How to improve your chess rating quickly from novice

Hi, I'd like to share some advice on how you, as a novice player, can improve your chess rating quickly. 

This is based on a lot of years playing chess, learning chess, and making all those mistakes I hope you don't have to repeat.

The quickest way to improve your rating from 1700 is to practice tactical puzzles, like using the Tactics Trainer here at (which I think is brilliant), or work through one of the many good books - I learnt a lot from Paul Littlewood's book "Chess Tactics" when younger.

Don't study opening books slavishly. Yes, really. Most opening books are written for strong (2000+ rating) players. They assume you know a lot of stuff already and you can go round in circles forever wondering why certain moves were chosen. You are much better off learning a few "open" openings (where the central pawns get swapped off) and relying on tactics in the middle game - which is where most novice games are decided!
As White try or
As Black try the
Read a book about basic opening principles, there's a useful summary at Also worth reading is a modern treatment of the principles Nimzowitsch outlined in his classic book "My System"

Then you can devote your study time to something more profitable, like learning tactics and endgame play.


Play a lot of Over The Board chess at standard time controls in a chess club then analyze afterwards. I play here for fun - but playing OTB slower is the real way to learn. When you lose, it hurts more, and you remember what you should have done. The most important thing to realise with OTB chess is you must analyze your games afterwards, otherwise you might as well not bother. That's when having ChessBase plus a chess engine like Fritz really helps. Play your best moves OTB, then afterwards run your scoresheet through ChessBase and an engine and see what the computer recommends and which of your moves were poor. If you don't understand, play through a few moves against the computer and see why. "Oh, I play this pawn take, and then 3 moves later that hole in my position lets a Knight in". That kind of thing. 


Study endgame positions. I learnt a lot from Paul Keres' masterpiece "Practical Chess Endings" although there are better books now. With good reason he quoted something like "for someone to beat me they have to beat me in the opening, the middle-game and the endgame" and "A player can sometimes afford the luxury of an inaccurate move, or even a definite error, in the opening or middlegame without necessarily obtaining a lost position. In the endgame … an error can be decisive, and we are rarely presented with a second chance" . Every chess season, before starting, I would re-read through that book and engrain the patterns again in my mind, because you forget. How exactly do you win with Q+K vs R+K again? I have drawn games under the 50 move rule on the R+K side of that before. All those half points add up :-)

A note about chess databases: provide a database and engine here for premium members, or you can buy ChessBase or use for free. A game database is helpful when learning openings or studying games as you can see what Masters have played and considered strong and see how successful those lines were and in what years. The year helps because people find refutations or novelties and so what was once considered a good line goes out of favour. Remember that opening theory is only a guide, most games are lost and won in the middle or endgame. 


Finally, here is a comprehensive list of books.


Don't overdose on reading, remember

  • spend 5 to 15 minutes a day on tactics puzzles
  • analyse your OTB games with a computer or coach to identify weak play and correct it
  • study an endgame book thoroughly


Good luck!


  • 22 months ago


    Hey, i have about 1400 in rating here on, but i have'nt got any "real-life" rating. Can anyone give tips on how i should increase my rating from 1400 to 1800+?

  • 3 years ago

    ThePawnMagician My chess rating sky rocketed after following this for under two months

  • 3 years ago


    I'm a beginner, but played some chess ages ago when I was at school. I went on's excellent 'live play' and was thrashed 5 games to 0 lol. So I loaded up 'Chessmaster (Grandmaster Edition)' on my computer and went through the basic tutorials. Then, when I went on 'live play again' I won 3 games and drew 1. The tutorials actually worked.

    I like your advice on spending time on tactics puzzles and also analysing your game afterwards. I will start doing this from now on.

    Thank you for the solid advice :) Much appreciated.

  • 5 years ago


    Good stuff! 

  • 5 years ago


    Novices, read one or more of these books: 

    The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played and Logical Chess Move by Move  by Irving Chernev (try playing thru at least one game daily)

    1001 Checkmates & 1000 Winning Chess Sacrifices & Combinations by Fred Reinfeld; Practical Chess Endings by Irving Chernev (try reading each one or any one of these books from 10-30 minutes daily if possible)

    And of course pay attention to drakpete's sage advise here!

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