Study Plan for Beginners: Strategy!

  • News
  • | Aug 1, 2011

Target Skill Range: Beginner (Rated 1000-1399)

Learn to develop long-term, strategic plans - and outplay your opponents!


  1. Improve Your Piece Play
  2. Learn the Basics of Strategic Pawn Play
  3. Learn to Develop Plans
  4. Keep Your King Safe
  5. Learn to Apply "Technique" to Winning Positions
  6. Take the Quiz!

Whereas tactics allow you to take advantage of your opponents' mistakes in the short term, strategy flows from your understanding of more permanent aspects of the position. Awareness of strategic elements is vital in that it allows you to evaluate a position (tell who is better off, if anyone); more importantly, it is the foundation of planning in chess.  Here's what we recommend to improve your strategic vision:

1. Improve Your Piece Play

Work through these materials on the basics of piece play, strong placements (outposts), recognizing strong and weak squares, and piece activity. Learning how to coordinate your pieces is the first step toward understanding strategy and planning in chess.

Watch these video lectures on the subject:

2. Learn the Basics of Pawn Play

As you become a better chess player you will realize more and more the importance of the pawns, but for now we simply need to identify good and bad pawns -- as well as the basic strategies of how to exploit them -- when we see them in our own games.

Watch these video lectures on the subject:

Do puzzles 31 and 32 (only) in this Mentor Course:

Endings, Openings, a Taste of the Middle -- by IM Silman and NM Arne

      3. Learn to Make a Plan

      You don't always need to have a long term plan; often you are just fighting for advantages in the immediate position with tactics, attacking or defending against your opponent's threats, but it would be good for you to know what plans are, if only so as not to feel hopelessly adrift when there is "nothing obvious going on." Study the following material and you will already be on a decent footing:

      Watch these video lectures on the subject:

      4. Keep Your King Safe

      One of the key elements in any chess position is King safety. Watch these three videos that will increase your sensitivity to this issue, and then practice defending your King in the following set of exercises.

      Do the first 6 exercises in this Mentor Course: 

        Premature Attacks on the King -- by FM Banawa

        5. Learn to Use "Technique"

        Technique is term used to describe conventional methods to convert your winning positions into won games! Of course, one component of this is learning not to blunder when you're ahead; however, there are a few important strategical things you should understand to improve your technique, with the main one being how to convert a large material advantage:


          Test Your New Skills

          This final section contains questions a player should know the answer to after completing this study plan.

          Question 1: What "minor piece is dominating" the Bishop on e7 towards the end of IM Rensch's "Everything You Need to Know: Tactics & Strategy" video lecture?

          Question 2: When used "together with other pawns" what does WGM Pogonina say pawns have the ability to do in her article Strong and Weak Pawns?

          Question 3: In the introduction to Lesson 1 in his Mentor Course, what does FM Banawa say is an essential part of improving your chess game?

          Question 4: What variation from the Caro Kann does IM Rensch say is "another line that commonly reaches an Isolated Queen Pawn position" in his video lecture?

          Question 5: In Part 3 of his article series on Converting Material Advantages, what does IM Bryan Smith list as the 1st step in the "good plan" to converting the Knight advantage?


          Answers: 1. Knight on d5; 2. "define the course of a game"; 3. "learning how to sacrifice material to win"; 4. the Panov-Botvinnik; 5. "Centralize the King and Knight, moving them forward to strong positions".


          • 8 months ago


            Ranaldo, I debated premium membership for a long time, too. I'm telling you, it's totally worth it. It's only $14 bucks, man. Just do it. Premium level Chess Mentor alone.... totally worth it. 

          • 2 years ago


            awesome i still need basic chess strategy

          • 2 years ago


            Premium membership is becoming more tempting day by day now

          • 3 years ago



          • 3 years ago



          • 3 years ago


            I don't like how the majority of the stuff in these study plans is premium membership only.

          • 3 years ago


            really helpful 

          • 3 years ago


            Nice article, it is very helpfull.

          • 3 years ago


            thanks for your precious help

          • 4 years ago



          • 5 years ago

            IM dpruess

            ok, dundir, thanks for sharing that info. that has never happened to me using computer workout, so i did not realize that. i have forwarded the issue, and someone will test for it.

            meanwhile, if you have won 3 in a row among games you were able to complete without technical incident, that means you have cleared this hurdle and can move on to the next one.

          • 5 years ago


            The problem that I'm having with the second workout isn't so much that its too difficult. I'm sure I could have won most of the games I was playing if it were not for technical difficulties. The problem I'm running into is roughly almost every other game, either the browser crashes, an error pops and restarts the game (quite often during en passant capture), or it sits for 10 minutes or hangs thinking about its next move (usually followed closely by the first, or second. As a result I usually only win one or two out of five attempts. The crashes happen a lot. (Firefox v9.04) I have tried Internet Explorer and it seems to have the same problem maybe its because i'm running a 64 bit version of Win7.

            Example of Game that crashed /w Position

          • 5 years ago

            IM dpruess

            hi dundir, thanks for letting me know about that. some of the fens on the computer workout got messed up and don't allow castling, though they are intended that you be able to castle.

            the one you are saying was difficult is the one with an extra queen and all the pieces set up? i think that's properly leveled, that for someone to go over 1400 they should be able to win that quite consistently. how many times did you do it before winning? could you win it twice or three times in a row?



          • 5 years ago


            I think something might be wrong with the computer workout. The first one wouldn't let me castle, second workout's difficulty might be set too high for a beginner. Judging that these are supposed to be for people  rated <1399 and I had trouble beating it as a 1500 rated player. When I did manage to beat it, it was only with 1 in 3 odds and I had to restart multiple times due to it getting stuck thinking of a move, or an error popping during an en passant capture.

          • 5 years ago


            There are so many great articles on it's sometimes hard to know what to read first.  Now we have a step by step guide to methodical study, woohooo!  Thanks

          • 5 years ago


            Great article, thanks!

          • 5 years ago

            IM dpruess

            thanks for noticing/finding that. fixed it!

          • 5 years ago


            @JustWait the link doesn't work for me either. The article/view/ part of the link is missing for me. So inserted it manually and then it worked. Try:

          • 5 years ago


            Oh I see... Then it might "Just" be me! Embarassed Thank you, funandnice!

          • 5 years ago



            the link works for me

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