The legendary chess prodigy Bobby Fischer once said, “You can only get good at chess if you love the game.” So, if you’re head-over-heels crazy about the game of kings, that’s half the battle won already!
There are several ways to improve your chess skills quickly, including solving daily chess puzzles, joining a chess club, and analyzing your games (both wins and losses).
In this article, we’ve put together the ultimate guide on how to get better at chess fast.
How To Get Better At Chess Fast
1. Master the Basics
You can’t build a skyscraper without laying the groundwork first, and the same goes for chess.
So, before studying those fancy maneuvers, dive deep into the rules and truly understand how each piece interacts over the board. After learning how the pieces move, you need to acquaint yourself with the fundamental principles of chess. This includes basic strategies like controlling the center of the board or prioritizing king safety through means of castling.
Other fundamental principles of chess you will need to master are:
- The principle of the least active piece: This involves looking for the least active piece in your position and bringing it to good use.
- The principle of attack: This principle states that you should try to attack your opponent when given the chance.
- Develop all your pieces in the opening phase.
Chess is not just about understanding the basics—it’s about mastering them until they become second nature. Once you have the fundamentals down pat, you’ll be amazed at how much more confident you’ll be over the chess board.
2. Solve Chess Puzzles Daily
Chess puzzles are a mental gym for chess players. Solving tactics helps you master checkmate patterns, endgame skills, and overall strategy.
For starters, you should solve 4 to 6 chess puzzles per day. Take a cue from Beth Harmon and work out the tactics in your head without touching pieces on the board. Moreover, try to solve difficult puzzles rather than easy level puzzles. The harder the puzzle, is the better. Solving harder puzzles will better improve your visualization and calculation abilities in your real games.
There are several ways to attack a puzzle, and consider it half-solved if you haven’t found all critical variations. Remember Emanuel Lasker’s reminder to always look for a better move if you find a good one.
The best types of puzzles to solve are the ones from actual games played by real people. This is because many of the puzzles you solve online or in chess books won’t occur in your real games. I like to pull up a random game from my favorite grandmaster and then skip to move 20. Then I try to guess the move that was played.
This is one of the most effective exercise that you can employ during your chess training.
3. Join a Chess Club
For starters, joining a chess club connects you with enthusiasts who share your passion for the game.
Besides the social benefits of joining an established chess community, you’ll have a steady stream of players to take on. Not to mention, you’ll have access to a wide range of skill levels and unique playing styles.
Just think about finding someone to indulge your competitive urges, challenge you, and push you to your limits. Or you can simply learn from each other and trade tips and tricks.
Plus, you may find seasoned players at the club who can provide you with expert coaching and training opportunities.
4. Learn From Your Losses
You’ll keep making the same blunders if you don’t learn from your mistakes. Study your opening, middle, and endgame, and identify the errors you made and the important lines you missed.
When learning from your mistakes, you may wish to use a chess engine to assist you, or even better, a chess coach. The computer engine will recommend the best move that should have been played over the board. However, a chess coach will not only point out the correct move, but he will explain the reason or idea behind the move which a computer cannot do.
This is why it’s better to analyse your chess games with real people rather than a computer. The computer should only be used as an assistance when analyzing your games.
Analyzing your losses isn’t only about correcting mistakes; it’s also about discovering your strengths and weaknesses.
5. Use Chess Engines Wisely
Aside from having someone to play with 24/7, you can adjust the chess engine’s strength level for a more realistic opponent. Start with a 300 rating difference and work your way up as you beat the program on each level.
Additionally, don’t just play with a chess engine; use it to analyze your games. What’s more, you can practice specific endgame positions with the computer. As you get better, you can increase the difficulty of these endgame puzzles to include more challenging rook and pawn endgames positions.
6. Enter Chess Tournaments
Online chess games can be convenient, but if you want to up your game, you need to experience over-the-board competitions.
Even if you’ve played a thousand matches online, nothing will prepare you for the rush of a face-to-face game. With all the noise, tension, and excitement, you’ll learn to sharpen your concentration and develop your thinking skills under pressure. Besides, the only sure way to improve your chess rating is by participating in tournaments.
The more tournaments you participate in, is the more experience you will gain.
7. Study the Grandmasters
Studying grandmaster games can be a valuable part of your chess education. By examining masterful moves from the world’s best players, you’ll have access to maneuvers you could never conceive on your own.
First, make sure you’re studying well-annotated games. Be an active learner who doesn’t just blindly follow a sequence of moves.
Instead, put yourself in the grandmaster’s shoes, analyze the position, and plan your attack. Lastly, compare your ideas with what happened in the game.
Some of the best grandmasters to study from include Magnus Carlsen, Vishy Anand, Garry Kasparov, Bobby Fischer just to name a few.
8. Read Chess Books and Understand Chess Notations
Chess books provide real-life examples from the masters, including famous moves that stun generations of chess enthusiasts.
However, you must learn algebraic notations to understand chess books and online lessons. Memorizing chess notations may seem daunting, but it’s a small price to pay if you want to be a pro at analyzing games.
9. Study Endgames
As the wise saying goes, “Openings teach you openings; endgames teach you chess!” Sure, openings may give you a headstart through material gains, but what truly matters is the ability to close out the game.
Anyone can memorize opening moves. However, knowing how to finish the game strong takes some mad skills.
So, schedule some study time just for endgames. Learn checkmate patterns to see how you can finish the game in as few moves as possible, especially when the opponent is playing for time.
Some common techniques you may want to employ in your endgames include:
- Pushing your passed pawn when you get the chance.
- Place your rook behind the passed pawn
- Bring your king to the center of the chess board
- Push your pawn majority to create a passed pawn
- Restrict the activity of your opponent’s king
10. Play Lots of Games
Like any other skill, you can’t expect to become a grandmaster overnight. The more you practice, the better you get at calculating moves and creating strategic decisions.
Double-check the threat of your every move, because you never know what switch of focus your opponent may have in mind. And don’t be afraid of sacrificing minor pieces; it might be the key to getting the board moving in your direction.
Remember, don’t let losing get you down. If you’re struggling with a particular strategy, practice it on chess.com to defend better and find better offensive moves.
Even the greatest chess players were once beginners, like you. So don’t be disheartened by losses, but rather embrace them as learning opportunities. Keep practicing, keep strategizing, and more importantly, keep loving the game.
The journey to chess mastery is long and challenging. But who knows, with these tips on how to get better at chess fast, you too can become a grandmaster in no time.