7 Tips to Improve your Chess Rating.

Aimchess
Aimchess
Published in
5 min readDec 19, 2020

--

This article is written by Ross Venhuizen, our CMO at Aimchess. Ross began his chess journey two years ago and is now rated ~2100 on Lichess.org.

One of the most common questions I see from new chess players is “how do I get better at chess?”. Once beginners are familiar with the basics of the game — how the board is set up and how to move your pieces — most quickly realize just how complicated chess is. It can be difficult to know where to even start when looking to improve your chess rating.

As a relatively new player myself, I thought I would share some of the tips that have helped me improve to a 2100 on Lichess in just under 2 years.

A snapshot of the account I play under on Lichess

#1. Protect your pieces & reduce your blunders

Far and away the most important thing to focus on as a beginner is simply defending your pieces. Many new players I talk to think they need to get better at tactics or strategy, but when we analyze their games, we see that they’re giving away at least one free piece per game. In health, they say that “you can’t out exercise a bad diet,” and in chess the same applies to blunders. You’ll never have a chance to show off your killer tactical abilities if you’re giving your opponent free pieces in the opening/middlegame. Even when I was rated 1500, the majority of my losses were due to me simply giving away a free piece.

Recommended resources:

Can you spot the blunder?

#2. Learn opening principles

If you’ve read up on chess openings at all, you’ll know that there’s tons of theory about how to play different openings. Early on in my chess journey, I made the mistake of thinking this was an important thing for me to learn. So I would memorize long sequences of the exact moves I should play to gain an advantage in an opening, and then 2 moves into the game my opponent would pick a different move than I studied, and I had no idea what to do. Rather than learning theory early on in your chess journey, I recommend focusing on following established principles for good openings: develop your pieces, control the center, and get your king to safety.

Recommended resources:

#3. Play longer time controls

Do not play bullet chess. I repeat, do not play bullet. If you’ve played shorter time controls in chess, you know that they are incredibly exciting (and for me, addicting). But every high-rated player will tell you that the best way to improve your understanding of the game is to play long time controls where you are forced to think deeply about your moves.

Recommended resources:

#4. Learn from good players who are also good teachers on Twitch or Youtube

One of the greatest things about the modern chess era is how many chess players stream on Twitch or record videos on Youtube. It’s a huge gift to watch such talented players talk through their thought process as they play. That said, not all master-level players are created equal. I recommend following players who have experience coaching (or playing against) lower-level players and can thus better explain their moves to help you learn.

Recommended resources:

#5. Use a “checklist” when deciding on moves

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made a move, only to immediately spot afterwards that I had blundered a piece or missed a checkmate. These types of errors often occur when I see a move that looks good and forget to think through what is happening on the rest of the board. I’ve found that having a mental checklist of the candidate moves available to me has helped me find better moves and greatly reduce my blunders.

Recommended resources:

A candidate move checklist from HangingPawns

#6. Learn your basic endgames

When you first start playing chess, most games end in checkmates or timeouts. But as you improve, more and more of your games will involve an endgame. Learning basic endgame techniques, such as how to play a king + pawn vs king scenario, will make a major difference as you get to higher levels in chess. All it takes is one endgame where you can’t figure out how to checkmate with a rook and a king for you to realize that some endgame studying would be well warranted (speaking from personal experience).

Recommended resources:

#7. Take a data-driven approach to improving

In baseball, player development has been revolutionized over the past few years by the addition of advanced statistics and measurements into the training process. Pitchers analyze everything from their arm rotation to ball spin in order to know exactly what they need to work on to improve. Improving at chess should be no different. Knowing what the biggest holes in your game allows you to fix those weaknesses and improve more quickly than others.

Recommended resources:

Sample of Aimchess analysis report

Ross Venhuizen, Chief Marketing Officer at Aimchess

--

--