I am looking for tips to improve my chess game.
January 26, 2011 5:06 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for tips to improve my chess game.

Often when I play a game, things seem to be very close, but my opponent tends to come up with amazing moves that slowly but surely tilt the game to his advantage. Also, some opponents build up amazing defense positions so that it seems futile to attack their pieces, much less the king. Are there books/online resources that help players learn successful and varied attack strategies? (Arranging your pieces for an effective defense seems to be just as important, so I'd want to learn more about that as well.)
posted by gregb1007 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've recently been enjoying using Chess Tactics Server. I don't know if it's helping me, but I feel like it is.

I heard of it in another recent AskMe, which you may want to check out.
posted by Flunkie at 5:40 PM on January 26, 2011

The tactics training on chesstempo.com is pretty great. (and read people's comments.)
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:53 PM on January 26, 2011

I'm in a similar position and am studying "Learn Chess Tactics" by Nunn. It's entirely tactics, the nitty gritty of duking it out on the board. One distinguishing feature is that all of its exercises are from actual games. No contrived, inhumane puzzles. He de-emphasizes endgames because in reality with seasoned players, one side will resign when faced with a significant material disadvantage. I also recommend purchasing a small travel chess set for studying so that you can follow the sequences of moves given in chess literature.
posted by mnemonic at 6:11 PM on January 26, 2011

The two books which most clearly explained the important concepts of chess to me are Winning Chess Tactics and Winning Chess Strategies by
Yasser Seirawan.
posted by tdismukes at 6:13 PM on January 26, 2011

Memorize the common openings, if you haven't already. Relatively easy to do, and it will help you to avoid early mistakes that can't be seen with short-term tactical analysis.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:24 PM on January 26, 2011

Best answer: lalex - that is a fantastic link, and great thread.

gregb1007 - What is your level right now? How good are the people you're playing against? Why do you want to get better at chess? Are you playing to have fun with friends, or do you want to get seriously competitive? How you answer this should affect the resources people recommend to you.

As a kid, I was really into the game, and played tournaments a lot, but I plateaued around 1600. I loved tactics, and was decent at that sort of play, but wasn't willing to study enough. If you love the studying, then chess might be a great game for you. I love studying, but would rather put that effort towards understanding real-world problems than a contrived game.

Most of the answers you've gotten so far focus on learning tactics - which are definitely the fun part of chess, and what you should work on first. However, to get good, you need to memorize openings (there are huge dictionary-like tomes of openings going many many moves deep, with small advantages in position analyzed), study historical games, analyze your own play to find weakness, etc. ... Is this really what you're after?

(If you like the flavor of chess but are in it for fun competition, you might also enjoy bughouse - partnered chess, where when you capture a piece you pass it to your partner, who can place it on his board instead of moving a piece. Incredibly fast-paced, tactical, and more social)
posted by Metasyntactic at 6:53 PM on January 26, 2011

Pawns are the soul of chess. -Philidor

Really trying to understand and play with this in mind helped my chess game more than anything else except losing to great players. Understand pawn structure, learn how it affects the endgame, really understand why 3 pawns are generally considered equal to a minor piece, etc.

Also, learn your endgame. I know it feels like you can't even get there yet, but learn it anyway. If you have a good endgame (and many people you will play don't) you can trade pieces intelligently, setting up a winning position.
posted by milarepa at 8:23 PM on January 26, 2011

If you've never studied any chess strategy, the Yahoo Chess basics page is very good. Learning just the relative values of the pieces is enough to beat many casual players.
posted by mnemonic at 8:42 PM on January 26, 2011

I found lots of good sites just by checking the delicious tags for chess.
posted by wilful at 9:33 PM on January 26, 2011

Best answer: How to Reassess Your Chess was the best books I read about the strategy side of chess directed at good casual players. (Way better than the Seirawan books in my opinion.)

Doing realistic chess puzzles should not be underrated.

You don't need to worry about memorizing openings and lines beyond 3 or 4 moves until you're pretty advanced.
posted by callmejay at 7:14 AM on January 27, 2011

There's a fun interactive site for end-game chess moves at chessproblems.com. It organizes the problems based on difficulty.
posted by jasonhong at 7:44 AM on January 27, 2011

It's also hard to gauge your level by your post, so I don't know if this following advice will help. Two common mistakes novices make are (1) not making use of all their pieces (for example, relying too much on the queen while not putting other pieces into play), and (2) not controlling the center of the board.
posted by jasonhong at 7:48 AM on January 27, 2011

Go sign up for a free account on FICS, then start watching lectures from lecturebot. Loads and loads of good stuff there.
posted by flabdablet at 9:00 AM on January 27, 2011

By the way: once you reach a certain level of chess proficiency, there is a ceiling to improvement that you can only break through by learning thousands of games off by heart. This is why the number of chess masters is such a small fraction of the population - getting really good requires endless rote memorization work as well as creativity, flexibility and courage and a general feel for the thing. Slacking your way to a 1400 rating is quite doable though. Easiest method is to pick one line of play that appeals to you (I'm currently quite fond of the stonewall attack) and play it a hell of a lot against all comers.
posted by flabdablet at 9:09 AM on January 27, 2011

FWIW, the usual advice is to not play blitz, and indeed it is true, one cannot get much better at such fast time controls. One exception I find however is that it allows me to work on openings to a degree, by burning multiple variations (whether sound or not) into my brain in a short period of time.
posted by teg4rvn at 11:25 AM on January 27, 2011

Zeitnot is a modern, online chess tactics trainer.
posted by netbros at 3:28 PM on February 7, 2011

ChessTempo (previously linked) > Zeitnot.
posted by flabdablet at 9:18 PM on February 7, 2011

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