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0 - 2000. A roadmap of chess knowledge.

  • FM Boorchess
  • | Jan 16, 2014

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.

If you are interested in a quality, yet afforadable online coach I can help you on your journey. Check out www.OhioChessAcademy.com to learn more about my chess enrichment services.


  • 5 months ago


    Chess.com should buy your study plan, because it is much better than what they offer in the Learn section.


  • 6 months ago


    This is a superb list!!

    I've been working my way through it, finding (too many) gaps in my knowledge.  I was stunned to learn about 'opposition', how could I have missed such a basic technique?

    Some people here are getting hung up on the ratings you've given to this or that idea, but they're missing the point, just go through it all methodically and learn the stuff you don't know.

    Many thanks.

  • 6 months ago


    great article 

  • 9 months ago


    wonderful article ! Now I know what to focus on if I belong to a particular ranking category.

  • 9 months ago


    wonderful article ! Now I know what to focus on if I belong to a particular ranking category.

  • 10 months ago


    Yashsadani "in the third point you have made a mistake in writing instead of prowess it should be process"

    You're completely wrong.

  • 10 months ago


    most of 1800-2000 rank's knowledge is 2200-2400

    I'm around 2000 and never work the lucena and the philidor which are in 1400-1600 rank

  • 10 months ago


    Excellent article! Its given me some ideas on what to focus on to become stronger in my rating range and do some prep to move up to the next rating range Cool

  • 10 months ago


    This is an excellent guide for coaches with entire classes to cater to. Obviously, assuming any single list is an exhaustive narative on coaching or a "cure-all to self-improvment" is just sophomoric.

    This list allows a coach short on time or experience to develop a curriculem in a realatively short period of time by simply scouring games in Chessgames.com and drawing comparisons to this list for each class strength.

    More pertinent to this forum is clearly the aspiring Chess player that is self-educated[ing] and working their way up the ladder of rating and skill...

    at which time the ability to fathom and correctly pinpoint weaknesses in their own skill will just begin to develop. Around 1800 this guide truly becomes valuable; for only once you have realised that an expert knows the many theorems in Chess while a Master posesses knowledge of the few exceptions to those established postulates, can you transcend the 2200 mark. 


    Its a fair assumption that any given 1200-2100 player will be exposed to parts of this list, a master of other parts and completely unaware of others (I'm sure at least one 2000+ said " ...trey-boo-whaaaaa?" but totally understand the endgame concept of King manouvres in relation to tempo - regardless of their lacking in knowledge of French linguistics and antiquitous military technology); yet, each of these individuals will have material to study from this list, making them a fundamentally more solid Chess player.


    This list is like any other: with a bit of IQ and practical coaching experience (coaching yourself or others will suffice), it is a useful resource and a credit to its author. However, in the hands of a putz... its totally useless. That being said, that same clown is useless with or without this list and thus I conclude this assessment.


    Thanks for an excellent classroom tool, Boor! I look forward to meeting you at one of these tournaments some day and swapping coaching ideas. :)

  • 10 months ago


    Excellent article. Thank you.

  • 10 months ago


    The best teachers put emphasis on the endgame. A player needs to feel comfortable simplyfying positions as well as being able to play into a favorable endgame.

  • 10 months ago


    I own all the <1000 knowledge and none of the >1000 knowledge.

    I stand at 1003.

    Spot on.

  • 10 months ago


    I really enjoyed this article! Puts things into perspective.

  • 10 months ago


    you can't take any such lists as granted. It is certain assumption. You can compare two similar ratings or so. For example in my first tournament that I have shared first place, actually according to all those SB etc I finished second. My opponent had 1 loss 1 draw 8 wins. I had 7 wins 3 draws. We received same rating for that tournament and same grade. 

    We became friends and you can tell our strenght differed quite a bit. Whilst I was all around player, mostly strategically oriented, my opponents style was purely based on tactical attacking style. 

    Main difference in later stages of our development was, that he became stagnant in around 1600-1750 area, whilst I was still progressing due to my systematic approach. I was 2100+ whilst he was still struggling in those lower 1700s. 

    It only shows that you really need to study endings, middle game (strategy and tactics) and openings. Emphasizing that order like 55% endings, 35% middle game and rest openings. 

    People who start emphasizing on Openings or just tactics early in their career are likely to get stuck or have little or no understanding of what is most important :)

    And yeah. I have to completely agree with FM Boorchess. Hardwork is the key, even if you have exeptional talent :)

  • 10 months ago


    i am in the 1400 1600 ranking in this list. Smile a very nice article by you fm boorchess keep up the good work and in the 1800 to 2000 category in the third point you have made a mistake in writing instead of prowess it should be process ,anyway a nice articleCoolCoolSmileSmileLaughingLaughing

  • 10 months ago


    my standart is to be 2000-2500. but now I am only just 1600

  • 10 months ago


    ps my standard is 1200+

  • 10 months ago


    according to you im in the 500s or something

  • 10 months ago


    one thing that is hard to agree with is this 0-1000 stuff. With all respect, we are talking about monkeys here :) I remember this computer whose strenght couldn't be knocked below 600 yet it was such a bad pawn mover and time waster, that it was unbelievable. Playing him will give nothing to anyone apart from pleasure of winning blindfolded. 

    When I started playing chess some 17 years ago, we didn't even have anything as bad as 1250 rating, was the lowest.. We had classes V-I, where class III represented about 1550 rating. You had to have IIIrd class in order to receive your first rating or something like that. 

    Those were good times. I was actually quite frightened once I saw rating equal to 800 for the first time, some years later..

    Also to achieve ratings up to 1250 shouldn't be problem with nice structuralised book for beginners. Unfortunately many beginners books have it wrong. I remember beginner book from some GM Lloyd or something. It would rather discourage me to play chess, than promote my will to learn further..

  • 10 months ago


    My rating is 1400 something and it's mosty right with some 1600-1900 knowledge. Then again, I only learned the 3 vs 3-pawn break about a year ago.

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