How can I sharpen my chess skills?

This site contains affiliate links. Please read Disclaimer for more information.

Whether you are a beginner or an intermediate, unfortunately, chess players always hit a plateau. This is the most frustrating moment for a chess player, and many times that stagnation can last for months and even years. How can I sharpen my chess skills and overcome this inevitable plateau?

     A child solving a chess puzzle

You can beat the plateau and get better at chess and so you won’t have to spend months or years playing at the same level.  You can certainly reduce the plateau to a minimum. You will need to improve your chess position evaluation as well as your short tactical calculation.  For more information on how to get better at chess, check out the article below.

Puzzles Training

As we know, learning occurs best from the simple to the complex. This principle is described as the known to the unknown. As a result, it is better to learn simple concepts before moving on to more complex ones. A chess player’s memory is based on chess knowledge about tactics and strategy. The brain encodes the low perceptual level, which stores piece patterns, and the high conceptual level, which stores information about game plans and position evaluation.  This results in various types of encodings, indexing, and, as a result, a high level of cross-references.

As a result, tactics are the primary tools for a chess player. If you cannot calculate correctly, it is very difficult to execute any strategic plan. Therefore, tactics are really the foundation for every skill that chess players are building on top of all of them. According to the 13th world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, “You cannot develop intuitive pattern recognition just by studying a few key examples. You need practice and repetition. Solving dozens, even hundreds, of tactical positions is the most effective way to build up your memory bank of tactical themes and patterns. ” As a result, everyone agrees that practice and repetition are essential for improving at chess.

Nowadays, it is very simple to find free chess tactics material everywhere. It can be found on chess websites such as chess.com, chess24.com, chessable.com, lichess.org, playchess.com, the Internet Chess Club (aka. ICC), and many others. Also, a simple Google search, such as “chess tactics for beginners on lichess.org,” will yield a list of free tactics studies for online chess practice. These free materials are created by chess fans, chess players, and even chess coaches who spend their spare time creating chess studies on the well-known linchess.org website, and many of these materials are open to the public.

Sample of a chess puzzle

Learn – Chess basics for Absolute Beginner

Since lichess.org provides access to most of the resources on their site for free, I chose this site to show you how to access their free resources. Thus, if you’re looking for material for absolute beginners, follow this link https://lichess.org/learn#/ or click on LEARN-Chess basics. This section will teach you how to move the chess pieces and the basics of the game. The best of all, you can move the pieces as you learn. That’s an excellent free tool for any age and true beginner.

If you already know how to play chess, then I recommend that you skip to the next recommendation to start learning chess patterns.

This section is recommended for absolute beginner players

Puzzles – Puzzles Themes for Beginner/Intermediate

This section is for practicing the more advanced and most common chess patterns. Even if you already know some of these patterns, this section will help you reinforce your knowledge of them. The backbone of your strength in chess is your memory bank of tactical themes and patterns. Follow this link https://lichess.org/training  or click on Puzzles, and then Puzzles Themes. In this section, you will be exposed to many chess pattern positions. You must solve at least 50 puzzles for each theme. If necessary, repeat some puzzle patterns until you understand the concept and names of these chess patterns.

Again, my recommendation is to complete at least 50 puzzles for each THEME.

 This section is recommended for beginner/intermediate players

Puzzles – Puzzles Themes for Intermediate

In this section, everyone starts with a 1500 rating. According to the US Chess Federation, “A chess rating is an estimate of your playing strength based on prior results.” Thus, proceed to the puzzle area only after you have completed the previous sections mentioned or have already gained enough experience in handling basic tactics. Try to adjust the difficulty level and by trying the easiest (-600). If you get to a point in which you can solve this level, then skip to the next level.

      This section is recommended for intermediate players

More Puzzles for Beginner/Intermediate

This site should be used exclusively by children only. The site gives access to some stuff for free, but without the GOLD membership, you are limited to a certain number of puzzles and videos, however the lessons and games are UNLIMITED! (Yay!) Yet, you can still play unlimited chess games here. Although the puzzles and videos are limited per day, we have access to other video lessons and puzzles through the Learn- lessons. To date, chesskid has not limited the use of the lessons section, so it remains free and with unlimited free access, no doubt the lessons and games will be enough to make good use of this site. Upgrade to Gold Membership

This website was created with children in mind; even the name, chesskid, suggests as much.

Learn -Lesson at chesskid.com

I dare to say that Chesskid has the world’s best chess curriculum. One of my favorite areas is the Learn-Lessons. As I have already mentioned, chesskid allows you to complete as many lessons as you want per day. Thus, there is no need to get a gold membership to complete the lessons section. Even though it’s worth paying the annual gold membership to get full access to the entire site. It also gives you quick access to the video about the lessons to help you understand the lesson material. Each lesson must be completed to unlock and advance to the next level. This means that students at the beginner or intermediate level must complete at least 20 very basic lessons to reach their correct level. A contact form can be found at the bottom of the chess page.

This section Learn- Lessons is the most recommended by chess coaches

In this Learn-Lessons, there are 120 levels in total, ranging from pawn level 1 to king level 19. You will be able to learn by doing puzzles.

          There are 120 levels in this section

If you decide to complete all the levels starting from the pawn level, you will always have the option to skip the videos and go straight to completing the assignments to finish the levels faster

  Skip the Video

Chess Puzzles by Theme

Chesskid has a large selection of themed chess puzzles that are easily accessible.

This access area allows you to practice a wide range of patterns. I would use the lesson area daily in conjunction with the puzzle themes.

This section Puzzles- Themes is the most recommended for beginner/intermediate players

Playing Chess Games

As I always say, chess is like learning a new language; a new learner must start speaking from day one, and the same goes for chess; a chess player must start playing chess games from day one. Magnus Carlsen, the current World Chess Champion, believes that chess players must play many games to get better faster.

 It is important to motivate students to use all the knowledge they have learned in the classroom and apply it to the chessboard at once. Also, to increase children’s motivation and passion for the game, chess matches between classmates do that. Children love to play with their chess classmates, and chess coaches should encourage peer chess matches at every chess class meeting.

These matches provide a significant boost in the motivation of youngsters. As a result, it triggers the internal motivation to keep improving and succeed in beating a peer on the chessboard or becoming the best player in the classroom. As we all know, internal motivation is more important than external motivation. “Participating in weekend tournaments also help a player gain more chess experience. Attend local chess tournaments. There is something about the atmosphere of a tournament, when prizes and glory are on the line, that brings out the best in players”

Same as chess tactics, you can play games in several chess sites mentioned above.

Difference on Time Control

Classical games have a time control  of more than 30 minutes. Rapid games have a game control of more than 10 minutes, whereas blitz games have a game control of less than 10 minutes. As part of a chess training regimen, it doesn’t hurt to mix classical time-controlled games with rapid chess and even blitz It’s fine to play some rapid and blitz games to add more hours of practical games to your weekly training depending on your chess experience and availability, but don’t go overboard on blitz games. While blitz games can be entertaining, classical games can help you improve your vision, calculation, and game understanding.

Choose Your Favorite Time Control

Cheap and excellent digital chess clocks

Nowadays, amazon and other chess sites sells the cheapest digital chess clocks. Any chess clock will get the job done for any tournament, clubs’ games, and friendly games.

Analyzing your Games

All chess players should record their games to conduct a more detailed postmortem analysis of the game. Chess game analysis aims to review and correct flaws so that the same error does not occur again. If the player is too young or a novice chess player, then it is recommended trying to record at least between 10 and 20 moves. If the player makes a mistake in the notation, just skip a line, and continue the notation in the next line of the scoresheet. If a player complains about how difficult it is to keep track of the chess notation, he must be reminded about the necessity for further analysis of the game by the chess coach.

Chess coaches will pinpoint the major mistakes made at different stages during the chess game, teaching strategic concepts and tactical failures (blunders) which are very common at this level. This type of coaching is very popular and practiced in many powerful chess nations such as Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, and others.

Through chess game analysis, a painful loss can be transformed into a valuable learning experience. Another consideration is that a game loss can have psychological and physical ramifications. It hurts a lot to lose at chess, and it hurts, even more, to have to analyze and relive the pain of losing the game through game analysis. Sometime a psychological pain prevents us from forgetting the lost game during a tournament, and we may even be playing a game while thinking about the game we lost. Chess coaches understand both physical and psychological pain and can help their players channel that negative energy into something productive.

When a chess player sobs over the loss of a chess match, it means that this player cares about the game. As a coach, I teach my students to channel that emotion into something positive and motivate them to continue studying to progress and improve their level and cut down on game losses. As I always tell my students, if a loss hurts you, and you want to cry, it is okay to cry, because, until today, everyone that I’ve seen crying because of the loss of a chess game has become a chess master. Those players channeled their negative emotions into something productive and continued their studies to become better at chess. According to world chess champion, Jose Raul Capablanca (1921 – 1927), “You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player.”

Thinking Technique During a Chess Game

A chess game is played by two players, so two brains fight each other for a win. If a chess player plays a game of chess thinking only of his plan and disregards the opponent’s plan, that player will lose the game accordingly. A chess player must play a game following his plan but consider the opponent’s plan. As result, to move beyond the novice level, it is essential to have a solid decision- making process that you will use during a chess game. A decision-making process is a sequence of steps that you go through to select a move. In this section presents the building blocks for a basic thought process that will get you on the right track. But first, we need to define a couple of terms.

Forced moves: A forced moves are checks, checkmate threats, captures and any threats. These four (4) move types are extremely important, as they form the foundation for tactical opportunities, maneuvers, and mistakes.

What is a candidate move:  A move that looks good on initial observation of the position, then later will be selected by a chess player for further and deep variance analysis.

What is a plan? a plan is a set of interconnected actions that are comprise of 2 to 3 moves.

What is a critical position? A critical position is one in which the decision to move is usually a defining moment. As such, that decision will have a significant impact on the outcome of the game.

Skimming and scanning? Skimming and scanning are reading techniques that can be used in chess as well. The skimming and scanning use rapid eye movement and playfully search for chess moves with slightly different purposes. Skimming is to quickly see the position to get an overview of the situation. Scanning is to see the position quickly to find specific facts. While skimming tells you what general information is within a position, scanning helps you locate a particular fact of the position.

LPDO: Loose pieces drop off; it is a very useful mnemonic mentioned by GM John Nunn in which he refers to pieces that are unprotected.

Decision-making Process

Step 1: As soon as your opponent makes a move, ask yourself: What is my opponent’s threat/plan? is this an attacking or quite move? One way to identify your opponent’s threats is to look at the forced moves:


Checkmate threats


Any threats

Step 2: In this step, we will determine what the needs of the position are by checking if your opponent has an immediate threat. Before anything else, do a skimming and scanning of the position, this approach is similar of the quick scan technique created by grandmaster John Nunn.

Try to identify candidate moves. Candidate moves are your most promising possible moves. Find and compare all the feasible candidate moves. For each, look at the reasonable moves/responses that your opponent can make. Make sure to consider their forced moves. Do you have an answer to each of their moves/responses? Often, some threat that your opponent has created will dominate the situation.

Wait — Don’t make your move yet! You must be sure to keep your pieces safe from capturing and try to take advantage of any mistakes your opponent has made.

Do a sanity check. Look back at the board with fresh eyes. Always do a blunder-check before you move. Does your move leave any LPDO (loose pieces drop off)?

AVOID Common Mistakes:

A common mistake is to play a move that you have not included in the set of candidate moves. Chess players frequently get into disc scratch mode by analyzing the same moves repeatedly. Don’t make the first move that comes to mind.

Step 3: If my opponent has not made any threats, then look for ways to:

·        Develop your pieces or make your pieces “better”

·       Ensure that your plan can be carried out using forced moves.

·       This type of forced move can also be used in response to threats to your opponent’s plans.

·       Determine which stage of the game you are currently playing, and then recall stage-specific hints.

Step 4: If you don’t have a solid plan, now is the time to come up with one. Keep in mind that a plan is a series of interconnected actions consisting of two to three moves.

Learn How to Evaluate a Chess Position

·       How do you evaluate a chess position? based on a correct evaluation of a chess position, a chess player will be able to follow a plan of action, with a move or sequence of moves. A chess position is evaluated by comparing both sides. Accurately evaluating any position is a critical skill to master.

·       What are the factors to consider when evaluating a chess position? king safety, piece activities, material balance, pawn structure, minor pieces, space, and others.

·       When is the right time to evaluate or re-evaluate a chess position? It is when a trade occurs, even if it is a pawn’s trade.

·       Why should we frequently evaluate and re-evaluate our chess position? Before making any move in the current position, the chess player must determine whether black or white’s side currently has the superior position.

The reason for evaluating or revaluating is to find out which side is better, so it is a comparison between white and black sides: for example, for the king’s safety, you need to identify which side has a better king’s safety. Regarding material balance, identify which player has a material advantage.  As result, chess players must constantly re-evaluate their positions on the board and adjust to new situations all the time. According to World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen, “There are unlimited possibilities in chess, but there is a limited amount of patterns and most of the time, good players usually find the best idea. The ability to adapt to new situations separates the best players from the second-best players.”

Trust your Intuition

 According to former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov makes a case “We should learn how to trust our gut or intuition. He keeps saying that intuition is all about decision- making process, therefore intuition should come first to provide chess players with candidate moves, and then the calculations are used to verify the accuracy of the moves selected by intuition. He insists that chess player should fully train their intuition and it’s vital in improving one’s game. “You have to learn to trust your intuition, which means you have to use it. Think your intuition as a muscle. Do pushups and run. You have to strengthen it”

Current World Chess champions Magnus Carlsen and others former world champions such as Vish Anand and Vladimir Kramnik, as already said that they rely on intuition when playing chess. Kramnik has said “Intuition is the immediate awareness of the position, but this is difficult to explain logically. Intuition in a sense depends on knowledge; the more you accumulate, the better your intuition becomes.” 

Recent Content

Seraphinite AcceleratorBannerText_Seraphinite Accelerator
Turns on site high speed to be attractive for people and search engines.