This page has resources for improving players. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you can download the talks given at the Sunday Novice days.
How to improve
Play a lot (in person, not online).
- Find a style of chess that suits you. If you enjoy blitz, play a lot of blitz. If 15 minute chess is more your thing, come to the Saturday Allegro. If you like casual chess, or you're looking for a "study-buddy", come along to Novice Night on a Wednesday. If you enjoy preparing an opening for a long play game, join one of our weekly Monday night tournaments and prepare for each of your opponents once the draw has been released. Online games are often throw-away games where one or both players aren't concentrating properly, and little or no analysis takes place after the game. Playing in person is more fun, it's social and you'll learn far more as you and your regular partners get to know each others' strengths and weaknesses.
Use Chesstempo to practice tactics.
- Tactics (combinations) are crucial when you're a novice. You have to learn certain "patterns" before you start to understand the true worth and potential of the pieces. You should aim to do 2000+ problems over an extended period. You'll know when you start to 'get it'. Chess Tempo is a great site for this! Click here!
- There are also phone aps such as "chessimo" or "tactictrainer" you might like to try.
Learn, understand & use 'basic principles'.
- Here's an article from IM Dan Rensch.
Listen & ask questions.
- If you play in a slow play tournament, try to analyze the game with your opponent afterwards. Listen to what they have to say and keep an ear our for phrases like "positional mistake", "tactical mistake", "blunder", "backward pawn", "weak pawns", "development advantage", "under-developed", "good piece / bad piece", "centralise", "pawn break", "equalise", "space advantage" and so on. You won't understand everything the first time you hear it, but over time (weeks, months and years) these terms will begin to make sense to you.
- Even in blitz, a stronger player will occasionally make comments. Try to take note of them, again- eventually, they'll start to make sense!
Don't spend too much time on openings.
- As a novice, you should learn enough about an opening to get a playable position. Consider learning an opening like The London System for white, which allows you to play the same setup regardless of what your opponent plays. For black, this "opening system" might help as a starting point.
Learn to write and read the moves (chess annotation).
- This one is an absolute must. There is only so much you can learn without understanding "algebraic notation." A simple google search of "chess algebraic notation how to" or a visit to the wikipedia page should be enough to get you started!
Study what you like.
- Find an opening you like, look it up on www.chessgames.com. Study the wins, study the draws, study the losses. One idea is to look for games in the opening that last less than 30 moves. In these short games, one player has usually made an error which his opponent has punished. Studying typical mistakes like these can teach you important squares and ideas in the opening in question.
Organise a Novice Tournament.
- Wednesday night is novice night at the club. We strongly encourage members to organise their own small novice events. Part of improving as a novice is playing against players within a suitable skill range. If you need help setting up a small round-robin or other event, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be happy to assist.
Study the end game.
- Start by learning and practicing (against yourself) simple "opposition".
Learn from different sources.
- If you're reading about a game in a book, try to find more views on it! For example, if you're reading a book which discusses a Taimanov - Najdorf game, played in 1953, a quick google search of "Taimanov - Najdorf 1953" should bring up a few different annotations of the same game! You can read comments, blogs, and you can always put the game through your computer for a second opinion too!
Go over your games.
- If you're playing games where you're writing down the moves, afterwards it's a good idea to go through the game again. You should go through the games by yourself, with a stronger player or coach, and finally with a computer program. When you go over games (especially with the computer), focus on ideas, rather than "variations". What do we mean by this? Well, don't study a game by thinking "He went there, then I went here, but I could have gone here! Then he might've gone there" etc etc etc. It's better to try to understand which moves created strong and weak-squares in your position, which moves created weak pawns in your camp, which moves made one of your pieces "good" or "bad" and so on.
- Improving at chess is not all about study and practice. It's about enjoying yourself, and talking to people on the same path as you (or those who've already walked it!). We're proud that the MCC has a sociable and friendly atmosphere, and we hope novices will take advantage of this fact and join the MCC community. A final idea is to swap email addresses or phone numbers with a "study-partner" and share what you learn along the way.