Many people ask me what they should do to play better,it is better to study openings,endgames,tactis or just play more?Of course there is not a universal answer to this question and I don't think to be an autority on the subject,but anyway I want to share a few thoughts on the problem.
Let's first say it depends very much from the current level of the player: a 2700 aspiring to become world champion and a beginner who hopes to get 1500 don't have obiouvsly the same traning regimen.So I'll start examining various players tipology,with my ideas about what they should do to improve.
1)THE INTERNET-ONLY PLAYER
These kind of players are beginners,who have discovered chess on the internet and started playing online on Yahoo or similar,then began to read chess forums and got a chess engine like fritz.
My advice to these players:START PLAYING REAL CHESS.Join a chess club in your city,start playing real games,with wood pieces and time control much greater than 5 minutes,and talk with more experienced chess players.This is the only way to know if you really like chess and if you really are willing to work to improve.
2) THE NOVICE CLUB PLAYER
So ok,you're a player,but everybody is beating you.I think many of these players are too computer-oriented.Fritz is pratically useless in this period of your chess career,you should play and read books.What kind of books?Well,I think you should study basic endgames,build a little opening repertoire understanding the ideas behind it and with no emphasis on long variations,and of course middlegame play,in other words you have to learn to think like a chessplayer.Maybe I'll post a list of books useful in this stage,now I'll just say they have to be basic books,stay away from Dvoretsky et similar and from 500-page-dense-of-variations opening books.
3)THE AMATEUR TOURNAMENT PLAYER (rating:1500-1800)
(warning: I know many of you are Americans,and somebody told me USCF rating is inflated of about 100 points compared to rest of the world)
Ok,you know something about chess and played some tournaments,maybe many tournaments.This is really a tourning point and it's very difficult to give general advice,because it really depends on your age,free time and ambition.
I think this is the ideal moment to take chess lessons from a stronger player and to solve LOTS of tactical exercises.Many of these players make tactical bluders somewhere in the game,and also lack a deep strategical thinking which chess lessons can give to them.If you can't afford lessons you should try with middlegame strategic books,studying the games of the past,maybe Nimzovich MY SYSTEM,but try not become too dogmatic.
4)THE AMBITIOUS PLAYER (1900-2200)
Here things become serious,and you have to really WORK to improve.I think many players stop to improve at this point because their chess work becomes a lazy look at already seen Fischer games and combinations thinking "how strong I am".One of the most important things at this level is analisys of your games,discovering your weaknesses.Opening must be improved writing notes of your games and seeing what strong players did in your position.Here computer engines become important in analysis.You can also use online blitz to try new openings.And when you study chess,you must WORK:analyze,solve exercises like in Dvoretsky book,you must be an active reader and not a passive one.
These are only my opinions and not absolute facts,and there is a universal advice,always valid : TALK,PLAY AND ANALISE WITH STRONGER PLAYERS