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What is an efficient way to train one's self at Chess?

I really enjoy playing, perhaps 1-2 times per week. I used to play on an electronic board once per day and at one point I could start to beat it on a regular basis. However, I find it extremely hard to improve myself, and the literature is vast.

If I would like to get to the next level, what is a reasonable approach? Just continue playing, or is there a more systematic approach? Starting to memorize openings? Maybe that's overkill and there could be other things I might do first. I've just glimpsed into Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, looks like reasonably leveled book. Any other suggestions?

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3 Answers 3

Continuing to play is good in that you get plenty of practice, but one thing I have found in other games is that is far more effective coupled with recording your games and then running them back through some form of automated analysis. This will:

  • point out your errors, obviously, so you don't repeat them,
  • over time, give a clear picture of where your consistent errors are, so that you can work on them with outside materials like books,
  • and just as importantly, give you positive feedback when you play well!

In games involving chance this is even more helpful, to avoid the trap of doing what happened to work in the past (which may have been wrong, but which happened to result in good consequences). Even in chess there is some degree of chance, in the sense that a blunder may go unpunished by a fallible opponent. There simply isn't time to read every book, so you need to isolate the parts of your game that need a book most.

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Chess.com has a tactical trainer which I've found very good. It's available through their iPhone app as well as their website, although with a free subscription you're limited to 3 puzzles per day.

http://www.chess.com/tactics/

Each puzzle and player has an Elo rating, and if you solve the puzzle then both the puzzle's and your own rating are adjusted, and you're given another puzzle of similar rating.

Aside from this, record your games and go back through and have your opponent point out errors. When you're playing a game casually and it's clear you're down in material and position position, just concede and start another game. At that point you're just playing to hope your opponent slips up, which isn't a very good strategy.

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I don't know your level, but after learning basic tactics etc so you don't blunder away material, and improving your experience in that area, it starts being a matter of understanding positional advantages and disadvantages and strategies.

With regards to openings, always a thorn in the side for me. So I would adopt certain favourite openings as black I could use that I would know well enough what to do against the likely white moves, and what the continuation strategy would be. Of course in friendly games I would practise different ones, in tournaments I would stick to the tried and tested. As black the main aim in a tournament is usually not to lose rather than to win.

With white in a tournament, you have the advantage of going first, but what move do you play first? If you start 1 e4 you let your opponent pick the response. They'll probably choose Sicilian more often than not so know it, and also some of the other likely ones. If you start 1 d4 there are fewer "variations". As white, your usual aim is more to hope to win rather than avoid losing but it is important not to lose.

Of course if you study grandmaster games you'll know what openings have been commonly played and some of the positions it led to.

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