As a chess beginner, you’ve already made the most important decision – to play chess! If you have just learned the moves and want to learn where to go from there, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, you’ll find some general advice about getting better at chess.
The most important thing to do in the beginning is to play games. Not only is it a lot of fun, but it is also very useful in your quest to improve.
Learning to record your games so that you can review them is an important skill. The standard notation is Algebraic notation. You can use a notebook specific to recording chess games, or any notebook will do.
If you do not know many people who play chess, there are several options. You can play online on online chess servers or you can look for a local club.
After each game, try to find where you could have improved your play. As you improve, you can study chess books and videos to learn more about tactics and strategy.
It is good to store your games somewhere for you to review. Notebooks are good, but on your computer in a chess database is very useful. There are very powerful programs to help you do this, like SCID.
Studying and Training
There are many areas of chess to study and fortunately there are many good books and websites that have been created. Here I will highlight just a few areas that you might want to focus your study on.
The opening is the beginning of the game. In the opening, it is important to focus on three main principles:
- Controlling a piece of the center
- Developing your pieces
- Ensuring the safety of your king
Once you start applying these principles to your game, you will then be able to start studying the specific opening sequences that are played by strong players that embody these three principles (among others).
There are many good books and videos that you can reference in this regard. Once you choose different opening ideas that you want to try, you will want to practice them. One good tool to learn chess openings is Chessable.com among others. In this way, you will remember the first few moves that will lead into a strong middlegame.
After you have developed your pieces and staked your claim in the center of the board, you reach the middlegame. Within the middlegame, we can discuss two types of areas of study: tactics and strategy. Although these two topics are quite comprehensive and complex, we will summarize a few points here.
Strategy involves the evaluation of the position on the board. Elements of the position include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Control of the center
- Open files and diagonals
- The battle between bishops and knights
- King safety
- Pawn structure
By assessing the elements of your position, you can come up with a plan. This may involve improving an aspect of your pieces or position or somehow hindering your opponent’s attempts to do this. Good strategy often involves doing both of these simultaneously.
Tactics involves forced – moves that cannot be ignored or avoided – sequences of moves that lead to one of your strategic objectives. For example, a sequence of moves by which you capture a piece of your opponent or checkmate the opposing king.
Because of the forcing nature of tactics, recognizing and applying tactics to your games is very important. For this, there are many books with sample tactical positions that you can learn from. Once you learn the basic tactical patterns, practicing them online with sites like Chess Tempo is very helpful in developing your tactical skills.
The endgame is the later part of the game where there are typically few pieces on the board. Although the endgame is somewhat easier to understand than the middlegame (because of fewer pieces), it is important to study because some types of positions require specific moves and plans to win or draw.
There are many good books on the topic as well as websites and videos. Here are a few of the important endgame types that you should learn (because they will occur often in your games):
- Checkmating the king with a queen and king.
- Checkmating the king with a rook and king.
- King and pawn endgames
- Rook and pawn endgames
- Endgames where both sides have pawns and a minor piece – e.g. knight or a bishop
Getting better at chess is a combination of practicing (or playing) and studying (or training). Fortunately, there are a lot of tools and resources for you to enjoy and improve at chess. Take advantage of them and soon you’ll move past being a chess beginner!