Intermediate chess player study tips for improvement in chess – Part 1
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.
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 –
Click on the image to know more.
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 –
Click on the image to know more.
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
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 hereat Amazon.
* Intermediate chess player study resource #4 –
How to Reassess Your Chess: Chess Mastery Through Chess Imbalances.
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!
Question: Hi Coach @GoldenChess! I’m a newbie in the chess scene and am from Madipakkam (near Nanganallur) in Chennai. I have a problem and that is – Chess Openings – how to study – for beginners especially. The doubt is: should I study all the major openings and if so which ones do I have to study as priority?
To be more specific, my concern is – I am very familiar about the Sicilian but after 1. e4 if my opponents do not play any Sicilian line but takes me into an unknown territory that I can’t manage, what must I do ?
Do I have to study all the openings in this case ?
Last week somebody advised me that I have to study the openings that fit my playing style. What is your take on this?
Thanks for all you tips! – Aadhithya (age 15)
HiAadhithya – First of all, I guess that your question is basically about building your White repertoire. In the long run, if you are serious about improving your chess, the answer is – yes! Hard work does pay. For example – you may start with 1.d4 and play the Colle system – or the Sicilian Grand Prix with 1.e4 as white. But there is every possibility that you will soon feel bored with that opening.
Chess Openings – how to study – for beginners (or how not to study!)
What openings you choose is up to you, and depends on your goals in chess and your personal tastes. So if you are already rated 1800 or thereabouts, you can pick theoretical lines to build your repertoire and polish it everyday.
However if you are lower rated – you said you are a newbie so I assume you are a post-beginner – then you need to only understand and remember the major lines in a selective set of openings and more importantly, improve your middlegame understanding.
Try completing the combination books selected from this link from Amazon.
Note however that you will not have a ‘style‘ of play until you have a quite decent understanding of the game by which I mean 2200 elo rating.
Until then you don’t have a style – what you have is a collection of responses and weaknesses.
So in summary –
Study only the important openings that you will play and encounter and choose the 4 or 5 common variations of that opening, to begin with by reading books by the great Grandmaster of the past (I have listed some suggestions below).
Play them regularly with friends or at online chess playing sites such as Chesscube.com, Chess.com, ICC or Playchess (ChessBase).
Try playing with chess software like Lucas Chess (read a good review here)
Don’t hesitate to change openings if you feel you are not enjoying it.
Don’t waste your time on off-beat openings that are not important, you are not a master yet and
I suggest to really master tactics by doing them daily on a real chess board rather than openings for your age and level because you will lose mainly by tactics and not because of the minimal advantage that was gained by that uncommon variation.
Book Suggestions: I suggest you to get a few books that are a collection of GM games annotated by the Grandmaster himself and go through them with your coach or another player who is stronger than you.
I have avoided providing the latest Grandmaster’s book list as the above list of older books gives a good understanding of an opening’s evolution. These books will discuss about the opening plans and ideas and that will be a good foothold to begin with. I hope I have answered your question on Chess Openings – how to study – for beginners
Once a grasp of these ideas are absorbed in place, we can then continue our learning with the later day Grandmaster’s books such as those by Shirov, Anand, Gelfand, Karpov and Kasparov.
Additionally, I would request you to share some of your OTB (On the Board) games or online games to make this discussion more meaningful.
Do drop in at Golden Chess Centreat Nanganallur (Chennai) and we will see how to guide you in your self study.For others who have found my suggestions useful why not visit my Facebook page and follow it by liking it so that you can be notified for more such articles like this?
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Which is stronger – Bishop or Knight? Every chess player wonders which of the minor pieces is stronger and have their own thoughts regarding this.The confusion is even more if they are just beginning their chess practice. That is because they are both assigned a numerical value of 3 and hence the confusion.
A large number of players incline towards bishops and even some World Chess Champions like Fischer and Steinitz favored the Bishop over a Knight.
Chigorin stood out as a different player and preferred Knights against Bishops.
I am not sure if there were others like him. But I personally like to keep knights on board due to their unpredictable nature. My opponents usually misread the power of the wobbly knight and if one of the knights lands on the square d6 or f5 then usually the game ends in my favor.
To have a sample of each piece’s prowess let’s look at some games that highlight the same.
Sample game 1 – The Power of the Dual Bishops
Below is the well known known game between Max Harmonist and Siegbert Tarrasch in the Berlin variation where a large number of kibitzers and even Nimzowitsch in his celebrated book ‘My System‘demonstrates this as a poignant reminder of the dual bishops’ advantage.
Sample game 2 – The Power of the Knights against the Bishops
And now it is time to witness the knight’s power against bishops played between the great legends Emanuel Lasker vs Mikhail Chigorin. It is instructive and worth replaying.
This game is a fantastic show of knight blockade, one would say after move 14.Bd3+- so Lasker must have thought, but some magic happened and Chigorin won!
When to prefer a Bishop?
When the position is open.
When to prefer a Knight?
When the position is closed.
Which is stronger – Bishop or Knight? To sum up –
Generally the Bishop is stronger than the Knight. But there are exceptions where the Knight is stronger than the Bishop and these are:
1) When the Bishop can be restricted by a pawn chain and
2) When the Knight can find a strong outpost in the center.
That is it for now fellow chess players. If you have any doubts or suggestions feel free to contact me.
The Author Kishore Kumar is a Coach at Golden Chess Centreat Nanganallur and conducts regular workshops and chess classes for children aged 5 to 60 !