How to get better at chess?
- Play the right chess openings and follow key opening principles.
- Solve chess puzzles regularly in order to improve your recognition of tactical patterns.
- Get playing experience by challenging stronger opponents.
- Analyze your own games by using your brain, not the computer.
- Stay physically fit to perform well in long games.
If you’re reading this article, chances are that you’d like to get better at chess. Are you a beginner at chess and want to improve your skills? Have you dived into the wide world of chess, but aren’t sure how to win against your opponents? Have you played some tournaments without enjoying satisfying results?
We hope to have a solution for you in this article. You will see that in order to become a better player, far more is needed than just sitting in front of books for hours or learning certain patterns by heart.
Many beginners make the mistake of thinking that imitating grandmasters or memorizing their moves, even without understanding them, is the key to success. However, those things alone do not really help you to improve at all!
Let’s look at some ideas about playing good chess so you can achieve your goals more simply.
How To Get Better At Chess – Chess Tip #1: Openings and Endgames
Never simply memorize moves when learning openings! It’s a waste of time. Just as with plenty of things in life, learning by heart does not always lead to special results!
If you need to learn fractional arithmetic in maths, it does not make sense to memorize the steps simply to get to the solution without understanding what you’re actually doing. In chess, it is no different.
A good illustration of what can go wrong if you just memorize a set of opening moves without understanding what you’re doing is the Siberian Trap in the Morra Gambit.
Black can play for this opening trap if White plays his opening moves on autopilot.
A beginner should learn the basic principles for the opening instead of studying all of them extensively. Such preparation can be useful before a game during a tournament, but do not focus exclusively on that!
Understanding essential principles such as developing all your pieces, putting your king into safety, and trying to control the center, is the most important issue about training openings.
Furthermore, most people do not have enough time to deal with this time-consuming activity of studying chess openings accurately. Busy people who must work or go to school should concentrate on just a few openings.
It’s better to be an expert in a few areas than to have only a smattering of knowledge in various fields.
Endgames, on the other hand, must be usually played very precisely. One false move can end in the loss of the whole game! If you study endgames it is of high importance to double-check your moves.
Make sure that you didn’t miscalculate or overlook anything! Here’s an example:
Moreover, practicing the theoretical side of chess is fundamental to getting better. If you’ve learned an endgame theoretically by, for example, analyzing the games of great chess players, but you’ve never practiced the endgame on your own, then you might get into some difficulties when those positions come up in your own games.
Don’t only study with a book, but try to apply your knowledge! Just like you can’t learn a language without saying the words out loud, you won’t remember the end games without practicing them.
How To Get Better At Chess – Tip #2: Tactics
Tactical patterns occur repeatedly in chess games. It is highly advisable to solve some puzzles on a daily basis to be able to recognize them in your games.
You can use books or you can visit chess websites that include Tactics Trainers. Another comfortable possibility which makes life really easy is to download an app on your smartphone and solve some puzzles wherever you go.
However, there is a major difference between solving puzzles and a real chess game. In the real game, nobody tells you that there is a tactical trick on the board for you to search for. The real art is learning to detect those tactical ideas in your own games.
A problem many chess players face while calculating lines is the visualization of the positions in their head. Often, they find themselves having a great idea but not being able to calculate it all the way through to the end.
These players often have a lack of memory or simply can’t imagine the other situation on the board. In a chess game, you are not allowed to move pieces in order to see the final position, so everything you calculate must be done in your head!
But don’t worry! There are nice ways to train to improve your calculation. One method is to play blindfold chess from time to time. Even if you aren’t able to play a whole game in the beginning, after some regular training you will surely improve in that field and calculation won’t pose a problem to you anymore!
Another good way to improve that area is to solve tactics which are usually easy for you – but without looking at the board. This method is highly effective, and you will see how you quickly get better at calculation.
Here are four chess puzzles to solve in your head (you’ll find all the solutions at the end of the article):
For more chess tips on how to get better at chess by improving chess vision and calculation skills through blindfold chess, we recommend listening to Grandmaster Timur Gareyev – a blindfold chess world record holder.
Timur played 48 games at the same time, winning 37 of them, drawing 7 and losing only 6 – and all without taking a single glance at a board.
How To Get Better At Chess – Chess Tip #3: Experience in Chess
To get better at chess you need to collect as much experience with the game as possible. Direct exposure to the game is the most effective way to get better. Firstly, practice, practice, practice!
Play chess as much as you can. You can participate in tournaments, go to your chess club frequently or play online at home.
Secondly, communication is very important. Let better players inspire you while talking to them. People who have more experience can often give you useful advice or direct your attention in the right direction.
You can also make use of a coach. A coach can focus on your individual problems and help you to work on them.
It doesn’t mean that the coach will solve all your problems, however. A coach is a companion and helper who gives you individual advice, making it far easier to get better at chess.
Unfortunately, private lessons with chess trainers are usually very expensive and it’s not easy for busy people to find suitable appointments.
If individual training is not manageable for various reasons, there are other alternatives you can explore. For example, you can study with online chess series or with chess books.
- For more details, check out this informative article on the pros and cons of chess coaches, books and videos: What Is The Best Chess Training Method? Chess Videos vs Chess Books vs Teacher
How To Get Better At Chess – Chess Tip #4: Use your own Brain
Reflecting on your games and analyzing them is fundamental to improving your chess skills. The best way to do these things is to have a better player or a coach who can help you.
If you analyze your games on your own, however, it is extremely important to use your own brain and not solely chess engines!
Don’t be lazy and just let the machine tell you the best moves. You don’t have the computer on your side during your real games.
Invest your study time into a detailed analysis of your own games, especially the games you lost as you’ll learn more from them! In the end, then you can ask for hints from the computer.
Sometimes, even the best players in the world can’t convert a position a computer evaluates as a +1.5 advantage. So, don’t rely on artificial intelligence but on your own brain!
Chess Tip #5: Fitness
Last but not least, physical fitness mustn’t be underestimated while playing chess. Top chess grandmasters recognize the need to keep their bodies in peak condition to perform at the highest level.
For example, the World Champion Magnus Carlsen plays sports regularly to keep fit. He does his opening preparation on a treadmill, is a keen and talented football player, and brings his own personal chef to chess tournaments in order to maintain his strict diet.
Former World Chess Champion Vishy Anand, for example, did a lot of sport, especially swimming, before his first World Championship Match against Magnus Carlsen in 2013.
He lost a few kilos and wanted to be in excellent shape in order to compete with Carlsen, who is more than 20 years younger than him.
If you participate in tournaments where you play 7 to 9 rounds and each of them can last 5 or 6 hours, that’s obviously not only a question of chess skills, but also a challenge for your condition!
Sometimes you even have to play two games a day, so that the total playing time can result in 12 hours!
There following the game from the recent Sinquefield Cup 2018 is a brilliant example of what difference physical fitness can make in long, exhausting games.
Magnus Carlsen pressed for a long time in an equal endgame and finally squeezed a win out of seemingly nothing.
Super-GM Sam Shankland commented on the game on Facebook (see the image on the right).
Carlsen, Magnus (2842) – Karjakin, Sergey (2773), Saint Louis 2018
We take a look at the game after Black’s 24th move. The position is very close to equal. White has the better pawn structure, but with opposite-colored bishops, it’s not easy to successfully attack Black’s weak pawn on d5.
Still, Magnus Carlsen shows that to win in chess you need a mixture of patience and pressure. 64 moves later, Karjakin will resign the game. Let’s see what happened:
Additionally, you should make sure you get enough sleep. A balanced and healthy diet is also important so that you feel fit instead of tired and sluggish during your games.
Therefore, both mental and physical fitness are important factors when it comes to getting better at chess.
Now you’ve read various important advice and hints on how to get better at chess. We hope that this article was helpful and instructive for you so that nothing gets in your way to skyrocket your chess skills!
If there are other important tips you think should also be mentioned, please tell us in the comments.
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Solutions to Blindfold Puzzles:
- No, it takes the knight 4 moves.
- 3 moves
- No, it’s an illegal move.
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