How To Improve As A Beginner#9 - A Study Plan

How To Improve As A Beginner#9 - A Study Plan


In this blog post, I will try to give some advice on the subject of finding a beneficial study plan, that aims at maximizing your chess improvement. I know that many people just play chess for fun or to relax, which is okay, but if you don`t take a structured approach, then you will probably notice no improvement in your game.

It is easy to become addicted to playing bullet or blitz chess, to try and gain rating points perhaps, or to try out crazy new ideas, which (by the way) is one very good aspect of blitz chess. However, when you play these quick games, you don`t have enough time to think with any depth, mistakes become engrained in your mindset through repetition, so quick chess can be detrimental, and so blunders and mistakes are more common, and what`s more is that these mistakes often go unnoticed, and remain buried in the depths of your archives...

Here is a touch piece blunder that Magnus Carlsen made, which cost him the game, it just goes to show that blitz chess can cause too much pressure:


Emanuel Lasker was a very influential character, one of the greatest chess players of all time, holding the world champion title for 26 years. Apart from playing chess, he was also a mathmatician and a philosopher. Einstein who is regarded as the father of modern physics, discovering ideas such as special relativity, and quantum mechanics, which have lead to some pretty ground shattering implications, was a close friend of Emanuel, and regarded him as a very intersting character - he even wrote the preface for Lasker`s biography.

I will refer to the chess book 'The World Champions Teach CHESS' by Yakov Estrin and Isaac Romanov.

Here is what Lasker had to say about the chess study plan:

Let us imagine that a certain master, having a perfect command of his trade, is eager to teach chess to some junior player who is practically ignorant about the game, and wants the young man to join the ranks of those two or three thousand players who play on par with the master. How long will his education take?

To answer this question I offer the following figures:

Chess rules and exercises 5 hours
Elementary endings 5 hours
Some openings 10 hours
Combination 20 hours
Positional play 40 hours
Practical play with analysis 120 hours


I think that the ratios of these aspects of chess are about right, and it is true that analysis really does improve your game, but I think that for most people, it will take longer than the 200 hours suggested here. The reasons for this are as follows:

  1. The majority of people are very ineffective in study.
  2. In the past 100 years, chess has become much more competitive, and the '2000-3000 strong players' that Lasker mentioned is probably around ten times this figure today.
  3. Chess is a very complicated game.
  4. The rise of the chess computer means that you can become good at chess by brute force - like Anand, and Carlsen had to fight to win the world crown - having a more intuitive approach to the game.
  5. In the modern world although there are good training resources online, such as tactics trainer, there are also many distractions, like social media.

Now some of you are probably thinking 'okay then, why don`t I just give up now?'

It is easy to think negatively, when you feel like you are a small fish in the ocean, and there is little hope, but there is one essential element that should motivate you to do well, and this can also be applied to other things in life. If you have caught a glimpse of the beauty in chess; the complexity that has both bewildered and humoured the chess player, then you will find that you will not need any further motivation to become better at chess, and will naturally want to learn more.

The amount of time that you devote to chess is a personal decision, that not I nor anyone else can make for you, but to give you an idea of ratios, then here is what I believe would help your improvement best (on the basis that the chess player already knows the rules of chess), please treat this able as a rough approximation, and note that it may well change as you progress:

60% Playing 15/10 games with analysis
10% Solving puzzles and tactics
10% Learning thematic middlegame plans, and chess strategy
10% Developing positional awareness
5% Checkmate combinations and patterns
5% Opening theory, with reasons


Before you go, I would like to finish with this Lasker quote, that is extracted from the final chapter of his famous Manual of Chess:

"Chess education should be primarily aimed at teaching the young player to think independently"


Please join Blogosphere for all the latest blogging action!