Chess Training

Improve Your Game Through Chess Training

No matter what your current level of chess, you can improve through training and study. In this article, we will discuss some general methods of improvement in all areas of the game.

Practice

The most important activity for improving your chess is playing games and learning from them. Here are some guidelines to help you maximize your practice.

  • On average, try to play opponents who are slightly stronger than you. Losing to players who are a lot stronger than you can be discouraging. Similarly, beating players who are a lot weaker than you doesn’t help much either.
  • Record your games either in a notebook or in a chess database. If you play online, many of the servers save your recent games, which you can download.
  • If time permits, longer games allow you to think and strategize. Focus on these games, although playing faster games also has its benefits.
  • After each of your games, try to identify areas that you could have improved. These might be single moves where you made a mistake or general planning and strategy that you were not familiar with.
  • Try to look for patterns for your mistakes. Maybe you are missing a specific tactic consistently. You can then use this information to train or study these areas.

Openings

Improving your opening play is important because the opening sets the stage for all of the plans, tactics, and strategies you will play later. Here are a few guidelines on how to improve the opening.

  • For each option that your opponent has, develop a specific response. Eventually, this will evolve into an opening repertoire. You can always experiment with different openings, but if you jump around from one opening sequence to another, it will be difficult to improve your understanding.
  • After each game, determine where you left your “knowledge.” Study this position so you can be prepared for future encounters.
  • Study books or games of master players in your selected openings. These sources will help you understand the strategic and tactical ideas within your opening set-ups.
  • Practice your openings with opening training tools such as Chessable, so that you will remember your moves. This type of training will also gradually increase your understanding of your openings. I recommend the book by John Bartholomew on 1.d4, it’s free.
  • Stick with your repertoire for a while. It takes time and experience to comprehend the nuances of an opening. However, don’t be afraid to try new ones for both enjoyment and improvement.

Strategy

Strategy is both something to study to increase your knowledge in, but also something to train and practice. Here are some suggestions on how to improve your strategic skills.

  • Study well-annotated master games. When there are moves you do not understand, try to analyze and figure out why the master made the move he made.
  • There are several good manuals on strategy and positional play. Pick one and study it. After you study a concept, look at the games you have played and see if you can identify the concept in your games. Also, try to apply any new concepts in your new games when appropriate.
  • When you are playing, try to come up with plans based on the imbalances in the position. Then make sure that each move you make somehow contribute to that plan.

Tactics

Tactics are forced sequences of moves that lead to the a specific goal. Often that goal is the gain of material or checkmate, but this can also include strategic goals, such as the domination of a file or key square.  Tactics and win (or lose) a game instantly because of the forcing nature of these moves.

Here are a few ideas on how to improve this area of your game.

  • Study the basic tactical motifs or themes from a comprehensive guide – such as a book or video.
  • Using books or online tactics servers, practice your tactical pattern recognition and calculation skills by solving problems.
  • Solve checkmate problems to both reinforce those patterns as well as practicing calculation skills.
  • Study the games of master tacticians, such as world champions Alekhine, Tal, and Kasparov.
  • Try to find the tactical errors in your games so that you will not repeat them.

Endgame

The endgame is the phase of the game where fewer pieces are on the board. There are several ways to improve this area of your game.

  • Study the most common endgames such as rook and pawn endgames.
  • Practice endgame positions from a book or from your games against a partner or computer.
  • Study the games of masters who excelled in the endgame, including world champions Capablanca, Smyslov, and Karpov.

Supplementary Training

Besides increasing your chess knowledge, there are other areas that you can practice and train to improve your performance in chess games. Here are just a few:

  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep. There is a connection between your restfulness and mental performance and attention.
  • Improve your calculation skills by solving checkmate problems and practice looking ahead several moves when reading chess books or looking at your games.
  • Exercise and health are essential for good chess. Make sure you are physically active.
  • Manage your stress levels. Stress decreases our ability to attend to chess positions and focus.

Conclusion

This is just a sampling of the types of activities that you can do to improve at chess. Chess training takes time, but the reward is the ability to make better moves and fully appreciate the depths of strategy in this beautiful game of ours.