Training program for beginners

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Chess training program for ratings < 1200

These advice are taken from my personal (short) experience. They are written by a novice for the novice.

I only release my ideas today to the public. Nobody ever tried these programs and I cannot guarantee any success with this method, but you will for sure understand a few things.

If you are above 1200 (or under but improving consistently) you might also pick a few tips here and there.

Note that this article is highly biased and I take a strong position on subjects like blitz games; be warned.

If you're stuck under 1200, read on...



It is important to learn 1 opening as white and play it exclusively all the time until you are familiar and confident with all it's main variations and potential traps. Depending on your confidence level, use a passive opening or a more challenging one. But be warned, 1. e4 gives a lot of space to black and the different variations are difficult for beginners.

As black you must adopt a passive defence (fianchetto bishop on King side) for the moment. Nf3, g6, Bg7, O-O

Personal suggestions:

*Reti opening with fianchetto bishop for the shy player.
*English opening for the creative player who wants to surprise the opponent (not many people know this opening in depth, can be a shock in live chess).
*Queen gambit, for the dynamic player.


Tactics are best learnt first with check mate puzzles (for example, white to move, mate in 3) as they give some basic positions and mate patterns.

You then need to learn and practice the differents tactics: pin, fork, skewer...etc.

Go there: to find tactics organized by name.

If like me you get bored very easily when solving puzzles, one excellent way to train your tactics is to play Chess960, the random position chess.

There is no opening to remember, no easy traps for lazy opponents to ruin your game, no variations, just your tactics to practice as soon as the first move.


Learning from the pros is the best way to go with chess.
For your white opening, search on a game database ( which player uses it with success. For each move of this player, try to guess the next one! It doesn't matter if you guess right or not (although a good guess is a good sign...), after a few games, some positions will print in your mind and stay there. If you feel it's useless at first and don't understand the position, just keep on! I assure you one day you will remember one interesting position and use it in your own game.


Do not play this type of game too often, whatever people tell you! They don't have your level, they don't know how it can hurt you.

As a beginner, you'll take the bad habit of playing too fast without considering the current position.

This is an irrefutable fact: Fast chess WILL NOT improve your skills IF you are learning to play.

But IF you are prepared with your favourite opening and some tactics, playing a few times a week WILL help improve your chess. Don't make an habit of playing 

blitz everyday as a beginner though, as it will FOR SURE make you play too fast in any situation and increase the chances of blunder. Believe me, in slow games you will still (unconsciously) play too fast and eventhough you're careful enough not too blunder, at best you will miss good moves.


1 move a day at least. That gives you enough time to ponder the different moves variations and positions resulting from the pet opening you're practicing daily.

*Do not focus on your rating, the score doesn't matter.
*Play stronger players than you.
*Restrain yourself to 10 to 15 games at a time. More than this will ruin everything.
*Do not use a computer, you're wasting your time and your opponent will learn from his defeat. (and it's not allowed)
*Use the analyze board for each of your move
*Play at least a depth of 2 or 3 moves and look at the resulting position before submitting the move
*Look one last time at the board before submitting your move
*Do not allow yourself to play fast and use the above steps for each of your moves even if you feel bored.
*When you feel you play too fast or are bored, just stop playing as soon as possible and do something else.
*Do not use conditional moves unless you are 200% percent sure of what you are doing. 70% of blunders in correspondence chess come from poorly thought out conditional moves. (don't ask where I got these statistics)


100% of beginners do not know this and can't bother trying to master this skill. The draw is your BEST WEAPON!
You will definitely end up in a bad position at one time or another. A position where you know you cannot win or it's going to very hard.

Use your remaining pieces to hunt for a draw. It will train your tactics as well!

*Build a fortress and keep your king there with a few protecting pieces. Stay there at all price, don't try to attack or go out until the attackers leaves a hole in his defence.

*Stalemate is hard to achieve, don't count too much on it, just keep it in the back of your mind in difficult end games.

*Perpetual check. Move a piece out and hunt for the king or the queen, move back and forth until the same 3 moves are made (you can claim a draw) or until the opponent gets bored (to a maximum of 50 moves where you can claim a draw) Do not care about your current position, if you see the queen or the king can be attacked, go for it and DRAW the game! This is legal and this what the pros do most of the time, so don't feel bad for your opponent.

-Misc advice

*Whatever people say, DO NOT analyze your games UNLESS you got crushed in the opening. In this case, analyzing where you went wrong is highly beneficial. 

For the rest of the game, you don't have the sufficient skills to understand the positions and you will waste 30 minutes or more to conclude that move x was bad. Analyzing your games is completely useless until you've become competent in understanding the position resulting from the opening you played.

*DO NOT read books! You're not good at chess and will not have the patience to practice and understand what you read. Avoid books like the pest for the moment or you'll waste your time. When you start to understand the game a little deeper, then by any means, read a book you like.


*Use Chess Position Trainer [] free program to train your opening. Take the time to learn how to use it. It's very confusing at first, but it will become a must have to practice your openings! Create your own repertoire of openings (focus on 1 unique opening and its variations at first!) and practice it as often as you can with the training tool.

*Use SCID [] to store games databases. It's free, open source and has everything the other softwares claim. When you learn how to use it, you will enjoy managing your databases. (If you're more comfortable with another one, just use it instead)

Create a separate database for your blitz, standard and correspondence chess.

When you have a pet opening, find a GM on who plays it often and with success, then put all his games in a separate database for you to play solitaire chess.


1H00 / day program:

Choose this program if you work or have school everyday of the week and like to have additional activities on weekends, but still want improve your chess.

From Monday to Friday, after a day of work or school, focus on fun. Privilege is given to solitaire chess, ONLY 1 blitz game and ONLY 1 standard game on weekdays.


a/ Use 5 minutes to train your pet opening with the Chess Position Trainer software.

b/ Choose a GM game with your pet opening and for 15 minutes, play the first 20 moves trying to guess each move.

c/ 5 to 10 minutes online blitz (play as white!)

d/ Use 20 minutes to play seriously your remaining moves in your active correspondence games.

e/ Use the remaining 10-15 minutes to train your tactics with puzzles, the games on or from a book.

f/ If at this point you really want more, resist the temptation and DO NOT play blitz games. Work on your correspondence chess instead. Don't "over play", it's a 1H00 program!

Keep the program in this order from a to f. Training your opening with CPT and solitaire chess will prepare you for the blitz. With all this still active in your head you'll be ready to work on your correspodence chess. Then release the pressure with tactics training.


a/ Use 5 minutes to train your pet opening with Chess Position Trainer.

b/ Choose a GM game with your pet opening and for 15 minutes, play the first 20 moves trying to guess each move.

c/ Start a Chess960 game, analyze the starting position for 5 minutes and make your move.

d/ Use 20 minutes to play seriously your remaining moves in your active correspondence games.

e/ Use the remaining 15 minutes to train your tactics by analyzing (or playing) the Chess960 game you just started. Use the Analyze board as much as possible!

f/ If at this point you really want more, resist the temptation and DO NOT play blitz games. Work on your correspondence chess instead.


a/ You should have a fair number of correspondence games started now. Use the hour to play seriously! Do not spend time on theory or learning something, just enjoy and analyze your active games. (still following the "correspondence chess advice" in the introduction)


Same as day 1 program, but replace the blitz game with a 15 minutes online game. (play as white)


On weekends you are more open to quiet study. Privilege the theory and practice of tactics and openings.


a/ Start the session by exploring a new opening. No in-depth research. Just 10 minutes looking at the first moves to get a glimpse of what is feels.
If it looks interesting, insert it as a new repertoire in CPT.

b/ Take 10 minutes to play a few checkmate puzzles.

c/ Take 20 minutes to make a few correspondence moves. Especially chess960 games (you should have 2 or 3 active now)

d/ Take the time to think which opening as black gave you the most trouble. Take all the remaining time inserting your candidate moves into CPT for this opening, and practice it.


a/ Refresh your opening memory by practicing yesterday's black opening for 5 minutes.

b/ Open's tactics list in a pgn editor and practice one of them for 10 minutes.

c/ As usual take 20 minutes to play correspondence on your favorite website!

d/ Open your GM database and play solitaire chess with a new game of his for the next 10 minutes.

e/ You have 15 minutes remaining and you're hot! I allow you to play a 10-15 minutes live chess or more correspondence.


Other length programs (2H or 4H / day) can be adapted in the same way but with increased time and more chance to play and practice.

Never forget, before starting a live chess session, always practice your openings first and keep in mind the different tactics to apply to your game.