I played quite often in the mid 80's to mid 90's. My highest rating OTB was low 1300's (Edited, I had thought I reached 1415, but not according to USCF site-although that doesn't include my high school stuff in the 80's) under the USCF, with somewhat desultory study habits, although I did do a lot of reading on general tactics, pawn structures and some theory. Two best results were a round upset prize at the Western Open, and a $3000 check in the U1300 at the tournament in Vegas in December (Forgot the name).

I have been getting interested in playing again, and started looking at what is out there, and I'm a bit overwhelmed with the tools that are available now.

Where should I start? I'm probably way beyond most "pawns move one or two squares" beginner books, but probably not up to speed on even intermediate books, I vaguely remember bits of a couple openings, etc.

And, what openings should I concentrate on learning first, that will allow me to expand? IIRC, I played Scotch, French and was toying with the Indian openings.

I tried to phrase this so as not to encourage open ended debate, and I don't think it quite fits the suggested questions already existing. If it still is deemed too broad, make a couple suggestions and I can edit for fit.

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    Due to the general nature of the question, I think the admins might want to make this a community wiki. It doesn't really have an objective answer but it is quite useful. Jul 11, 2012 at 22:08
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    I agree the question is good but any advice given would be subjective. That is the point of a community wiki. It enhances the informative nature of the site. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/11740/… Jul 11, 2012 at 22:35
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    We're had a discussion about this on Meta. There is good subjective and bad subjective. I think this question is more of the former; it's very positive.
    – Tony Ennis
    Jul 11, 2012 at 22:53
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    Tony- I am NOT saying it is bad subjective. It is GOOD. The problem is it lends itself to multiple answers over time. A community wiki encourages more answers rather than just having one selected. Jul 11, 2012 at 23:38
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    @RobertKaucher, I'm not sure that community wiki mode would actually encourage more answers here. I am of the mind, at the moment at least, that this question is better left as is. I also think that community wiki mode might be appropriate in different contexts across different SE type sites. In any case, I think it's a good thing to discuss. Here is a meta post for just that: meta.chess.stackexchange.com/q/146/167
    – ETD
    Jul 12, 2012 at 16:46

2 Answers 2


I am going to make a few suggestions on reading material.

Pay a visit to Dan Heisman's column at Chess Cafe called the Novice Nook. Pay special attention to what he writes on the topic of Real Chess (article 1 and article two).

Focus as much as you can on this "Real Chess" idea in your studies and games. Always remember you will play the way you train. Therefore put a lot of training into proper over-the-board analysis. A book like Practical Chess Exercises can be useful for this as it has a mixture of tactical and positional positions so you are never certain if you should be looking for a forced sequence or a positional idea.

Honestly I would not spend a ton of time studying the openings. But software like Chess Position Trainer can help you a lot. As far as which ones, stick with the ones you enjoyed in the past and learn new ones that you see in your studies.

For literature I think Ludek Pachman's Modern Chess Strategy is probably one of the first books you should read. I also really like Silman's Complete Endgame Course: From Beginner To Master for fundamental endgame theory that is highly practical.

  • Nice links. I had trouble with Chess Position Trainer. It kept crashing on my system. Another good software is Chessmaster.
    – xaisoft
    Jul 12, 2012 at 15:13
  • CPT version 4 is now in full release. It should not have that issue any more. When did you use it? Jul 12, 2012 at 15:59
  • I don't remember exactly, but maybe a 2-3 months ago. Although there is a comparison chart between version 3 and 4, I had a hard time figuring out which one was best.
    – xaisoft
    Jul 12, 2012 at 18:11

First, what is your goal? If it's just to have fun, don't do anything but attend your local chess club and play in tournaments.

If your goal is to improve (1500 would be a fine goal) then new learning is needed.

I recommend you get a chess engine (program) running. There are free ones that work fine, especially on the PC. The reason is that you can use this to take your games apart to see where you made mistakes. I took one of mine apart some time ago only to find I missed winning a piece and totally busting a 1900+ player. Instead, I lost the game.

Another recommendation is for you to find an instructor. You only need an A-player (1800-1999) or expert (2000-2199), and these are easy to find. According to the ratings, you don't have an appreciable chance of defeating either, so I would think that they'll be able to help you.

Finally, you can play online for free at chess.com.

Between playing a lot, using a computer, and taking lessons, plus typical online (free) resources, you should have enough to keep you busy.

  • That sounds excellent, I believe I have some of my old games in a box with my clocks. Any suggestion on a specific engine or analysis package?
    – JohnP
    Jul 11, 2012 at 22:39
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    I am running Scid and Stockfish which I downloaded for free. I'm on a Mac so in this case my choices are more limited. As a B-player, I have no real chance of defeating Stockfish so it's strong enough. If I were going to be serious, I'd be running Fritz and have all the libraries... So play through the games you lost and I bet the engine finds all sorts of improvements. You'll have to interpret the analysis to understand why it chooses what it does but it isn't too hard.
    – Tony Ennis
    Jul 11, 2012 at 22:51
  • Again, most excellent. Thank you. (Odd, on other SE sites, the @ gives you a popup of a name, not here?)
    – JohnP
    Jul 11, 2012 at 23:00
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    @JohnP It does not because you're responding to my post; I get the notification anyway.
    – Tony Ennis
    Jul 11, 2012 at 23:03
  • @JohnP Here's the sort of thing I'm talking about regarding computer analysis. See the link below. In some examples, the players are rated 1300-ish. Even so, the solutions are not obvious, at least not for me. Imagine finding these moves if someone didn't tell you they were there... The computer will find these. chess.com/article/view/greed-and-two-king-hunts
    – Tony Ennis
    Jul 12, 2012 at 14:15

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