How to Get Better at Chess: Study Plan for Different Rating Levels

How to Get Better at Chess: Study Plan for Different Rating Levels

A lot of people ask the same question over and over again, how to get better at chess? At the outset improving in chess is the same as improving any skill – Learn. Practice. Analyze. Repeat.

But there is a vast difference between what beginners need to ‘learn’ compared to Expert players. So how to know where to start?

First, knowing at what level you are playing now is important. It would depend on what to study and how to improve from the player’s current (estimated) rating — chess level by ELO.

This article gives an idea of what should players work on at different levels of their chess careers.

Chess Study Plan for 299 Elo

Learn basic rules of chess

The first step is to understand the basic rules of the game. You should look to master every rule so that you can focus on playing chess.

How chess pieces move

The most important characters in the game – the pieces. Each piece has its say on the board. Look to learn how each piece behaves and how they interact with each other. This forms the foundation for learning tactics.

Special rules of chess (en passant, castle, etc)

When learning the rules of the game, you will come across special rules. Every player must know these rules – when are they applicable and how to use them.

Here’s a sample daily chess study plan that you can use. You can modify it to your needs.

Day Study Topics Duration
Monday Learn Basic Rules of Chess + Piece Movement / Miscellaneous (YouTube Chess, Book Reading, Videos Courses) 1 Hour
Tuesday Play Games + Quick Analysis 1 Hour
Wednesday Learn Special Rules of the Game / Miscellaneous (YouTube Chess, Book Reading, video courses) 1 Hour
Thursday Play Games + Quick Analysis 1 Hour
Friday Play Games + Quick Analysis 1 Hour
Saturday Review all game lessons 1 Hour
Sunday Review all topics learned 1 Hour

Chess Study Plan for 300-1000 Elo

Elementary Checkmates

You should master the following elementary checkmates to the point where you can play like a GM if they arise on the board.

  • King + Queen vs. King
  • King + Two Rooks vs. King
  • King + Rook vs. King
  • King + Two Bishops vs. King

Learn Simple Attacks

Mastering simple attacking patterns will give you a lot of wins. Playing attacking chess gives you the initiative. You can look to play active moves at every turn you get.

Using simple attacks will lead to positions that will generate a lot of tactics and if you’re good at them then you can quickly score a win.

Learn Elementary Tactics

You should train the following tactical patterns daily:

  • Pin
  • Fork
  • Double Attack
  • Destroying the Defender

You will get a lot of chances to employ these tactics in your games. The Woodpecker method is a great way to gain a good grasp on these elementary tactics.

At this level, mastering these tactics is the quickest way to progress to the next level.

Here’s a sample daily chess study plan that you can use. You can modify it to your needs.

Day Study Topics Duration
Monday Learn elementary checkmates / Solve checkmate exercises 1 Hour
Tuesday Play Games + Quick Analysis 1 Hour
Wednesday Learn simple attacks / Solve basic attack exercises 1 Hour
Thursday Learn + Practice elementary Tactics 1 Hour
Friday Play Games + Quick Analysis 1 Hour
Saturday Review all game lessons 1 Hour
Sunday Review all topics learned / Miscellaneous (YouTube Chess, Book Reading, Videos Courses) 1 Hour

Chess Study Plan for 1000-1199 Elo

Learn basic opening ideas

Thoroughly learn Basic opening concepts like lead in development and Centralization. Just try to play logical moves in the opening stage of the game. Learning 5-6 moves of an opening of your choice should be enough.

Learn basic checkmates

You can learn basic checkmates from courses or books. There are a few dozen of these that you can quickly master. Practice them until you are completely confident and can checkmate anyone (even a GM) in these positions.

Practice Your Skills

Devote the majority of your time to playing games and looking over them. Don’t shy away from playing higher-rated players as you will learn a lot from these games.

Here’s a sample daily chess study plan that you can use. You can modify it to your needs.

Day Study Topics Duration
Monday Learn basic opening ideas / Review opening ideas 1 Hour
Tuesday Play Games + Quick Analysis 1 Hour
Wednesday Learn + Practice Basic Checkmates 1 Hour
Thursday Play Games + Quick Analysis 1 Hour
Friday Play Games + Quick Analysis 1 Hour
Saturday Review all game lessons 1 Hour
Sunday Review all topics learned / Miscellaneous (YouTube Chess, Book Reading, Videos Courses) 1 Hour

Chess Study Plan for 1200-1399 Elo

Learn Openings

Spend a maximum of 20% of your study time to study openings. Until 1800 level openings aren’t very important. Concentrate more on the middle game and tactics.

It is okay to learn systems-based openings (e.g. Colle system and London system) but make sure you know the plans and ideas in those openings.

It is best to experiment with all the openings to find which one suits you the best.

Study Middlegames

As you are a club player now middlegames gain much more importance. It’s important to be aware of strategic and positional factors during a game.

Learn these concepts from the best sources and try to apply them in your games.

  • Space
  • Material
  • Pawn Structures (passed pawns, weak pawns, etc.)
  • Bishop vs Knight
  • King Safety
  • Weak and Strong Squares
  • Initiative

Study Intermediate Tactics

Building on the knowledge of elementary tactics you should learn to spot tactics 2-3 moves in advance. Also, it’s important to learn to calculate 5 ply (a ply is a half move; e.g. 1.e4 e5 is 2 ply) or greater tactical patterns.

The following patterns should feature regularly in your chess study

  • Pin
  • Fork
  • Skewer
  • Discovered Attack/ Check
  • Deflection
  • Decoy
  • Attacking the King
  • Destroying King Shelter

The best way to do this is to learn an intermediate tactics video course and then solve as many tactical puzzles as possible.

Here’s a sample daily chess study plan that you can use. You can modify it to your needs.

Day Study Topics Duration
Monday Learn or Revise Openings / Miscellaneous (YouTube Chess, Book Reading, Videos Courses) 1 Hour
Tuesday Play Games + Analysis 1 Hour
Wednesday Study Middlegames 1 Hour
Thursday Play Games + Analysis 1 Hour
Friday Play Games + Analysis / Miscellaneous (YouTube Chess, Book Reading, Videos Courses) 1 Hour
Saturday Review all game lessons 1 Hour
Sunday Learn + Solve Tactics 1 Hour

Chess Study Plan for 1400-1599 Elo

Focus on the Endgame

The endgame is the key at this level. Only imagine the advantage you get against your opponent if you know how to play endgame well and your opponent does not. The odds are that you will win the endgame almost immediately.

Study basic endgame schemes. Do these endgames repeatedly so that they become second nature to you.

  • King + Pawn vs. King
  • King + 2 Pawns vs. King
  • King + Pawn vs. King + 2 Pawns, and so on

Work on Your Tactics and Calculation Skills

Besides the endgame, do tactics problems (puzzles). This will give you the best cost-to-benefit ratio. Learn basic Calculation methods: forcing moves, elimination method, etc, and try to apply them when you solve tactics.

At this stage, the focus should be on solving a puzzle fully rather than how quickly or how many puzzles you did.

Play Long Time control Practice Games

Long-time control games will further cement the basic calculation skills that you learn. When you have time to think about a position then you can use your conscious mind to implement new habits ( eg looking for forcing moves first in a tactical position, listing all candidate moves)

Play Rated Tournament Games

Play as much chess as possible, especially in real-life over-the-board (OTB) tournaments with long-time control.

It has been shown in research that doing an activity with stakes brings out the best in you and helps you to improve that skill quickly. It’s widely agreed upon that the best way to improve in chess is to play slow OTB Tournament games.

Here’s a sample daily chess study plan that you can use. You can modify it to your needs.

Day Study Topics Duration
Monday Tactics and Calculation 1 Hour
Tuesday Play Games + Analysis 1.5 Hours
Wednesday Learn + Practice Endgames / Opening Study 1 Hour
Thursday Play Games + Analysis 1.5 Hours
Friday Play Games + Analysis / Miscellaneous (YouTube Chess, Book Reading, Videos Courses) 1.5 Hours
Saturday Review all game lessons / Rated Tournament Games 1 Hour
Sunday Review all topics learned / Rated Tournament Games 1 Hour

Chess Study Plan for 1600-1799 Elo

If you got on this level, it means you are already a strong, very solid chess player who knows a lot about all stages of the game of chess. Keep working on your middle game, strategy, and tactics.

Advanced Middlegames

Keep playing games to acquire more experience in the middle game. You can make faster progress by focusing on two things:

  • Learning new middlegame themes
  • Learning all the middlegame strategies of your openings

Advanced Strategy

When you learn advanced middlegames you will also encounter advanced strategies. It is a good idea to take note of all these new strategies you see and keep coming back to them from time to time. At this level, you can also start learning about sacrifices and how positional sacrifices work.

Advanced Tactics

You will have a good grasp on basic one-two-move tactics. Try to build upon it and solve tactical combinations. If you’re unable to get the right answer, see why the tactical pattern/ combination worked (how the pieces interact with each other)

Doing the above daily should propel you to the next level.

Play Blindfold Chess

Blindfold chess helps to develop a player’s visualization ability and eliminates most blunders. All GMs can play blindfold chess well.

Try to play blindfold chess. It is easy these days since online chess websites offer nice options to play blindfold chess. You only see the chessboard with no pieces on it, but you can move these empty squares and play chess (because you know that knights are on b1 and c1, bishops are on c1 and g1, and so on).

During the game, you have to keep all the pieces in your head since they are invisible which is hard in the beginning. Play really weak players first.

Here’s a sample daily chess study plan that you can use. You can modify it to your needs.

Day Study Topics Duration
Monday Tactics and Calculation 1 Hour
Tuesday Play Games + Analysis 1 Hour
Wednesday Play Games + Analysis 1 Hour
Thursday Study Middlegames/Strategy Study 1 Hour
Friday Blindfold Chess / Miscellaneous (YouTube Chess, Book Reading, Videos Courses) 1 Hour
Saturday Review all game lessons 1 Hour
Sunday Review all topics learned 1 Hour

Chess Study Plan for 1800-1999 Elo

Systemize your opening repertoire

At this level, it’s not necessary to have a thorough move-by-move repertoire. Instead, focus on having a solid understanding of the first 10-15 moves of your opening. Ideally, you should know very well 2-3 openings for white and 2 for Black.

Give importance to moves and lines that you are more likely to face during a game. You can figure this out through experience or a database.

Analyze Your Games

The key to advancing to the expert level here is to analyze your games. After the game, sit down with a chessboard, paper, and pen and go over the game move by move writing down thoughts on your own and your opponent’s moves. Only then you check your game with an engine.

The number #1 mistake chess players make, is they either do not analyze their games at all or analyze them by using a chess program right away. This is a big mistake that slows down chess progress. The main idea of analysis is not to look at what the computer thinks was a good move, but to look for that move yourself.

Deep Study Grandmaster Games

It is a great idea to go over GM games and think them over. Grandmasters play chess at the highest level possible for a human. Looking at their games and understanding the thought process will bring immense benefits.

The best way to go over these high-level games is to first go over all the moves without the author’s comments and only second time read the comments and annotations. This works great with the openings too.

Work on in-game tactics and endgames

When you analyze your games, you will realize that tactics and endgame knowledge play a huge role. Note down whatever tactical pattern you missed or basic endgame misplayed. If you analyze many games, you see a pattern of where you go wrong repeatedly.

Work on these areas and you will see an immediate improvement in your game. This method of focusing on tactics and endgames is effective at this level.

Here’s a sample daily chess study plan that you can use. You can modify it to your needs.

Day Study Topics Duration
Monday Play Games + Analysis 1 Hour
Tuesday Study + Review Openings 1 Hour
Wednesday Tactics and Calculation 1 Hour
Thursday Play Games + Analysis 1 Hour
Friday Play Games + Analysis 1 Hour
Saturday Review all game lessons + Analyze Grandmaster Games 1 Hour
Sunday Review all topics learned / Practice Tactics or Endgames 1 Hour

Chess Study Plan for 2000-2199 Elo

Congratulations, you are now an Expert. Keep working on chess and I’m sure you’ll be able to make at least a Master sometime soon when you do, please, send me a message saying “Hi! I am a Master now!”

Expert-Level Opening Preparation

At this level, you should know the theory for the openings you play. Also, it is necessary to know the respective model games for each line in your opening repertoire. Players in the 2000 to 2199 Elo range slowly start a develop a unique style for themselves. Therefore, it is a good idea to play openings that align with your style.

Also, keep a lookout for the latest trends in your openings. This can be done with a quick daily scan of the latest Grandmaster games.

Play Opening Themed Practice Games

The opponents you encounter also know opening well and they tend to play the mainlines. So, in most of your games, you will reach standard positions of the opening. These positions are also called ‘Opening tabiyas’.

An extensive study of the standard plans and maneuvers of the opening tabiya will help you immensely.

Once you have learned this you can proceed to play Opening-themed practice games. Both players agree beforehand to reach a specific opening tabiya and then play a game from that position. You must play both sides of the position to get a solid understanding of the opening tabiya.

Your workflow can look like this. First, a quick search of the database for the following position will give you a list of GM games. Next, go through the games to understand all the plans and ideas. Now with the help of a sparring partner play games for both sides of the opening.

Expert-level endgame studies

After openings, the next aspect that you should focus on is Calculation. At this level, one of the most efficient ways to train calculation ability is to solve endgame studies. The goal of endgame studies is twofold:

  • Improve Deep Calculation
  • Learn new tactical/positional patterns

While solving studies it is important to remember that it is OK to not get the right solution. What’s important is that you give it your all, whether you think for 10 mins or 30 mins. Afterward, check the solution and see how your ideas match up to the solution.

Tip: As a player gains more experience, they tend to develop bad habits. They understand that since it is a study, the winning move must be ‘unnatural’ so they ignore all normal moves and try to find a quirky pattern/move that solves the position. Even if the player manages to get the right solution it ends up being counterproductive. You should look at normal lines as well and figure out why they don’t work.

Give a chess simul

You’re a strong player! Strong enough that you can give simultaneous display or simuls. Giving simuls pushes your abilities to the max and forces you to operate at your peak level. It improves mental strength and quick thinking.

Play practice blindfold games

We train the technical aspects of Calculation through endgame studies. It is equally important to improve visualization abilities. Even though the visualization abilities of 2000+ players are much better than class chess players, there is much scope for improvement.

To train this you can play blindfold games. The easiest way would be to pick up a book that has games with ample diagrams. Try to visualize without a physical board from move one and once you reach a diagram pause and see if your mind’s image matches the one in the diagram. If not, then memorize the diagram and then do the same for a further set of moves.

If you want to increase the difficulty level then you can solve easy to medium endgame studies without looking at the board.

Now, you are set to play blindfold games. Play as many games as possible to deeply ingrain the board in your mind’s eye.

Consider hiring a chess coach

What a person can achieve alone in 5 years, one can do the same in 1 year with a coach. Having a personal coach/mentor is a huge bonus for any chess player. The game is so technical and complex that at some point or other we all need guidance. Some players make do with an engine but a chess coach is irreplaceable.

If you want to progress further and become a master player then you should seriously consider hiring a chess coach.

Here’s a sample daily chess study plan that you can use. You can modify it to your needs.

Day Study Topics Duration
Monday Deep analysis of games 2 Hours
Tuesday Play Games + Analysis 2 Hours
Wednesday Session with Coach 1 Hour
Thursday Play Games + Analysis 2 Hours
Friday Endgame Studies 1 Hour
Saturday Review all game lessons + Analyze Grandmaster games 2 Hours
Sunday Opening Preparation 1 Hour

Frequently Asked Questions

How long it takes to get better at chess?

The time it takes to improve at chess varies widely based on factors such as dedication, learning methods, and natural talent. With consistent practice and study, you can see noticeable improvement within a few months to a year.

How can I improve my chess?

To improve your chess, it is important to have a dedicated study plan. This plan should focus on key improvement areas for your level.

Does chess improve your life?

Chess can improve cognitive skills like problem-solving and critical thinking. Playing in tournaments also provides you with a chance to interact with new people and network.

What will happen if you play chess every day?

Playing chess alone daily will strengthen your existing knowledge and skills. If you want to improve then alongside playing you should learn new concepts.

Does chess require a high IQ?

No, chess does not necessarily require a high IQ. The ability to reason and think logically is more important than IQ.

Can you get better at chess as an adult?

Yes, you can get better at chess as adults. The key is to follow a structured and focused study plan.

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Updated 03.17.2024


Moe :
So ratings are useless. What about lichess?
"(because you know that knights are on b1 and c1, bishops are on c1 and g1 and so on)" Knights are on b1 and g1, and Bishops are on c1 and f1.
Todd Mc:
I hate to tell people this, but ratings seem to be inflated no matter what system you have. FIDE ratings are crazy. In 1972 when Bobby Fischer's rating was around 2780. If your rating was say 2570. You would be in the top 25 in the world. Today You probably would even make the top 200. In USCF Fischer's rating was 2802, and nobody was really close. Now we have a Grandmaster. Who has a rating around 2815. Greater than Fischer's, but has yet to show that he has the talent of Fischer.
Mike Zeggelaar:
This guide is annoying I am rated over 2000 but below 2100. What do I have to do to hit 2200É
show kat:
Aminul islam my friend . His fide rating 2057 and rating 1600+ here is his propile link you can check it.
I would recommend playing around 300 games on to find your true FIDE rating. is massively inflated - I achieved 2100 on it, whilst my actual rating is more like 1550. The people on lichess, however, seemingly play a lot of chess and are quite skilled - my rating there fluctuates between 1400 - 1600, which is about right.
now a 1800 uscf and going up!
Online chess sites ratings are really inflated. For example, I know a few people who have 3000+ ELO on ChessCube and 2500+ ELO on ICC. They are master strength in reality. As for your question it can be either USCF or FIDE since they are usually about 100 points apart (not necessarily USCF being higher).There are some tests that can help you give a more accurate idea of your over the board rating, but the most accurate measure is to play official chess.
What rating is this supposed to be in? USCF and FIDE? Because if that is the case then ratings do not work as they tend to be over inflated. I only have a rating and so I do not know which applies to me as I do not have access to getting one of the other two.
I'm a MasterKnow Lol!!! ;)
That is a huge rating difference. You need to first figure out what is your actual strength. How many USCF games did you play? If not many then your USCF rating maybe under-rated. If you played a lot of USCF games, then rating is too inflated. But again, what kind of chess you play online? Slow? Quick? Bullet? After you figure out your actual strength you may use the above table as an outline for your training.Good luck!
i used to be a 2000 on but in real life i am only a 1055 USCF how do i improve my rating to be like a 2000
What rating (strength) are you, admin?
mate in 4 is not easy to find and even more difficult to setup.. you must be a really advanced player:)
My fav moves are: 4 move mates for those that do not know how to block them....Have been playing chess a very long time.
This is a nice general guide on getting better at chess. I would recommend, after immersing on general principles, to streamline one's move-selection process and calculation technique.It's 'round about 1600-1799 level. This is where it starts to get a little more complex than before...and knowing how to calculate would really help you find the 'duds' and zone in on the really good moves.
thank you.........
Hello, 1700 is a pretty high rating. What I would suggest you keep doing tactics problems and also working on your endgames. Also , play at least 50 tournament games a year. Try playing over the board and not online, these are actually two different things. Try to choose tournaments with the opponents about 100-200 points stronger than you. That way you will progress quicker. Analyze your games afterwards. Good luck!
my rating 1700.I want a good player.I am 14 hours chess practice daily.(tactics,end game,article etc.)Do you give me a daily chess practice routine?(please help me).
well...can u challenge me coz now i'm grandmaster
Hey I'm Master Now :P
the daddy:
im a grandmaster 2521, i am the daddy
Welcome to TheChessWorld Mr. Grandmaster. If you have any suggestions on how to improve for players of different levels you are more than welcome to share it here. I'm sure our chess audience would appreciate it :-)
Well, you can either buy it on the official site (expensive) or check ebay/amazon kind of places (cheaper).
How can we get ChessMaster :-?
Good job, that's a very respectable rating. :-)
You have much space to improve!
D. Stamenkovic:
i am 2321 USCFI am teach chess to people!
Hi....i am 1183...
Good job! There is a plenty of room for improvement!
i'm 1711 :p
Hello, Ranadeep and thank you for you thoughtful reply. Of course you can send me any of your interesting, annotated games, or anything else about chess, I will publish it :) PS We are currently experiencing technical difficulties, so email forms don't seem to work correctly. Just use my email to send your materials:
Hey Friend Growlf,I thinkMr.Admisistrator is right,as I am a tournament player and I play in Fide rated tournaments,I know how much blindfold chess can help me,Just try to play yourself ,you can also play,by the way It helps me a lot,and my fide rating is now 1865,my fide id is 25007980.........and one thing,it does not require any special skills,it only needs your concentration and love for this great game.As,I want to be a I play it fritz and chessmaster 10th edition.Thanks Yury,great article!!By the way Yury can I share some of my thoughts and annotated games here....if u wish!!
Actually many people can play blindfold chess. I think, that if a person is rated above 2000, the chances are quite high that he is capable of playing a decent game blindfolded. So, why not start practicing when you're around 1800? The board vision will be greatly improved. Specially gifted can play 10 or more blindfold games at the same time. I hope I made it more clear ;)
Suggesting that people play blindfold chess to get better sounds stupid. This is a special skill that those gifted with photographic memories will prevail in. Those who don't will just become frustrated and feel stupid. It's better to just tell people to try and calculate deeply as possible during their games, even past the point of quiescence (after a combo).
You chess strength might not be the same ;-)
Did you ever know that your name is the exact same as mt name (Jason)?
this isn't the whole text of the commercial...please add the whole text please...thank
Good point. :-)
Sharp variations for black are those where black has the initiative (sometimes risky and double-edged). Examples Dragon, Meran,etc.
When you play in a rated tournament you get a rating. I have played in like 20 tournaments and my rating (strength) is 1200.
Brochure Printing:
Interesting read and great blog layout, look forward to reading more from you. Have a great christmas and new year! Thanks, from England.
Loft Conversions:
Thanks for a really interesting read, really impressed us here in the UK, keep up the good work and have a wonderful Christmas and New Year ;-)
What is meant by 'sharp variations' for black?
I'm sorry Zoheb, 300-1000 category is probably too broad and I didn't write about it explicit enough. The idea is that on this stage there is no need to spend much time on openings it is better to concentrate on basics (checkmates, some tactics, very simple endgames).
Hello Burgim, I'm at the step right below the 2000-2199 category, currently rated 1901 ;-)
you got it all wrongi play in real tournamentswhen you're 700+ you have to know everything a 1500 would know because chances are you'll get unlucky a lot when playing in tournamentsit happens to me a lot
A Dhanjal:
I always enjoy the articles on this site, especially about the diamond studded sets.I thought you would like know our site that also looks at the chess industry and the chess dealers. In this age in internet, everyone is claiming everything, so I am personally visit all chess makers in India and chess dealers in Europe and US.Here is the link to my new article be we can share some of the articles between two sites, or I can do one specially for you.Hope to hearing from you.Best wishesA Dhanjal
If you play chessmaster challenge or yahoo chess it gives you a number.
hi yury,this are good suggestion to get better in chess but can you first tell us your rating just to be sure that it works :) thank you and you make a good job!
Hello, Lillith! It is a very good question. The only way to figure out your chess rating (level) is to play in real chess tournaments and to wait until your rating gets steady. To get a rough estimate of your chess strength you can join one of chess playing websites like, play there and see what your rating gets to. Another way, maybe to play against the "characters" in ChessMaster or Fritz. Good luck and let me know what worked best for you ;-)
Hye.. How do I know what level am I on? :oops:
Chess Master:
Hi! I am a Master now!
Hi! I am a Master now!
Hi I'm a Master now!
Hi! I am a Master now!
cash: is very informative. The article is very professionally written. I enjoy reading thechessworld every day.
You really have a nice blog! It’s so great to watch Kobe Bryant and LeBron James play over the board game of chess. It’s quite amazing! Thanks for sharing some of this information. I really enjoyed reading this blog over and over again!
There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Future also.
Great job mate! I like your work. Thanks for sharing. The blogengine is new to me
Yes it’s really nice. Really !Thanks a lot for sharing !
this is another nba version
Thank you very much for adding this. I couldn’t seem to find the text for this video for quite a some time.Greetings