Chess Improvement – 7 Strategies for adults to improve

chess, pawn, king

Chess improvement for an adult is not a topic frequently spoken about. If you are a working professional or an adult rediscovering your passion for the game, this post is for you. This guide will help you improve your chess game, only if you implement what’s given in this guide.

7 Strategies to improve your chess game

1. Solve Basic Tactics

This is one of the most cliched advice you’ll ever get in chess. But it’s the basic advice which everyone – from the world champion to the amateurs – all follow. 

Think of solving tactics like a warm up to your workout. Would you start heavy exercises without stretching? That’s exactly what solving tactics is to chess. 

What happens when you solve tactics daily?

When you solve tactics, your mind begins to recognize certain patterns of play in the game. With daily consistency, your mind automatically begins to recognize certain patterns on its own. 

One difference between a strong chess player and a beginner is the speed at which a strong chess player will recognize certain patterns. A strong player can solve simple simple mate-in-2 positions in less than 5 seconds.

As a beginner when you start to solve tactics daily, you’ll see an improvement in your game.

How many tactics should a beginner solve daily?

Spend at least ½ hour or 30 daily tactics. 

Resources to solve tactics

  • Chess.com Tactics (A free memberships allows you to solve gets 5 tactics daily)
  • Lichess Tactics (There’s no limit on how many tactics you solve)

2. Stop hanging free pawns and pieces – Check your opponent’s response.

Very often I see in a beginner’s game that some piece or pawn is left hanging for free. A piece is left on a square where it can be directly captured. It makes me scream. But soon I realize, I once was the same kind of a player. 

So how can this situation be avoided? How can a beginner stop hanging free pieces and pawns? There are some handy questions you can ask –

“Are any of my pieces or pawns hanging in the current move?”

If the piece or pawn is hanging – 

  • Move the piece to a safer square.
  • Support the piece or pawn with another piece.
  • Counterattack opponent’s piece (the advanced chess strategy)

The first two should suffice at the basic level. For counter-attacking strategy, you need to master advanced skills like calculation or else things can backfire very easily.

If I move my piece/pawn to a certain square, is it being attacked by any opponent’s piece?

This one is quite common. You move your piece to a certain square. What you don’t realize is that your opponent can capture that piece. 

By asking this question, you’ll be able to see where it’s safe to move your piece. If you see it’s unsafe to move the piece to a certain square, don’t move it. Look for safer squares or look for other pieces which can move to a safer square.

This will help you to stop dropping your pieces for free. When you don’t blunder a part of your army, your opponent has to dig deeper to beat you. He has to use advanced strategies to force you to make a mistake. And believe me, you’ll see a significant increase in your strength. 

3. Look for your opponent’s pieces that are hanging.

If your opponent is a beginner himself, chances are he’ll leave his pieces hanging sometimes. It’s important to realize that your opponent has left his piece or pawn free. Be aware that your opponent has dropped something for free. Only then you can capture whatever your opponent has left hanging.

A chess master will spot it within seconds whichever piece is free. As someone who’s new to the game you may not spot what is left hanging right away. Therefore it’s important you ask yourself this question –

“Can any of my opponent’s pieces or pawns be captured for free?”

If you spot something which can be captured for free, ask one more question before capturing the piece –

“Does my opponent have a trap behind it or can I capture the piece safely?”

With some basic calculation, you should be able to spot your opponent’s trap. That’s where your daily tactical training will help you. If a stronger player gives his piece for free, you definitely should ask this question. 

But if you see it’s free and your opponent doesn’t have a strong response, go ahead grab the free material. Having more material is one of the best advantages you can enjoy in chess. It means more army to fight.

This is roughly how a master thinks. The only difference is that he doesn’t need to ask this question because he can instinctively spot it hanging pieces within the first few seconds. As a beginner, you’ll need to actively ask this question before your mind is trained to look for the solution.

4. Ask yourself what your opponent wants to do.

Thinking about what your opponent wants to do is the base of all good chess strategy. This strategy is used even at the highest levels. Chess is a bloodless war. You have to get inside your opponent’s head to think what he’s thinking. 

If you don’t understand your opponent’s intention and play selfishly, one of your opponent’s moves will knock you out. 

That’s why it’s important to ask what your opponent wants to do after they make a move. A grandmaster asks this question on every move that he plays in his head! If you’re new to chess, you can start out by asking yourself this question on every move. With practice, this will become a habit. 

After you ask this question, find out how you can plan against your opponent’s idea. When you know it’s going to rain, you’d carry an umbrella, isn’t it? It’s the same thing you want to do in chess. Anticipation is the name of the game.

5. Learn chess notation to improve at chess

Post pandemic, a lot of people have started playing chess online. As a result, not a lot of you learn about chess notation. It’s a bad thing when you are trying to improve your game. Notation is the official language of chess. 

’m sure the internal dialogue when you play chess is spoken in some language. For a moment, don’t think in your native language. Think in the language you’re not fluent in. How does the conversation go in your head? It’s difficult, isn’t it? 

Did you notice another thing? You think much faster in your native language than you think in a language you can’t speak properly. Right?

The same goes in chess. By learning a language, you give a proper structure to your thinking. You will improve your calculation skills by thinking in chess terms. 

Here’ how a chess ametaur, chess master and elite players would think in the same position.

Chess Ametuer – I move my bishop to … f …4… then my opponent moves his knight .. to… e…e6. Now… okay… now… my bishop on… f .. 4 … is attacked…. So … i move .. um.. Um… bishop to … h … um.. h2. 

Chess Master – I go Bf4, my opponent jumps Ne6 attacking my bishop so I move Bh2.

People like Magnus, Nakamura, Vidit – Bf4 Ne6 Bh2 (under 1 second)  

If you want to confirm how elite players think, go see Hikaru’s streams – Native English + Native Chess, he’s too fast. 

You’ll understand the chess language when you see Vidit or Magnus on their streams – Fluent in English + Native in chess. So they can’t speak as fast as Hikaru because English isn’t their native language. 

You see by shortening the language, it becomes easier for your mind to think about chess. Imagine how much an amateur would have to think if he was calculating a 8-move-long sequence. It’d be impossible to remember all the details during calculation. 

That’s why, learn the language of chess first.

Learning chess notation is the most underrated way to improve chess. Don’t neglect it. It’ll have a big effect on how you think.

6. King safety is an important part of chess improvement

The ultimate goal in chess is to checkmate your opponent’s king. King safety is another overlooked factor in beginner games. Often, I see players exposing their king just to attack a nearby piece. Be very careful when you push the pawns near your king. A skilled attacker will often entice you to move your pawns ahead of the king. This way, they can destroy your pawn cover and get closer to capturing your king.

Sometimes an attacker will even sacrifice pieces just to get closer to your king. It’s a well known attacking theme. Therefore be very careful when you push the pawns ahead of the king. 

King safety is a big topic in itself which I’ve covered separately. But for now, remember to keep your king safe no matter what happens. It’s directly related to becoming a better chess defender and indirectly related to becoming a better attacker yourself.

7. Value your chess pieces and understand different roles they play

Each and every chess piece is unique. Pawns have a role to play too. First, you need to understand the value of chess pieces. How much each piece is worth. 

Queen – 9 points

Rook – 5 points

Knight – 3 points

Bishop – 3 points

Pawns – 1 point

King – No points (It’s the most valuable)

This short table will help you understand the value of your chess pieces better. But there are some positions where a piece’s uniqueness becomes their strength. I’ll cover them in brief – 

The queen is the best attacking piece but worse in a defending position. She’s too precious because she’s the strongest piece on the board. This also is her biggest weakness. She’s so precious that nobody wants to lose her after all!

The rook loves open files and is strong in the endgame. It’s best when it attacks, especially when it’s on the 7th rank ready to capture the enemy pawns. The rook hates closed files.

The bishop is quite similar to the rook but just that it loves open diagonals. Two bishops can be a deadly force to reckon with if they’re given open diagonals, especially pointed at the opposing kinga. It hates closed diagonals which restrict it’s mobility.

The knight loves to jump and it thrives in closed positions. The knight is an allrounder and he’s great in attacking, defending and blockading. However, the knight is a short range piece and they suffer heavily when the position is open. 

In open positions, bishops are usually stronger than knights. In a closed position, the knight is the stronger piece. Although, exceptions exist.

The pawns are great at restricting the enemy pieces and controlling important squares, especially in the centre. They become stronger in endgames. That’s because a pawn can become a queen when they reach the final square. 

Because of their limited movement, they’re often vulnerable to attacks, especially from the rook and the queen.

A king is the most valuable piece so you’ve to keep it safe all the time. This is its biggest weakness. But it can become an active attacker in the endgame, which is its greatest strength. 

Use these strategies during play to improve at chess.

These seven strategies will be a useful tool for you to start improving at chess. Implement them in your game and you should see better results. 

Are you looking to participate in a real chess tournament? Check out my article on how and where to apply for a chess competition.

Let me know if you found this guide helpful in the comments below.

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