10 Steps for Getting Good at Chess – Fast

Do you know how to get better at chess? How do you become a strong chess player? Everyone wants to learn a secret recipe that will help getting good at chess fast! Should you work on tactics? How much time should you be spending on endgames? Do you have to play over-the-board chess? We will answer these and many more questions and will give you a simple 10-step plan outlining the most important steps you should take for getting good at chess.

How to be Better at Chess — Step 1. Solve Tactics Daily

Perhaps one of the most important steps you can take to improve your game is start solving tactics. There are few things you should keep in minds while working on tactics. First of all, you shouldn’t spend the whole training session on it. Spending 15-20 minutes a day is totally sufficient.

Select the problems you can solve fairly quickly. If you need to spend 30 minutes to find a single solution, the problem is too hard. Ideally, you should spend around 2-3 minutes per problem or less for finding all the crucial lines and variations. You can read this post to learn how to solve tactics.

That way you can solve 7-10 problems a day. It may not seem like a lot, but it will result in 70 problems/week, 300 problems/month or 4500 problems/year. That is a good foundation and will make you proficient at finding most combinations.

How to be Better at Chess — Step 2. Play Competitive Chess

Second very important step for getting good at chess is practice. The most common mistake amateur players make is assuming that playing online chess is enough. Online chess can be a temporary alternative for over the board chess. However, to fully concentrate on the game and perform at your best a real face-to-face competition is a must.

Even when playing practice matches, the amount of value you gain from over-the-board games cannot be compared with online chess. There are no GMs and IMs that became who they are from online chess. They play online, but more so for fun rather than for serious training. If you want to fully benefit from your practice matches, always choose over-the-board! It’s as simple as that.

How to be Better at Chess — Step 3. Analyze All Your Losses

Analyzing lost games is one the most important aspects of getting good at chess. Many amateur players prefer either not to analyze their games altogether or just to focus on analyzing the wins. Unfortunately, we cannot learn from somebody else’s mistakes.

We learn the best from our own. Touching a hot plate once and getting burned is 1000% more efficient than being told 100 times that touching a hot plate is dangerous. In chess it works the same way. By missing a back rank mate once or twice you’ll beware and avoid future accidents.

By analyzing your lost games you will understand what went wrong and will do your best to avoid this kind of things from happening in future games. It is painful to look at your losses, but it is the only way for getting good at chess. If you want to learn how to analyze games I suggest reading 7 most important factors in position analysis and questions to ask yourself when analyzing your own games.

How to be Better at Chess — Step 4. Study Grandmaster Games

Why is it important to study grandmaster games? From analyzing games of very strong players you learn many ideas and maneuvers which are next to impossible to discover yourself.

There are couple things to keep in mind when going over the GM games. First of all, you should study well-annotated games and try understanding why the moves were played. Approach the game from an active position. Put yourself in player’s shoes, identify all of the threats, come up with a plan and only then compare your findings and analysis with what happened in the game.

Active learning is by far more superior technique than simply reading annotations. Make your brain work while going over grandmaster games, and it will do the same in your own games.

How to be Better at Chess — Step 5. Use Technology Wisely

Modern chess technology is amazing. There are engines that can easily beat World Champions. There is software that stores millions of chess games played starting from the 1200s. There are programs that can analyze games for you, to help figuring out what and when things went wrong. This technology is responsible for producing 12 and 13-year-old GMs, contrary to 20-30 years ago, when it would seem impossible. However, technology alone will not do you any good. It is not a substitute for hard work.

Many chess players take a shortcut by analyzing their games solely with computers, bypassing human component. A computer cannot help you at understanding why those mistakes were made. It cannot show you how to avoid those in future. It is very important to analyze all of your games yourself, and only then check with an engine.

Players get highly addicted to the engines because it is convenient to get the analysis without doing the heavy lifting. You don’t need to think, and in a couple of seconds, you are shown the right move and the correct continuation. Players incorrectly assume part of the credit for analyzing those positions. After a while, they start thinking they can find the move but use the computer just to simplify the task. Computer won’t help you in over-the-board games. You are totally on your own. Therefore, you must learn to find those moves independently. And to do that, you have to learn to analyze without a computer. Read this post to learn how to use computers to work on your game.

How to be Better at Chess — Step 6. Get a Mentor

This is a step that can tremendously accelerate your progress. If you want to start getting good at chess fast, this is something to consider. Keep in mind that chess mentor is not a chess coach. He won’t give you assignments and homework. A mentor is a person you can talk to about your chess. You can tell him about your difficulties, about your successes and failures. You can tell him what works and what doesn’t. You can ask him for an advice.

Ideally, your mentor should be more successful at chess than you are. He doesn’t have to be a Grandmaster or even a master player. But he should be more experienced and should be in a position to give you a good advice.

How to be Better at Chess — Step 7. Follow 20/40/40 Rule Chess

If you want to start getting good, you should work on all elements of the game. Many players are making a mistake of focusing only on some elements of chess and completely forgetting about the others. That’s where 20/40/40 rule comes handy. For an under 2000 rated player, it makes sense to spend 20% of the time on openings, 40% on Middlegame and 40% on Endgame.

Besides that, you should play practice games, solve tactics and analyze. If you feel that one part of your game is lagging, you can dedicate a bit more time to it, but never make a mistake of neglecting the other elements!

How to be Better at Chess — Step 8. Build a Chess Library

If your goal is getting good at chess you must have a chess library. All strong chess players have a collection of resources they study and periodically consult. For example, you may face a certain Middlegame position that you’ve previously seen in one of our training videos.

Then, you may re-watch part of the video discussing that Middlegame to remind yourself how it should be played. Similarly, you may retake some of the lessons from 21 Day Course (assuming you already completed the course). In any case, building a library is a very important step in the career of a chess player. You should consider adding some of our great resources to your library if you haven’t done so yet!

How to be Better at Chess — Step 9. Stay Positive

Staying positive is a very important step, if you want to start getting good at chess. You should not get frustrated by your failures but rather start treating them as a part of the training.

It is much better to lose more games now, rather than lose a very important game later when it really matters. If you start getting negative thoughts, just say “STOP”, breathe deeply and focus on achieving the results you desire!

How to be Better at Chess — Step 10. Train Other Chess Players

Training other chess players is a great way to improve your own game. By sharing your knowledge with others, explaining the concepts you start understanding it on a much higher level.

Teaching others requires a thorough understanding of the subject. Possibly you will need to refresh some of the things, to formulate the ideas in a simple, easy-to-understand way. But once you do, you will get surprised at how your own chess improves. By helping other players to master the game, you will become a chess master one day!

If you want to improve your chess level, you need to have a clear study plan. If you aim for a dramatic improvement at chess you need to work on all of the elements of the game in a systematic way:

  • tactics
  • positional play
  • attacking skills
  • endgame technique
  • classical games analysis
  • psychological preparation
  • and much more

That seems to be like a lot of things, and that is. But no worries, we have made it easy for you. Our comprehensive training course covers it all and much more. Sign up for 21 Day Training right now!

Now you know how to get better at chess.

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Updated 08.10.2023


Peidi Wu:
Great post, What are your thoughts on people who say that puzzles didn't help as much as studying your own games, which you also suggested but lower down?