How to understand Chess to 1400+

How to understand Chess to 1400+

Jan 12, 2013, 3:35 PM |


I've conducted many personal experiments with what works. I have almost no proof. I've only played in a handful of tournaments, but I have had various points in my life where I have created a study program, and improved rapidly, and other times where I did not, or I altered my program and failed horribly. I've had great success vs 1400-1800 uscf rated players in long games, and a few 'lucky' wins vs 2000+.

    Enough about me, i'm not a professional by any means, but I'm pretty sure anybody willing to put even the slightest effort into this game could reach 1400 and if they wanted to push harder at least the 1800-2000 range. 


Forget puzzles.

I've heard many complaint's "i'm studying tactics but my chess isn't improving." Then, everytime a chess player goes to a higher rated player they say "Chess it 99% tactics, train tactics." and that is the extent of their advice. The player then goes through the frustrating cycle all over again. My opinion: Training tactics through puzzles is a horrible way to learn tactics. The puzzles lack the continuity of the game. When you play a game you study the position from move 1. and you see a few moves deeper as you analyze. By the time you've reached a position with tactics involved, you've been watching the game slowly unfold as the combinations have been creeping into the maximum depths of your ability to calculate.


Needed skills

What do you need in chess? well, you need tactics(Sound familiar?), but I don't like to call it that. I like to call it analysis. You need to be able to move the pieces in your mind and analyze the resulting position. Is it better? did you gain material? If you did, were there any positional concessions? If you didn't gain material, is the position better or equal?

It's an absolute NECESSITY to be able to judge a chess position. Maybe not like a computer (+1.7451234515164433333333) but to be able to say at LEAST "well, black is a little worse because." Or ideally: "White's positives and negatives are [x] and [y], and black's are [x] and [y]."

If you can't do these things, then you're just randomly slinging around pieces on the board and counting "he takes, I take, he takes, I take." with almost no reason behind it. 


To conclude this section, Tactics, Positional Assessment, and Analysis are very closely intertwined and reply upon each other.


My Method, How to get these Skills

Now, I'm not a salesman or anything, and there are probably other(Free) ways to get similar information, but I say buy Jeremy Silman's Reassess Your chess 4th edition. It provides the exact methods on how to evaluate a position by considering these things

  1. Superior Minor pieces
  2. Pawn structure
  3. Space
  4. Material
  5. Control of File
  6. Control of Hole
  7. Developmental advantages
  8. Initiative
  9. King safety
  10. Statics vs Dynamics

You get the idea. With this knowledge you will be able to understand and create realistic, meaningful plans while you play. I hear that nimzowitsch my system. Is similar in teaching positional concepts.

Now, to develop the necessary tactics, I think you need to play 60 minute games. You'll be able to fully visualize and analyze your ideas. I like Dan heisman's suggestion of taking a unbalanced position of the highest caliber (Top GM's only) from a website like and set a timer for 20 minutes ( can be for a whole hour) and analyze all the variations you can think of without moving the pieces. You can write down your variations. Now, you assign a positional evaluation to all the variations you come up with, then you check to see what the GM played in the actual game. Then, you put the game in an engine, like Fritz or whatever it is that you have, and analyze the variations you saw, and see what is right or wrong about them. It's a great workout.


Thought Process

Last, and probably most importantly, you need a thought process, a check list for every move.

You can develop your own, since it's your own brain. I usually do something like this.

  1. Count the Material to acquire basic Intel about the position. (not applicable in the opening)
  2. Consider the opponents last move. Check for immediate threats 2-5 moves deep, whatever it necessary.
  3. Do I have any immediate threats (calculate and analyze for tactics.)
  4. Consider all the positives and negatives about each side and develop a plan based on this. 
  5. Can I create any particular negatives in my opponents position or positives in mine?
  6. What is going to be the nature of the endgame from this resulting position?
You get the idea. Religiously go through your own personal checklist so foolish mistakes can be avoided.

Beyond this you need Opening and Endgame knowledge, both are theory, not really a skill to be trained.


If people like this blog, then I may do one about how to study openings and endgames up to your skill level.

Thanks for reading!