Chess Improvement: 7 Strategies for Beginners

chess, pawn, king

Chess improvement for beginners can be challenging.

There are so many things to learn and you have no idea where to start from.

In such cases, the key is to focus on the right things. that will move the needle the most.

Being a 2200+ elo rated player and after working with many beginners, I have a good idea of what actually moves the needle.

So here, I’m going to share 7 strategies you can use that will help you improve your chess.

1. Learn and Solve Tactics

Imagine you are at the gym.

Would you start lifting weights without stretching? That’s exactly what solving tactics is to chess. 

Think of solving tactics as a warm-up to your chess workout.

You get your brain in shape before you do the heavy work.

When you solve tactics daily, your mind begins to recognize certain patterns of play in the game.

One difference between a strong chess player and a beginner is the speed at which a strong chess player will see certain patterns.

For example, a strong player can solve a simple mate-in-2 position in less than 5 seconds. A beginner would need more time.

How many tactics should a beginner solve daily?

There’s no fixed number, but spend at least 10% of your total study time on solving tactics. Treat it like a cardio to your chess workout 🙂

Resources to Learn and solve Tactics

  • Tactics (A free membership allows you to solve gets 5 tactics daily)
  • Lichess Tactics (There’s no limit on how many tactics you solve, that’s the awesome part about lichess!)
  • ChessMood’s Daily Puzzle

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

At the beginner level, I see so many times some piece or pawn is left on a square where it can be captured for free. It makes me scream when I see it. But soon I realize, I once was the same kind of a player. 

So how can this situation be avoided? There’s a simple question you can ask:

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

And if the piece or pawn is hanging, then choose either of the options depending on the position: 

  • 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 be sufficient at the basic level. For counter-attacking strategy, you need to master advanced skills like calculation or else things can backfire very easily.

As your board vision and tactical skills improve, you’ll automatically stop dropping pieces for free.

Also, 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 this is how you actually become stronger 🙂

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

If your opponent is a beginner himself, chances are they’ll leave their pieces hanging sometimes. It’s important to realize this.

A chess master can spot it within seconds if a piece is free. But if you are new to the game, this won’t come naturally to you at first. For that, I recommend you ask yourself the following 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 calculations, 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 and grab the free material.

More material = More army to fight in the game.

4. Ask yourself what your opponent wants to do.

Thinking about what your opponent wants to do is the base of a good chess strategy.

It is used even at the highest levels!

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.

If you don’t understand your opponent’s intentions are 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. Every top player and Grandmaster asks this question to themselves before they consider their responses. With practice, you too can develop this habit. 

Chess is a lot about anticipation.

5. Improve chess by learn chess notation

Post pandemic and thanks to Queen’s Gambit, a lot of people have started playing chess online. Some play for fun, while others want to get better at it and compete professionally.

But many of them have skipped learning about chess notation. It’s a bad thing when you are trying to improve your game.

Notation is the official language of chess

And to show you why the notation is important, try this fun exercise.

For 1-minute, don’t think in your native language.
Instead, 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😁

Apart from being a means of communication, language gives you a proper structure to your thinking.

Here’s how an amateur, a master and an elite player would think about a 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. They won’t speak as fast as Hikaru because English isn’t their native language. But they can match his calculation speed.  

You see by shortening the language, it becomes easier for your mind to think about chess.

Now imagine how much an amateur would have to think if he was calculating an 8-move-long sequence. It’d be impossible to remember all the details during calculation. 

So learn the language of chess first. It is the most underrated way to improve get better at the game.

6. King safety is an important part of chess improvement

The ultimate goal in chess is to checkmate your opponent’s king. It doesn’t matter how large your army is if your King will be checkmated on the next move.

So many times, I see new players exposing their king just to attack a nearby piece. This is a poor strategy.

An attacker would entice you to make such decisions. They’ll even sacrifice their pieces just to get closer to your king. It’s a well-known strategy.

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.

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

Each and every chess piece is unique. Right from the Queen to Pawns, everyone has a role to play. First, you need to understand the value of chess pieces. Here’s how much each piece is worth: 

PiecesPower Value
Queen 9
Knight 3
King None (It’s the most valuable)
Value of pieces

As with most things in the world, this is just a relative value. Please don’t take it in absolute terms.

There are some positions where a piece’s unique ability becomes its strength. I’ll cover them in brief here – 

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. Because she’s precious nobody wants to lose her (unless it’s Mikhail Tal)!

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. It hates closed files.

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

The knight loves to jump and it thrives in closed positions. It’s a great piece in attacking, defending and blockading. However, it can’t cover long distances so it can suffer 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 center. They become stronger in endgames because they can promote to 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. 

Final Points and a Bonus Strategy

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. 

If you’re looking for a shortcut to improve your chess, consider working with a chess coach.

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

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.