How to Become a Better Chess Player
Anyone who understands the basic rules of the game can be a casual chess player. But if you are willing to invest the time and effort, and demonstrate the patience and resolve required to develop your skills, playing chess can turn into the most deeply immersive, mentally stimulating and intellectually rewarding enterprise.
If you are keen to start playing, but either don’t know, or are in need of a refresher on, the rules of chess, this may be a good place to start. But if you’re familiar with the rules and eager to upskill yourself, here are a set of pointers that can help set you off in the right direction:
Beyond the basics
All chess pieces are assigned a certain number of points, based on their potential for attack defense or both. As an overall guideline:
- Pawns are worth 1 point each.
- Knights and Bishops are assigned 3 points each.
- Rooks are worth 5 five points each.
- The Queen is assigned 9 points.
But these values are relative and may change under different circumstances over the course of a game.
Absorb the key tenets of positional play. Study various alternatives in openings and gambits as well as mid-game and end-game maneuvers. Defend well and sacrifice wisely. A well-conceived sacrifice can give you a definitive edge, while a poorly-planned one can cost you the game.
Find a mentor
Who you choose as a mentor depends entirely on how serious you are about mastering the game. You could start with informal sessions with a friend or family member who is a fairly accomplished player.
But if you’re really serious about improving, you can always opt to enroll for formal chess lessons – whether in a group or in one-on-one sessions – under a professional coach or a team of professional coaches.
Often, your coach will pair you up with fellow students at a similar or slightly higher skill level to your own, and guide you through various offensive and defensive techniques and strategies during active gameplay. This is perhaps one of the most effective means of improving your game.
Other learning resources
If you can’t access or afford a coach, you can make use of various alternative, freely-available resources such as books, websites and video tutorials that will help you up your game. Here is a list of the best of such resources available to you:
- Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess by Bobby Fischer, S Margulies, and D Mosenfelder
- Pandolfini’s Ultimate Guide to Chess by Bruce Pandolfini
- Logical Chess: Move by Move by Irving Chernev
- The Amateur’s Mind by Jeremy Silman
- 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations by Fred Reinfeld
- How to Choose a Chess Move by Andrew Soltis
- My System by Aron Nimzowitsch
- Think Like a Grandmaster by Alexander Kotov
- Chess Fundamentals by Jose Raul Capablanca.
- Basic Chess Endings by Reuben Fine
Online video tutorials:
- How to Play Chess: The Ultimate Beginner Guide
- How to Play Chess: The Complete Guide for Beginners
- How to Play Chess the Right Way (series)
- How to learn and study chess openings
- All Chess Tactics Explained
- Beginners’ Openings and Tactics
- Punishing Beginner Mistakes
- 10 Chess Tips Every Beginner Should Know
- Chess Masterclass: 5 step Thinking Strategy
- Best Chess Openings for Beginners
Gain practical experience
While your coach or the resources you use may arm you with tips, tricks tactics, and strategies to sharpen your game, it is up to you to find the opportunities to implement and practice all that you’ve learnt. You may do so at the recreation room at your school or workplace. Or you could join your local chess club.
There are also several online platforms to test yourself against real or virtual players across various levels, worldwide. Some of these include:
Get in as much playing experience as you can under your belt, face multiple players across different skill levels and varying styles of play. Notice patterns in your game that help you to win or cause you to lose. Experiment with different openings, gambits, counters, combinations and sacrifices.
This will help you better understand your strengths and weaknesses, explore different playing styles, and understand the style you need to adopt against specific styles.
Enter tournaments at your school, your workplace, or your local chess club or online. Most online chess playing platforms conduct regular tournaments for players across all skill levels. Don’t bother about scores and ratings.
Focus on getting used to playing under tournament conditions, and absorbing the pressure associated with it.
Study your favorite grandmaster
Learn everything there is to know about their signature openings and gambits, their positional play, and their mid-game and end-game moves, tactics and strategies. Study their style and their techniques. Use them whenever you play, practice them, master them, and find ways to counter them.
The pointers provided above are neither definitive nor comprehensive, for there are literally infinite means you can deploy to improve your chess. We believe, however, that we have covered the most salient ones.