Help me plan a chess roadmap
May 16, 2016 11:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to step up my chess game, but right now I can't commit to traditional chess clubs or similars because of reasons. So, I'm looking to plan ahead using every other available resource. Special considerations inside.

I learned the basic rules of chess when I was a kid and have played casually against friends and family, but have never actually tried to improve. Now, for several reasons I'm looking to improve myself over the next few years, at least.

My current schedule is not crazy, but is irregular enough that I can't reliably assist to weekly/monthly meetings and lessons on traditional chess clubs around me. So I figure that the second best option is to get the collective wisdom of my peers and start planning a roadmap that will let me advance on my own and get assistance from other people whenever possible. [1]

This roadmap is close to what I'm looking to build, but I want more than just a checklist of skills to be crossed out. I'm looking to actually enjoy getting better at chess as I've enjoyed getting better at other things. Why a roadmap, then? I want a somewhat flexible way of objectively measuring my progress while also getting an intuitive sense of what I've done and what I've yet to master.

My ideal roadmap would include not just skills and abilities to learn, but also books [2][3], documentaries, historically important games, discussion, research/scientific studies, technology, useful software/websites, etc. Software, apps and websites get bonus points if they are free (as in beer and as in freedom) but I'm willing to spend some disposable income on them. Assume I have little to no previous knowledge of chess, so beginner resources are game.

I understand this roadmap might never be complete, but that's not the point here. It's all about the journey. Help me, fellow Mefites! Please give me your recommendations along with some indication of when to learn or read (beginner-medium-advanced, ELO rating or whatever)

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Previously on AskMeFi (I've consulted some of these but I don't know exactly where/when I would put their resources in a roadmap): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10
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[1] I am not against playing and learning from other people, but I hate making a commitment knowing in advance that I can't keep up. That said, I made an emphasis on traditional clubs because I can (in theory) join online clubs.
[2] Finding books about chess is of course trivially easy, but I have no sense of which ones are suitable for different skill levels. I believe there must be some books better suited for advanced players just as the Beethoven Piano Sonatas are not really meant for beginners.
[3] I mean books on chess theory (openings, etc.) but also general fiction/non fiction where chess is prominent. Player biographies, history of chess and similar are also welcome
posted by andycyca to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Other people will have suggestions for beginner to intermediate books and such, which I'm not very familiar with. But the number one most important skill for you to acquire is tactics, and the easiest way to acquire it is to do problems on Chess Tempo. It will serve you tactical problems from real games that are automatically selected to be suitable for your level (which it will determine and track). It is free but premium memberships have useful features.

Once you get up to around 1500 FIDE (and you may lose interest long before that), a pretty much one-stop shop for getting to master level is Artur Yusupov's 9-book training course. But that may be a while off.

You will want to play a lot. If you are playing online, Lichess is pretty much the place to be right now.
posted by dfan at 12:36 PM on May 16, 2016


This is what I post whenever someone asks for helping getting better at chess.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:51 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I agree you should play a lot. ICC is where I play. Maybe 15 minutes per side per game is a better way to start than 5-minute chess. If you want an objective way to measure your progress, watch your rating!

I like Chernev's Logical Chess Move by Move as a way for beginners to start to understand what's going on. Then Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess will get you started learing tactics. If you're still interested, then a book on endings (I like 100 Endgames You Must Know) and one of the million opening repertoire books available.
posted by O. Bender at 12:53 PM on May 16, 2016


I'd suggest starting out with Lasker's Manual of Chess. It's a good introduction to how to think about the game and to basic tactical ideas. Chess tempo is also excellent to get a more intuitive grasp of tactics in action.

At a certain point, in order to play at a high level, you just have to straight up memorize certain lines of play. At the very least you have to know how to deal with certain common openings and how to get to the midgame without getting caught in common traps.
posted by dis_integration at 12:54 PM on May 16, 2016


As far as actually getting your practical skill to 2000 goes, I think that everything besides playing seriously, analyzing your games, and practicing tactics is a rounding error.

But here are my recommendations for chess things I enjoy:

- Big tournaments. Look for yearly state/national tournaments in your area. It's fun to go and watch very strong players and it also feels like a good excuse to really try hard to play a few good games.

- Following professional chess. I like to read the headlines at ChessBase, follow their game analyses, and if there are any supertournaments running with broadcasted games it's fun to follow along live.

- Coaching. I (2050 USCF) spend 3 hours a week with an IM coach and we study famous games, middlegame themes, and endgames; I also do a handful of studies he assigns over the rest of the week. This is the most fun way I know how to spend 3 hours. Expensive, though.

- Books. I like reading strong players' big opinions about chess. I think Jonathan Rowson, Jeremy Silman, and John Nunn are probably my favorite chess writers. Tim Krabbe and Edward Winter have big websites with odd stories about chess history.
posted by value of information at 12:59 PM on May 16, 2016


I use chessable for openings, lichess for tactics (currently rated 2156) and for playing (currently rated 1816 in classical), and youtube videos for motivation and for getting a feel of the game (nowadays mainly John Bartholomew and ChessNetwork).

I also use the Chess Genius app on my phone to play against the computer, which helps to eliminate blunders such as hanging pieces or easily falling into lost positions.

I own several chess books, but I rarely look at them. I have found the Chess-Steps method specially interesting. Andrew Soltis' Studying Chess Made Easy might also be appropriate for you.

I have contacted chess teachers in the past, but they ask for too much money so I rather learn on my own.

I've been wondering about finding a chess buddy for years. Contact me if you're interested in pairing up.
posted by dfreire at 1:14 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


When I was young Chess in a Nutshell by Reinfeld gave me a massive advantage over casual players and a foothold for more involved books. It is a short and basic book. It's a great "I need to beat my classmates at chess" book.

This is a beginner's books, casual beginners at that. If you know the rules of the game but don't know how to read games, don't know the difference between an absolute and relative pin or what a fork is, this is a decent book to start with.
posted by bdc34 at 1:26 PM on May 16, 2016


Many traditional chess clubs don't require a commitment. There are often 1 day tournaments on weekends. You don't need to play constantly, but playing long games every once in a while (and analyzing the games afterwards) would be tremendously helpful.

The red Reinfeld book is good for tactics. If that's too difficult, start with the giant Polgar book and then move on to Reinfeld. Sorry, I don't remember the exact names.

I'd advise not getting too caught up with openings until you're 1800-2000 USCF.

Andrew Soltis is my favorite modern chess writer. Silman is popular, too. Still, I think they're overkill until you're 1700-1800. Until then, focus on games and tactics!
posted by tango! at 2:07 PM on May 16, 2016


Ward Farnsworth's Predator at the Chessboard is an excellent tactics resource. Lots of examples/problems throughout and good explanations of concepts.
posted by Gymnopedist at 5:20 PM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thanks for your replies, keep 'em coming! I'll start sorting out these and present partial results when I get home
posted by andycyca at 5:25 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I second the recommendation for Chernev's, "Logical Chess Move by Move". It's a great starting point for starting to think about chess seriously.

For tactics, I really like Alburt's Chess Tactics for the Tournament Player.

This book is a little more advanced, but it explains the thinking process in a way that most tactics books do not. I think it's a fairly common complaint that tactics books drill you on specific tactical motifs, but in real games those situations don't happen. Opponents of your skill level generally don't make tactical mistakes that are obvious to you, because if they are obvious at your skill level then both players will see it.

The difficult thing in real games is recognizing how to force your opponent into making tactical mistakes.

I wrote something about this in a previous post, and though it might be too advanced for you right now, maybe it will be helpful for you: The difference between motif and idea.
posted by cotterpin at 3:41 AM on May 17, 2016


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