What should an intermediate chess player study to improve?

Intermediate chess player study tips for improvement in chess – Part 1

intermediate chess player study

What to do when playing against a master?

Last week I received an email from an old student of mine asking me on what next to study. He said – “Dear coach, I am stuck and I’ve been thinking about taking your advice on what to do to improve my game. I have been going steadily from 800 to 1300 for the last 1.5 years and now it’s been 6 months since I am able to raise my rating levels. Should I be worried that I am not doing something correctly?  And if that is the case what am I doing wrong? Any resources for me to pursue?”. I knew that like him there were many intermediate chess players who were feeling lost in limbo land (and I myself was there some 13 years ago, so I know well enough what it’s like with no proper guidance).

So if your answer to the following questions –

  • Are you an upcoming intermediate level chess player also wanting to improve at chess after being stuck?
  • Do you think that there is some vital information that you are missing in your chess training?
  • Are you feeling guilty of wasting away your time reading or doing things that just seem to be a waste of your time?

is YES, then the answer lies in – introspection. And a new approach – Self study.

Let me explain.

This post is for intermediate chess players who want to improve their chess skills to the next stage. At this stage, most of the chess enthusiasts start losing hopes of improvement.

Why does this happen?  Some of them simply do not want to do any more work.  However, most of them do not have proper guidance to quality chess manuals for the needed push to the next levels.

The big question for every intermediate chess player is what to study to further improve at chess.

But to answer that correctly you need to take stock of what you know, and what you are yet to learn!

After acquainting yourself to the ideas of basic game play in your chess games, you must be now ready, to understand how long-term factors actually dictate the outcome of chess games. I will be listing some resources for you to read and understand.

Take notes and mark what you think is important from these books.


What should an intermediate chess player study to improve?

As an intermediate player, you are probably able to spot certain typical and basic tactics and defend against the same tactics. Now it’s time to develop the positional side of your game for further advancement.

Here are some resources I would suggest going through if you are really serious about improving your positional chess knowledge. I had read them many years ago and found them very useful for greater clarity and understanding from my then existing levels. I still refer to them to keep myself primed up.

So this is a kind of going back to the basics approach for improvement.

* Intermediate chess player study resource #1

What should an intermediate chess player study to improve?

Click on the image to know more.

What should an intermediate chess player study to improve?

Click on the image to know more.

My System and Chess Praxis

both by Aron Nimzowitsch. Two great books by a great player. These take you through important themes of positional play. The books gives concrete theory and gives proof-of-concept demonstration games. Though they are old school, the teachings still hold ground for the budding players. I consider them as a must for chess. I remember as a frustrated player having taken to these books like a fish to water. Aron Nimzowitsch was an excellent writer and an elite master. If there was some book unanimously labelled as a classic this would come pretty close to it.

On a personal note I found the Praxis book better in the long run but that was only after I understood his ‘My System’ book. You can use the Praxis book as a reference manual to better understand the concepts in the System like I did or you can read just the System book for now.

* Intermediate chess player study resource #2

What should an intermediate chess player study to improve?

Click on the image to know more.

What should an intermediate chess player study to improve?

Click on the image to know more.

Winning Chess Middlegames – An Essential Guide to Pawn Structures by Ivan Sokolov. This one comes as a surprise for many when I suggest taking this book seriously. In fact I am myself guilty of having sidelined this book when I first bought it. It was only when I read a few chapters that I discovered that it was a treasure trove of ideas in an area that is often neglected – viz pawn structures – doubled pawns, isolated pawns, hanging pawns and central pawn majorities.
I am sure you will find the study of this book is rewarding and will throw an added  layer of understanding to your chess. One small word of caution: the book is only about 1.d4 openings, however the ideas Sokolov explains are applicable for all openings than the ones used in this book. 

Chess Structures: A Grandmaster Guide by Mauricio Flores Rios – A new book that is exhaustive and is one of the best for explaining many pawn structure based themes and plans. A companion to the Sokolov book, a blog about the book, Mauricio Flores is including recent (or old) games where you can see how the theory of the book are applied, and how even sometimes GMs don’t find the best option – read his blog 

* Intermediate chess player study resource #3

What should an intermediate chess player study to improve?How Purdy Won: 1st World Champion of Correspondence Chess – Purdy is among the best chess writers I have read at par with the likes of Dan Heisman or Irving Chernev (for beginners and intermediates).

When I first heard his name I though Purdy… who? And that is because his books are now quite old and almost forgotten. But he writes in an easy to read and understand format and his annotations are easy to follow – he writes for us. The reason I singled this book out is because it covers basic theory and examples of openings, middle games, and end games.

However if you are lingering in the 1350-1400 range try attempting this book by the same author – The Search for Chess Perfection. The reason is that he discusses in detail his thinking technique which is akin to Silman’s techniques. 

Purdy’s passion and dedication to chess is seen in his writings. Very few authors are able to explain the concepts in layman terms. And most importantly, Purdy’s writing style is so wonderful that it can visited again and again; this helps to reinforce his  teachings.  Trust me, you will not be disappointed. And what better way to learn about chess truth than a Correspondence Chess Champion?

  • I suggest reading his other books too. For a detailed listing look here at Amazon.

* Intermediate chess player study resource #4

What should an intermediate chess player study to improve?

How to Reassess Your Chess: Chess Mastery Through Chess Imbalances.

What should an intermediate chess player study to improve?

Reassess Your Chess Workbook.


Both these by by Jeremy Silman are worth their weight in gold. The reason I am suggesting both books is because they are connected in terms of teaching the concept and reinforcing them. However if you intend to buy only one I would suggest  –  How to Reassess Your Chess: Chess Mastery Through Chess Imbalances (though I am sure you will get the other books after reading this one). There is one caveat though – if initially you feel that he is way above your head despair not. do a re-run and you will see that he sinks in slowly. And one more caution – Don’t play blitz while reading these books – you will almost always lose on time as your mind grapples with Silmanesque techniques – that is what Silman does to the reader!

So do not worry about the stagnation and what an intermediate chess player study regimen is all about. When you are happy doing something without worrying about the result, then this is a moment of celebration.

Watch how the students dance to a song that they have no idea about. As Isaac Asimov said – Its all in the mind!

As usual comments and feedback are welcome. Please let me know if you found the suggestions useful!

If the books are out of stock – try buying them at the Bookdepository (with free shipping worldwide!)

When not playing or teaching chess at Golden Chess Centre, the author Kish Kumar spends time learning the fine art of cooking! Contact him at his Facebook page.

Golden Chess Centre conducts regular training sessions for upcoming chess players in Nanganallur, Madipakkam, Adambakkam, Moovarasampet, Kilkattalai, Kovilambakkam, Puzhuthivakkam, Ullagaram and Pazhavanthangal – Chennai, as well as online sessions for those players who live out of Chennai. Get in touch to know when the next batch will be starting, in case you are interested!

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