April 27, 2008 10:02 PM   Subscribe

How should I, an intermediate chess player, study to improve my game?

I'm overwhelmed with options--study openings, tactics, endgames; read any of 1001 books on X, Y, and Z. I'd like to define a modest study regimen for myself. "Become chess master" is on my bucket list for sure.

What's been the most effective for you in improving? I'd especially like to hear from very strong, dedicated players.

Building an opening repertoire, in particular, sounds like fun. Any advice in this area?

Bonus question: what openings do you play, and why?

If you're up for a game on Red Hot Pawn, you can find me as "flotson" there, too.
posted by flotson to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Tactics, tactics, tactics. Nothing will improve your game faster. Download Chessbase Light and whatever tactical position sets you can find, and do them endlessly. These are pretty good. Middlegame tactics will improve your board vision tremendously. The only endgames I'd recommend spending serious time on are king and pawn, and king, rook and pawn.

Don't worry too much about the opening. It's worth having a consistent repertoire so that you play familiar positions and get some experience in them, but don't bother learning 22 moves deep to the latest grandmaster tech. You won't really know what's going on. I'd recommend keeping it simple, with 1. e4, preferably a Ruy if Black allows it, and play either 1. ...e5 or the Sicilian as Black against it. Against 1. d4, QGD. These are good openings to learn with, and knowing them well is an asset down the line even if you eventually decide to switch to something more outre.
posted by shadow vector at 10:26 PM on April 27, 2008

Lots of time on Chess Tactics Server.
posted by dixie flatline at 10:28 PM on April 27, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks. . .these are both excellent resources. I look forward to digging into them.
posted by flotson at 1:33 AM on April 28, 2008

Agree with shadow vector. Personally, I just play thousands of lightning games on FICS because that's what I enjoy. I think that unless you're approaching master-level play, you really don't need much more than a passing familiarity with the major openings. It's all about tactics. I do tend to play offbeat ones like Bird's Opening, but they work better in lightning than regular.
posted by callmejay at 3:51 AM on April 28, 2008

Seconding above. There was a book called "attacking the king" that I read once about tactics and found particularly useful. Also want to add that I found learning the Sicilian in depth very useful. 1. e4 c5 narrows a lot of white's options, and it becomes easier to gain ground in the opening if you know the variations (and your opponent doesn't).
posted by kisch mokusch at 4:38 AM on April 28, 2008

My sister is a professional chess coach. I asked her your question. She said "play games and solve tactics" and "pay for some lessons". Naturally, the latter advice is contingent on a good chess coach being near you, and on you being interested enough in becoming a strong player that you are willing to pay money.
posted by hAndrew at 8:49 AM on April 28, 2008

It's hard to say without knowing what your "intermediate" is. I haven't played seriously for a few years, but when I did I was rated about 1600 USCF, so it may be that you're already better than I ever was (although the fact that you're asking these questions suggest you're probably not).

Agree with shadowvector on openings: pick some particular ones that give you positions you like, but don't bother learning them 20 moves deep--you'll never reach such positions against players of your own level anyway. I tend to prefer quiet, positional, strategic play rather than the wild tactics-heavy play, so I played the French Defense against 1. e4, QGD against 1. d4, and 1. d4 as white. (Interestingly, as White I would play the Four Pawns Attack against the King's Indian Defense, which may seem odd as I'm generally not a super-agressive player and yet the 4PA is typically seen as a very agressive response to the KID. It just seemed to work better for me than other responses to the KID. Which is just to say don't let generalities about what type of game you like keep you away from particular openings you like.)

Don't know how you are on tactics yet, but once you've got some basic understanding of tactics, I think endgame study is worthwhile, and frankly underrated among many intermediate players. Two reasons: first, if you get into an endgame in time trouble, it's very helpful to be able to play basic endgames quickly without having to puzzle out each move. Second, in the late middlegame you need to be able to answer questions along the lines of "if I exchange down into such-and-such and endgame, is that endgame won (or drawn, if that's what you're trying to achieve) for me" without trying to work through the entire endgame right there at the board.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:30 AM on April 29, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks to all. . . Some excellent resources and suggestions here. I think I'm going to opt for some combination of all of the above. Except for, perhaps, a chess coach. As much fun as that would be, I can't afford it. *off to find super-cute chess savant to flirt with*
posted by flotson at 10:41 AM on May 3, 2008

CT Art 3.0 is an excellent tactics trainer. (Review here)
It says its for players rated 1600-2300 Elo, so they don't start out easy, and it gets harder.
On guy at my club used this and got way better.
It's $25-$35, but there's a free demo download.

If you've not gotten an education in the basics of tactics, you should start with something like Winning Chess Tactics by Seirawan or my all-time favorite Winning Chess, by Chernev & Reinfeld- often available on eBay.

As for openings, they are a matter of taste. I'd suggest going through Winning Chess Openings, again by Seirawan, for a quick tour of what's out there. You will probably see openings that lead to positions that feel comfortable to you, and ones that feel all wrong. After you get some idea, you can buy a jillion books on eBay on openings.
posted by MtDewd at 7:27 AM on May 7, 2008

« Older Empty room ideas?   |   Hard drive pain. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.