In order to improve at chess every player must work hard and invest some daily time and effort. There are many things you can work on, from openings to endgame, tactics and the middlegame. However, there are few basic skills one must develop and constantly train. The consistency of training is perhaps one of the single most important things a chess player can do in order to be successful. Similarly to exercising in a gym, working on your game is a process. The improvement will be gradual, but definite if you keep applying yourself. Here are the 5 most useful chess skills you can learn in just 5 days!
This is the most obvious skill a chess player must work on. You can get away with a lot of things if you know how to calculate at a high level. Throughout the history of chess, there were strong players that did not have a great positional understanding, but were able to get away simply because of excellent calculation skills. In other words, they could refute their opponents’ moves by simply seeing further in the position.
In order to train your calculation, the most common method is solving tactics. The right way to do this is to “meditate” on a position for some time and write down the moves on a piece of paper. Doing this means you are committed to the moves, just as if you were playing a game. It is very important to do this right and aim for precision. Another thing you can do in order to improve your calculation is to play
Another thing you can do in order to improve your calculation is playing over the games from books or magazines without using a chess board [aka blindfold analysis]. Do everything in your mind. This will improve your visualization and your imagination.
If you want to work on your calculation in greater depth I suggest reading 10 Ways to Improve Your Calculation Skills.
If you want to seriously improve your calculation and gain access to the exact calculation system that many IMs and GMs use I recommend The Art of Calculation with IM Andrey Ostrovskiy.
2. Evaluation of the position
Not knowing how to evaluate a position is one of the most common flaws in an amateur player’s game. However, even for the experienced players, there are some positions that can be difficult to evaluate. A misevaluation can lead to mistakes over the board. In order to develop this skill, we would recommend that you read games commented by the top players. At some point, they usually explain what is going on in the middlegame, what the flaws and strength of the position are, and therefore the evaluation of it.
Then you can try to take some games yourself and evaluate the positions in the middlegame by following the standard questions:
- who has the better structure?
- who has the better king?
- who has the better piece coordination?
- who has more weaknesses, etc.
If you want to become a skilled player, then you must know how to plan. Tactics and dynamics are all good, but in many positions, there is nothing going on and we have to know how to trace a strategic plan that will help us reach a certain goal.
This could be to improve a piece, to create a weakness or to prevent our opponent from fulfilling his own plans. In order to work on this, it is probably best to study the classics, such as Petrosian.
If you want to learn how to plan your game step-by-step, I recommend reading this mini-guide. If you want to succeed at chess it is crucial to start coming up with a good plan. That’s where the problems come for 95% of chess players. Strategic Planning with IM Lilov covers everything you need to know to plan your game from the opening to a win.
In chess, you must not only look for your own goals, but it is also essential to interfere with your opponent’s plans. Prophylaxis is not only about creating a “luft” [aka escape square] for your king in order not to get mated on the back rank but is also about making preparatory moves that will prevent your opponent from creating counterplay in the future.
Petrosian was a great prophylactic player, but Dvoretsky also focused a lot on this aspect of the game in his books. Studying these two giants could be a good start in order to develop a prophylactic sense.
I also suggest you read this article covering basics of prophylaxis and how you can apply it in your own games.
5. Sense of danger
It is very important to know when your position is potentially dangerous. You have to know this in advance, otherwise, it can be too late by the time you realize it and defense will become much more difficult. Besides the obvious advice of paying attention to your opponent’s threats in a deep sense (not only the immediate ones but what could possibly be done in the future), you can also look at players such as Karpov or Andersson, who had a great feeling of danger.
In general, these are good skills that will make a difference in your game. Developing those skills will certainly help you to become a much better chess player. It is important to work on all of them and to create a working schedule that includes every one of it.
If you are looking for a training program, here is how you can make one – 5 Tips to Build Your Own Chess Training Program