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How to get better at chess: guide for all levels E-mail
Written by Yury Markushin   
Monday, 05 October 2009 22:01

A lot of people are asking the same question over and over again, how to improve in chess? So, I have decided to write this whole thing once and for all. First of all it is important to know at what level you are playing now. It would really depend what to study and how to improve from the player's current (estimated) rating. Here is a chart that gives an idea on what should players work on at different levels of their chess career:

  • Below 299: Learn basic rules of chess, how pieces move, and special rules (en passant, castle etc).
  • 300-1000: Learn basic chess ideas such as checkmate, simple attacks, etc.
  • 1000-1199: Learn basic opening ideas. It's recommended to play 1.e4 as white and sharp variations as black. Learn basic checkmates (King + Queen vs. King, Queen + Queen vs. King, Rook + Rook vs. King, King + Rook vs. King). Practice them until you are completely confident and can checkmate anyone (even a GM) in these positions.
  • 1200-1399: Study more openings, but do not stick with "rarely played variations". It is a huge mistake that a LOT of chess player make while studying openings, to study rarely played/unusual lines which most likely would never come up in real life tournaments.  Studying standard opening lines would yield a lot more results!
    Spend maximum of 20% of your study time to study openings. Until 1800 level openings aren't very important. Concentrate more on middle game and tactics.
  • 1400-1599: Endgame is the key on this level. Only imagine the advantage you get against your opponent if you know how to play endgame well and your opponent does not. The odds are that your opponent will loose the endgame almost immediately. Study basic endgame schemes: King + Pawn vs. King, King + 2 Pawns vs. King, King + Pawn vs. King + 2 Pawns and so on.   Besides the endgame do tactics problems (puzzles).  Play as much chess as possible especially in real life over the board tournaments with a long time control (that's where you learn the most).

  • 1600-1799: If you got on this level it means you are already strong, very solid chess player which knows a lot about all stages of the game of chess. Keep working on your middle game, strategy and tactics. Try to play blindfold chess. It is easy these days, since programs like Chessmaster 10th   offer really nice options of blindfold chess. You are basically only see the chess board with no pieces on it, but you can move these empty squares and play chess (because you know that knights are on b1 and c1, bishops are on c1 and g1 and so on).  During the game you have to keep all the pieces in your head, since they are invisible which is hard in the beginning. Play really weak players first.
    Blindfold chess helps to develop player's visualization ability and eliminates most blunders. All GMs are able to play blindfold chess well.
  • 1800-1999: Wow, you are ready to become an expert. Now it is a good time to systemize your opening repertoire. Ideally, you should know very well 2-3 openings for white and 2 for Black. The key to advancing to the expert level here is to analyze your own games. After the game, sit down with a chessboard, paper and pen and go over the game move by move writing down thoughts on your own and your opponent's moves. Only then you may check your game with an engine (Rybka, Fritz, etc). The number #1 mistake chess players make, they either do not analyze their games at all or analyze them by using chess program right away. This is a big mistake which slows down chess progress.The main idea of analysis is not to look at what computer thinks was a good move, but to look for that move yourself! Would it make sense to solve chess tactics puzzles by plugging them into a chess engine?  Probably not.Also it is great idea to go over GM games and think them over. The best way to go over these high level games is to first go over all the moves without author's comments and only second time read the comments and annotations. This works great with the openings too. Remember that when you read your opening book tomorrow.
  • 2000-2199: Congratulations, you are now an Expert. Keep working on chess and I'm sure you'll be able to make at least a Master sometime soon and when you do, please, send me a message saying "Hi! I am a Master now!"

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Last Updated on Saturday, 07 August 2010 22:07


0 #53 Mateus 2015-10-25 10:40
How improve my middle-game and strategy??
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0 #52 Mateus 2015-10-24 14:02
How to improve my half-game, strategy ??
To improve tactics should be practicing, right?
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+5 #51 Mike Zeggelaar 2014-02-02 20:46
This guide is annoying I am rated over 2000 but below 2100. What do I have to do to hit 2200É
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+10 #50 show kat 2012-12-10 12:54
Quoting Imran:
What rating is this supposed to be in? USCF and FIDE? Because if that is the case then chess.com ratings do not work as they tend to be over inflated. I only have a chess.com rating and so I do not know which applies to me as I do not have access to getting one of the other two.

Aminul islam my friend . His fide rating 2057 and chess.com rating 1600+ here is his propile link you can check it.
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-8 #49 Ophi 2012-12-10 02:52
I would recommend playing around 300 games on lichess.com to find your true FIDE rating. Chess.com is massively inflated - I achieved 2100 on it, whilst my actual rating is more like 1550. The people on lichess, however, seemingly play a lot of chess and are quite skilled - my rating there fluctuates between 1400 - 1600, which is about right.
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+7 #48 name 2012-10-22 14:01
now a 1800 uscf and going up!
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+2 #47 Yury 2012-08-11 13:00
Quoting Imran:
What rating is this supposed to be in? USCF and FIDE? Because if that is the case then chess.com ratings do not work as they tend to be over inflated. I only have a chess.com rating and so I do not know which applies to me as I do not have access to getting one of the other two.

Online chess sites ratings are really inflated. For example, I know a few people who have 3000+ ELO on ChessCube and 2500+ ELO on ICC. They are master strength in reality.

As for your question it can be either USCF or FIDE since they are usually about 100 points apart (not necessarily USCF being higher).

There are some tests that can help you give a more accurate idea of your over the board rating, but the most accurate measure is to play official chess.
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+4 #46 Imran 2012-08-11 12:45
What rating is this supposed to be in? USCF and FIDE? Because if that is the case then chess.com ratings do not work as they tend to be over inflated. I only have a chess.com rating and so I do not know which applies to me as I do not have access to getting one of the other two.
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+4 #45 Oliver 2012-08-10 17:13
I'm a Master
Know Lol!!! ;)
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+1 #44 Yury 2012-07-24 13:19
Quoting name:
i used to be a 2000 on chess.com but in real life i am only a 1055 USCF how do i improve my rating to be like a 2000

That is a huge rating difference. You need to first figure out what is your actual strength. How many USCF games did you play? If not many then your USCF rating maybe under-rated. If you played a lot of USCF games, then chess.com rating is too inflated. But again, what kind of chess you play online? Slow? Quick? Bullet?
After you figure out your actual strength you may use the above table as an outline for your training.

You may also want to check out my recent article thechessworld.com/.../...

Good luck!
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