How to improve


I've never played chess and decided in the last month I would give it a go. I understood really basic stuff before starting to play daily (e.g. piece movement, knight can jump over pieces, check forces action). I play at the very minimum 5 or so games a day. I mostly play blitz 5|5 or 10 mins (I've switched to 5|5 recently because I've lost a bunch on time in the straight 10 minute games). Unfortunately, it seems like I've not improved much, if at all. Sometimes I feel as if I have regressed. I've watched a few hours worth of videos that talk about openings and strategies, but I'm curious if there are some other resources I should look at (preferably free). Any help you can offer is greatly appreciated. 


You may find useful to train your brain for playing "natural" and "logical" moves by checking collections from Capablanca, and more into "active" (threats and building threats) moves by checking Alekhine.

As for time controls, if you can't figure out what's happening on the board because of lack of time, then play longer time controls (precision first, speed later). That said, for most chess is about having fun, so you should play what makes you happier.


Improving Your Chess - Resources for Beginners and Beyond...

Play Longer Time Controls...

For many at the beginner-novice level, speed chess tends to be primarily an exercise in moving pieces around faster than your opponent while avoiding checkmate, in hopes that his/her clock runs out sooner than yours.  Or being fortunate enough to be able to exploit your opponent’s blunders before they exploit yours.

There is little time to think about what you should be doing.

It makes sense that taking more time to think about what you should be doing would promote improvement in your chess skills.

An effective way to improve your chess is therefore to play mostly longer time controls, including "daily" chess, so you have time to think about what you should be doing.

This is not to suggest that you should necessarily play exclusively slow time controls or daily games, but they should be a significant percentage of your games, at least as much, if not more so than speed games which do almost nothing to promote an understanding of how to play the game well.

Here's what IM Jeremy Silman, well-known chess book author, has to say on the topic...

And Dan Heisman, well-known chess teacher and chess book author…

and the experience of a FIDE Master...



Dear Chessfriend,

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"... for those that want to be as good as they can be, they'll have to work hard.
Play opponents who are better than you … Learn basic endgames. Create a simple opening repertoire (understanding the moves are far more important than memorizing them). Study tactics. And pick up tons of patterns. That’s the drumbeat of success. ..." - IM Jeremy Silman (December 27, 2018)
"... In order to maximize the benefits of [theory and practice], these two should be approached in a balanced manner. ... Play as many slow games (60 5 or preferably slower) as possible, ... The other side of improvement is theory. ... This can be reading books, taking lessons, watching videos, doing problems on software, etc. ..." - NM Dan Heisman (2002)
"... If it’s instruction, you look for an author that addresses players at your level (buying something that’s too advanced won’t help you at all). This means that a classic book that is revered by many people might not be useful for you. ..." - IM Jeremy Silman (2015)
Here are some reading possibilities that I often mention:
Simple Attacking Plans by Fred Wilson (2012)
Logical Chess: Move by Move by Irving Chernev (1957)
The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played by Irving Chernev (1965)
Winning Chess by Irving Chernev and Fred Reinfeld (1948)
Back to Basics: Tactics by Dan Heisman (2007)
Discovering Chess Openings by GM John Emms (2006)
Openings for Amateurs by Pete Tamburro (2014)
Chess Endgames for Kids by Karsten Müller (2015)
A Guide to Chess Improvement by Dan Heisman (2010)
Studying Chess Made Easy by Andrew Soltis (2009)
Seirawan stuff:


"... I recommend that if you are a beginner, you should avoid speed chess for a variety of reasons. Among them:

  • it can get you into a variety of bad habits,
  • cause inexperienced players to rush in slow games, and
  • can be very frustrating when you are not very good and can't see the chessboard very accurately in a short glance. ..." - NM Dan Heisman (2017)

"... Most internet players think that 30 5 is slow, but that is unlikely slow enough to play 'real' chess. You need a game slow enough so that for most of the game you have time to consider all your candidate moves as well as your opponent’s possible replies that at least include his checks, captures, and serious threats, to make sure you can meet all of them. For the average OTB player G/90 is about the fastest, which might be roughly 60 10 online, where there is some delay. But there is no absolute; some people think faster than others and others can play real chess faster because of experience. Many internet players are reluctant to play slower than 30 5 so you might have to settle for that as a 'slow' game." - NM Dan Heisman (2002)


Dear Chessfriend,

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Don’t forget the rules of chess, forgive yourself!