single turn.

Also, note that you should always develop Bishops and Knights. Usually, pawns are overused, and if you move too many pawns, the King will be unprotected. Also, if you move all the pawns, your opponent can simply move the bishop through the pawn structure and reach the king with ease.

You should also learn about powerful and weak pawn structures. At first, let’s talk about a powerful one. It includes the Outside Pawn, the Passed Pawn, and the Protected Passed Pawn. The first one will lure the opponent’s king to the other side, allowing your pawns to advance on the side where the king was. A Passed Pawn should be pushed, or even better, must be pushed.

The third one is actually a Passed Pawn protected by another pawn. It takes a bit more time but forces the enemy to defend against as pawns advance continually. You can always find good examples of these three pawns online.

Now let’s talk a bit about weak pawn structures. At first, you should never (or almost never) have double pawns. The problem is that they can’t defend, so they become very vulnerable. Also, isolated pawns are weak and should be defended by another piece, or you will lose them in vain.

Note that backward pawns are also very weak, and are subject to attack by opponent’s rooks. In the end, you should know that rook and pawn endings are pretty hard and complicated, and you should do your best to avoid them.

The Blindfold Chess App

There are many Blindfold Chess Apps that you can download on your mobile device. They train you to keep the whole table memorized in your head constantly. That way, you can focus on more parts of the table, and not only on the figure that you want to play with. If you ever experienced losing a piece only because you didn’t notice that it’s under attack, you are not alone. It happens to everybody, especially beginner players.

These apps will improve your blindfold thinking by solving specific chess puzzles without any diagrams. You have to listen to puzzle descriptions and then try to find the best move. The best part is, you can even train while walking or jogging!

Noticing Patterns in Your Moves

This is a very useful rule. You might notice that you win most of your games the same way. That’s where online chess becomes important since it allows you to take a look at all of your moves. It’s not rare that players often win the game by using the same pattern, but they are not sure why that happens. You should thoughtfully examine those moves and try to improve them even more.

Learn the Basic Endgame Moves

In the end, you should definitely learn the basic endgame moves. For example, most players don’t think too much about their King. However, it can be a powerful piece that blocks and attacks enemy pawns, which can be very useful when the end is near. Also, Pawns, Bishops, and Rooks become very useful later in the game, so you should do your best to keep them on the table. Losing them in the early stage might significantly affect the game outcome.

You should also know that many games with all the pawns on one side end in a draw. The fact is that the player with fewer pawns will usually exchange them and sacrifice a Bishop or a Knight. If you are left only with a Bishop and a Knight, you can’t force your opponent.

Another great thing to know is that in the endgame, the player who moves Queen to the center usually dominates the game. Of course, the Queen is the most important figure, so losing that piece at the beginning will most probably lead to your loss. Keep that in mind!

In the End

So, we have come to an end. When it comes to how to get better at chess, you should be sure to embed all the rules that we mentioned in every single game that you play. Also, never stop practicing. You may take a day or two off, now and then, but make sure that you practice at least four to five days a week. As with anything else, practice makes perfect.

With the various different moves available in the game of chess, you need to keep practicing to allow for as many situations as possible. We are sure that these tips that we have gone through will help you a lot in becoming a much better chess player. Good luck!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Ben Martin

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