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How To Improve at Chess
Every chess player's favorite topic is how to improve.

Want to play chess better? Of course you do! Every chess player's favorite topic is how to improve. It's hard to know where to go after learning the basics. Motivation is an important factor and just asking the question -- 'How can I improve?' -- is a first step.

Difficulty: Hard

Time Required: 10 min. to read, a lifetime to master!

Here's How:

  1. Learn chess notation : It's not difficult. See the link to the right of this page under 'Suggested Reading'.

  2. Solve tactical puzzles : Get a book of tactical puzzles for offline practice and work on them when you have a few spare minutes. Try to solve them from the diagrams.

  3. Develop an opening repertoire : It doesn't matter how creative you may be in the middle game or endgame if you lose most of your games in the opening.

  4. Learn positional principles : If your tactics are bad, you'll lose quickly. If your strategies are bad, you'll lose slowly. In either case you'll lose, but you'll suffer longer if you lose strategically. Positional play and strategic thinking are first cousins.

  5. Study endgames : If you like to study (not everyone does), tackle a good book on the endgames. An hour spent on the endgame is worth more than an hour spent on the openings.

  6. Play! : No surprise here. Play as much as you can, including face-to-face and online. Try to find a few opponents who are significantly better than you are. You'll probably lose to them, but you'll learn.

  7. Record the moves of your games : Analyze your losses and try to determine why you lost. If you play online, your moves are recorded automatically and you can retrieve the game score afterwards.

  8. Play some games at a slower pace, like using email : Correspondence chess gives you the time to research the opening in depth and to study each position in a way that is impossible during a fast game. You can play chess by email at very little extra cost beyond what you pay now for your Internet connection.

  9. Teach someone else to play : There's nothing like someone asking simple questions to expose your own weaknesses.

  10. Hire your own teacher, if you can afford it : A good teacher is worth the money. Great players aren't necessarily good teachers, but great teachers are generally good players.


  1. Balance all of these techniques. Don't be surprised if you progress in one area but seem to regress in another.

  2. Analyze an occasional game with your favorite opponent. It will help you determine how much you are seeing during the game.

  3. Play against your computer. Don't be too discouraged if you lose consistently. Computers have different strengths and weaknesses than human players do.