First I must make a disclaimer. The following list is based on nearly thirty years of playing and grinding my way up through the ranks as well as coaching chess to players in these ranks for nearly twenty years. The list is still highly subjective; in chess one size does not fit all. Chess players develop at different rates and usually jump past one of these rating categories and learn some of the skills at different times in their progression. For example I recently showed a basic triangulation ending to a young near GM level player and he did not know it while there are many players in the 1800-2100 range who are well versed in endgame theory.
In the end the true measure of practical ability it is not knowledge as much as it is your ability to solve and create problems over the board. But, the more you know the easier it is to solve and create those problems for your opponent.
An important note to keep in mind, I make a distinction between knowledge, competance and mastery of a skill or concept.
The Knowledge of Chess Players by rank.
The Rules of the game.
The Values of the pieces.
How to checkmate with two rooks, A Queen and a Rook.
Basic understanding of the principals of opening play (Center, Develop, Castle)
Queen and King, King and Rook checkmate within 25 Moves (Ending).
How to meet the four move checkmate.(Opening)
Knowledge of all the one move tactics (Fork, Pin, Skewer.)
How to draw with a lone King vs. a King and pawn. (Ending)
The 3 vs. 3 pawn breakthrough (Ending/Tactics)
The terms for “bad” pawns (isolated, doubled and backward pawns)
Can solve mate in ones with competence (at or above 60%)
Drops pieces less often (once every 20 moves) but still falls for checkmates in one move.
Knowledge of all the drawn basic endings without pawns (R vs B, R vs N) AND the strategy or ideal placement of the pieces (not perfection, but awareness of the basic defensive concepts). (Ending)
Ability to win with Queen and King vs lone minor piece and a King.(Ending)
Knowledge of opposition and how it relates to basic king and pawn endings.
Square of the Pawn.(Ending)
Knowledge of the various KP rook pawn draws.(Ending)
Ability to checkmate with 2 bishops vs king within 50 moves.(Ending)
Can solve simple checkmate in 2s with competence (a 60% score on chesstempo)
Is familiar with at least one classic game, such as the Opera House game. Should memorize.(Culture)
Can demonstrate a number of opening traps such as Fried Liver Attack, Legals Mate, and various pin traps. (Openings/Tactics)
Can score a respectable %50 on basic chess tactics on tactics trainer.(Tactics)
Is aware of the names of many openings and the first 3-5 moves of play.
Can tell you when it is not safe to 0-0-0 in a given position.(Strategy)
Can beat a chess master with queen odds. (!? I am not sure about this one as the level of chess masters varies greatly as well as the confidence level of novice players)
Further knowledge of king and pawn endings, Trebuchet, Jettison and basic Triangulation skills.
“Two pawns on the 6th beat a rook”
Knight or Bishop vs pawn positions
Attacking ability has improved. Can demonstrate the classic bishop sacrifice. Smothering mate combinations. (See the Art of the Checkmate or How to Beat Your Dad at Chess)
Has scored miniature games with tactical knockouts.
Can now solve mate 3s and higher with competence (%60 on chesstempo)
Understands the positional terms: Outpost, Pawn Chain, Pawn Break.
Has an appreciation for how a Bishop dominates a Knight in many endings.
Has an appreciation for how a Knight can dominate a Bishop in the same
With work, can solve basic endgame studies 3-5 moves in length, ditto on “easy” mate #2 compositions (Polgar book).
Can show you basic middlegame plans in Open, Closed, and Semi Open Structures.
Knowledge of classic and modern examples has grown manifold; to the point where some of their games are attempts at emulation of master chess or at least they are thinking about the principals during their games as well as positional factors.(Culture,Strategy)
Knowledge of Rook and Pawn endings, Lucena and Philidor
Importance of activity in rook and pawn endings, “Rook belongs behind pawn”.
A budding appreciation of the initiative in the middlegame and endgame.
Quickly spots basic tactics and rarely drops pieces.
Has opening rep somewhat nailed down (this varies wildly from player to player) and may have developed some “theories” of opening play himself.
Has started to specialize in some area of chess, an area where they may be playing at a much higher level than the others (endings, openings, tactics, psychology).
Has selected a favorite player or book and has studied it in earnest. Can perhaps quote sections, concepts or entire games from said book.
Further knowledge of opening traps/attack schemes such as Domiano’s gambit and the Double Bishop sacrifice (Openings/Tactics).
Understands the race to connect the rooks vs. the value of a pawn (Opening).
Understands the term prophylaxis and has a budding appreciation for the term (Strategy).
Knowledge of Minor piece endings.
Knowledge of the rules for Queen vs Pawn races (Endgame).
Has growing knowledge of Rook vs Pawn endings (rook pawn draws, Capablanca- Yates)
Can checkmate with KQ, or KR blindfolded (Endgame/Cognitive Skills).
Can play most openings and into middlegame blindfolded (16-25 moves)
In games has a deeper appreciation for how to play against the king and attack in general. They have put in time understanding the tempo of attack and in their games they can actively play for the initiative.
Knows of or has memorized games from some of the world champions. Usually limited to an awareness, but can see the moves in their head and have a conversation about the classic games. (Culture/Cognitive Skills)
Has a definite style and preference for types of middle games in chess (Psychology).
Openings continue to build based on the experience of actual tournament encounters.
Is ready to begin mastering KQ vs KR (Ending).
On occasion can beat a chess master with knight odds or even pawn odds.
Can save games against weaker players when down a piece by using endgame knowledge.
Has mastered basic to intermediate king and pawn endings. Coordinating squares, triangulation etc.
Opposite colored bishops dynamics are well in hand (Endgame)
Further knowledge of bishop vs. knight and a growing prowess for using the two bishops. (Endgame/Positional)
Has now read classic texts such as My System and can implement big strategic ideas in their games such as Blockade, Pawn Storms, the d5 break in the Isolated Queen Pawn, h4-h5 in the Dragon, Sicillian Exchange Sacrifices (Strategy,Positional,Culture,Cognitive).
With effort can play an entire game blindfolded or “read” a game from a book. (Cognitive skills)
They understand what it means to truly complicate a position and attempt to induce chaos when worse or losing. (Strategy)
They have developed a tactical “flair” and seek to create their own ideal of beauty on the chess board (Tactics/Strategy).
Has read entire books on tactics and can easily and quickly solve all types of tactical puzzles with competence. (60%-75%).
Knows how to sterilize a game and “play for a draw”. (Strategy)
Can beat a chess master with pawn odds (some of the time).
In some areas their opening knowledge will be equal to a master, knowledge of a few lines deep, past move 12-15 and understanding of the middle game plans.
Continued education of classic games.
A growing appreciation for long term compensation and how to combine intuitive and analytical chess thinking. (Strategy/Psychology)
Is actively using prophylaxis in games and trying to stop the other players plan.
Usually has put in time annotating their own games and thinking about their own process.
And the list goes on...
I do look forward to the responses I will recieve to see if this list matches up with your own experience.
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