What's the best way to learn intermediate chess?
November 16, 2020 9:04 AM   Subscribe

I've been watching The Queen's Gambit and it made me want to try chess again. I know how all the pieces move, castling/en passant, etc, but I lack any strategic understanding, openings/closings, etc. Where do I go from here? Online/digital sources preferred, but books are cool too.
posted by miltthetank to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1. Same. I enjoyed chess a decade ago as a commute activity, but fell out of it when my commute got a lot shorter. I'm also getting back into it.

2. I joined this Chess Discord server, called 'Chess Academy': https://discord.gg/z3k85BZ. I've found it to be a very friendly and encouraging community, and I hang out there nearly nightly, trying to solve the chess puzzles. It has all levels of players, from those who know that the horse makes the 'L' shape, to a Grandmaster.

3. I made accounts on chess.com and http://lichess.org/; chess.com does have paid tiers, but lichess.org is completely free. Both sites also have phone apps for Android and Apple. You can also link your accounts on these sites to your account on the Chess Academy discord linked above. If you want to friend me, I'm 'spinifexbones' on both boards.

4. I found that having a manual chess set to work out moves is indeed helpful; mine is a travel magnetic set. When I am stuck on a puzzle, I'll work it out on the board instead of staring at a screen.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:15 AM on November 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have been using the "Magnus Chess Trainer" app. You might think "this is clearly just a cash-in by a world champion licensing his name for a mobile app!" which is true, but it is nevertheless pretty good.

It has little games and puzzles meant to give you the right intuition, teach you to quickly see the right moves on the board, etc. interspersed with a curriculum of useful lessons of the exact kind you want.
posted by vogon_poet at 9:18 AM on November 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The finest introduction to the game I've ever found is Logical Chess, Move by Move by Irving Chernev. Games are presented to the reader and explained, as the title suggests, move by move, starting from the first move.

This book serves as a window to the mind of a great player. Every page flows with wisdom about positioning your pieces for maximum effect. The book is comprehensive, in that it covers the whole game, from opening to midgame to endgame. There are enough illustrated games in this book to take you well into your way as an intermediate player.

Enjoy the journey.
posted by sydnius at 9:31 AM on November 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

I can't give specific modern software recommendations, but strongly endorse the idea of it. I played with some Kasparov branded option in the '90s and it had options for in-game tips and explanations, plus things like tutorials with all the openings (and explaining why they'd work) and definitely I started to "get" the game then in a way I hadn't before.

Just using that casually I got to the point where, as a lark, I played against one of those street guys who bet against tourists while playing three games at once to see how I'd do. He actually had to put some thought into beating me. He still won easily of course, but he'd stop and look at our board and when I finally made a stupid mistake said "don't do that, we have a nice game going."

Yes it's kind of pathetic that I'm bragging about losing a chess game a couple decades ago but really it felt good!
posted by mark k at 9:59 AM on November 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

I have to second Logical Chess, Move by Move. It's analysis is quite well-done, and it's aimed at explaining the "why," behind certain moves and lines of play.

I also recommend an older book called Chess, Beginner to Expert, by Larry Evans, which is more tutorial in nature but explains a lot of strategic concepts in some depth. This is recommended mostly because it's what I learned from, not because there aren't newer books which cover the same ground.
posted by Alensin at 10:46 AM on November 16, 2020

Thirding Logical Chess, Move by Move.
posted by caek at 11:30 AM on November 16, 2020

I asked a similar question long ago (and perhaps somewhere else) and was recommended the two-volume Predator at the Chessboard series.
posted by metabaroque at 4:19 PM on November 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Predator at the Chessboard is available for free online at chesstactics.org .
posted by vogon_poet at 4:28 PM on November 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

There's something to be said for reading the classic books. Starting from where you are, Lasker's Manual of Chess will teach you a lot. For a third or fourth book to absorb I'd recommend Nimzovich's My System. They are both remarkably well written. They're also both nearly 100 years old, which is mostly a blessing but a bit of a drawback.
posted by Nelson at 6:01 PM on November 16, 2020

Best answer: This is something I've been trying to do as well.

Books: Logical Chess, Move by Move and Predator at the Chessboard (don't be dissuaded by the dumb name) aka chesstactics.org are both superb, as mentioned above.

At lower to intermediate levels of play, victory in chess is absolutely dominated by tactics. Do lots of practice problems on a site like Chess Tempo. Create an account there and try to get your tactics rating up. You'll improve naturally as your brain learns common patterns. The Predator at the Chessboard book will help a lot with this too.

Play lots of games online on a site like lichess.org—ideally at a long enough time control that you have time to think and learn. (15+10 is good.) Analyze your games afterward with the aid of an engine (not in painstaking detail, but enough that you are convinced you understand your biggest mistakes and your opponent's biggest mistakes and how you would avoid them). Don't let yourself be afraid of losing.

I've been watching chess videos on YouTube as well. Find a chess YouTuber or streamer you like—one with a good didactic style who explains their thinking—and watch them, for entertainment and to learn. I've been watching IM John Bartholomew, starting with his series on Chess Fundamentals and Climbing the Rating Ladder and then just going through his backlog of games starting with Standard Chess #1. I feel like I've learned a ton this way about how a master thinks about chess.
posted by Syllepsis at 7:29 PM on November 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

I've been watching chess videos on YouTube as well. Find a chess YouTuber or streamer you like—one with a good didactic style who explains their thinking—and watch them, for entertainment and to learn.

I've started watching chess videos recently as well but a caveat to that is a lot of them are playing blitz/bullet/time constrained formats which might not be as helpful as it could be otherwise. That said, I like agadmator.
posted by juv3nal at 8:37 PM on November 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

"How to Reassess Your Chess" by Silman is a great book for intermediate level folks.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 7:27 AM on November 17, 2020

I started learning chess strategy on the iOS app Dr. Wolf and I like it so much I’m paying for the premium.
posted by RisforKickin at 8:01 PM on November 17, 2020

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