I have been learning fairly rapidly lately (will probably go about 400 points in about a year), although I am sure that pace will slow with time.

However, my learning is actually slowed down because I like to play too much. That sounds silly because the whole point is to play and have fun. But what happens is I start playing a few games to try to apply what I have learned and then I just keep playing until I get tired and forget about whatever study I was doing.

As much as I like playing it's not as satisfying as learning. I know some like to win, some like to play, but I like to understand.

So, knowing that my goal is to understand as much as possible, how do I get the right balance between studying and trying to apply my studies with games?

  • 5
    Still played too much last night. But it was fun :)
    – Jeff Davis
    Commented Aug 24, 2012 at 15:04
  • Whether you lose or win, having good/fun time is what you want. What is important is that you learn from your mistakes in a loss as well as your wins.
    – xaisoft
    Commented Aug 24, 2012 at 16:34

7 Answers 7


I think you are already on the right track. Obviously the more you play the more you learn, so even though you may think you are not learning when playing, you are in fact learning something new with every game. Finding the right balance is subjective, but what I would do is I would learn small things and try to apply them in as many games as possible, basically lather-rinse-repeat. For example, if you study checkmating pattern(s), you can try to apply some of the patterns you learned to some games. I would not try to study too much and then apply everything you learned. In a nutshell, learn a little bit, try to understand it, if you have trouble, just ask here for more clarification and play some games and try to apply what you have learned. I did this with the Scotch Game, basically applying what I had studied over and over again until I basically became one with the Scotch and comfortable with it. I was later able to come back and answer a question on here pertaining to the Scotch due to playing, learning, and understanding the opening that I would not have been able to answer before.


There is a difference between playing for fun, training and competing. In general, progress is reached by combining training with competitive games. Playing for fun is gradually removed out of the equation. For example, if you use your blitz games to become better at an opening system, then you are already training. Competitive games are tournament games over the board with classical time controls. There should be at least 9 such games every 3 months. Training should be done with a goal in mind. There are different areas and they should be trained, one at a time. Applying the training in your games is very important. Otherwise the training was pointless. The balance depends on how much time you are investing in chess. If you are playing a lot of blitz games just for fun, it most probably does not contribute to an increased understanding. Training and competing is hard, and hard activities are the most rewarding in terms of progress.


In economics, the idea is to try to equate "marginal utilities," in this case, between playing and studying.

You now seem to feel you are playing too much. So stop playing and start studying. Eventually you may feel that you are playing too little. Then study less and play more.



I feel like there have already been many good responses regarding the study:play ratio.

There's no correct answer - as a beginner you can't really 'study chess' because you don't know exactly what to study, how to study and you don't have the foundation yet to make certain judgements about why a certain move is right or wrong. Sometimes a move can be so deep that even grandmasters have to think for a few minutes before finding the correct reason why something is played.

One thing is for sure, you must play and you must study. The play:study ratio should decrease you become stronger at chess. So as a beginner, you should spend 90% of your time playing and 10% of your time studying. Playing will give you the best lessons because you will lose and learn a lesson and then you will never lose the same way again.

Once you're about 1300-1400 the ratio drops to 80:20 play:study and when you're about 2100-2200 it should be about 40:60, because there will be a lot more material you need to cover to increase your strength comparatively to when you were 1300.

However, there's one important thing you should note and that is analysing your own games is NOT considered study and the reason is because it's imperative that you find out what you did wrong each game and try to avoid it the second time. Studying is like doing tactics, studying openings, analysing middlegames and grinding out endgames etc. etc. analysing your own games doesn't count.

Many strong chess players have advocated analysing your own games (without an engine preferably, until you're around 1800 elo). If you need an beginner's guide you can check out this article. The author talks about the fatal reason why weaker players don't become stronger and at the same time gives some instructive advice about annotating your own games (+ freebies :D)!

Keep us updated about your chess study!


Please check out my response to another question Does Playing Correspondence Chess Improve Your Game?. It includes a fairly comprehensive proposal for a training program, including tips on allocating time between play and study.

  • nice lift from chess-training.blogspot.com. You might at least give credit.
    – Priyome
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 21:56
  • I do not use chess-training.blogspot.com, and never have. I have had the referenced training schedule since June of 2006. I note that your post of the same training schedule dates from October of 2006. I apologize for not noting my source, but it wasn't lifted from chess-training.blogspot.com. In fact, it was posted on then-Convekta, now ChessOK's website at chessok.com/?p=21207, and was authored by WGM Irina Mikhailova on 27 April, 2006. You should update your link to the one I provided; the one on your blog page is broken, because it links to the old domain name Convekta.com.
    – jaxter
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 6:02

A 50/50 split between studying and playing is recommended. Recording all your games and analyzing your losses is also recommended.

So, if you study for an hour a day, play a couple of G15 games and analyze your losses. Play 'up' in class - i.e., if you are rated on your favorite server as 1600 then play against 1800's so you get punished for your mistakes

Studying for blitz play is contraindicated. If you want chess entertainment, play blitz but don't expect to get much out of it from a serious chess perspective.


If you want to become something related to study, study and play at a ratio of 4:1. Study whole day and play for sometime to refresh your mood. If you want to become something like cricketer, footballer or anything related to play, study and play at a ratio of 0:4. Play every time to achieve your goal.

  • Welcome to Chess SE! Your answer is a bit unclear at the moment; for example, I'm wondering if you think chess is related to 'study' or 'play'.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 5:37

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