I am a programmer and a chess player who knows the moves and the basic rules but never played professionally. I am a complete novice. I tried in FICS and failed to win a single match. I was playing regularly around 15 years back and want to start again.

I was searching here and there to make a plan to become a pro. I am interested more in self study. So the books these sites are referring are a little confusing for me. As some claiming book X to read first and have their reason while some claiming to read book X after other 5 books and showing there own reason.

I want to know how I can make a solid one-year self-study plan that can polish my skills to start playing well in any rated tournaments. How can I make a reading list for chess? Yes I want to improve my chess to a particular level before entitling myself for clubs or rated tournaments and want to do it myself. Below are some of the questions that are coming in my mind, please let me know the points that I missed.

  1. How to make a daily plan for opening, middle game and end games?
  2. How to make a reading list that can be suitable for me.
  3. How to select a chess engine?
  4. What other things I need like a notebook to write my chess moves?
  5. How to make a plan to practice tactics.
  6. What else I need to do to train myself without a coach? (I can use internet and books instead of coach)

Thanks in advance.

2 Answers 2


1) How to make a daily plan for opening, middle game and end games?

Make the balance proportional. Many novice players come out of book opening before move 5, so don't go overboard on learning openings by rote. Picking up on this, analysing whole, annotated games is of benefit, as you see all phases of the game.

Potential sources:

  • Logical Chess: Move by Move: Every Move Explained by Irving Chernev
  • The World's Most Instructive Amateur Game Book by Dan Heisman
  • The Mammoth Book of the World's Greatest Chess Games by Graham Burgess and John Emms

2) How to make a reading list that can be suitable for me.

Throughout this answer, I give potential sources to look up. Remember that you only get out of chess what you put in, so get the resources that appeal to you the most and study them. This is what you should look for:

  • Plenty of diagrams
  • Not many variations, but ideas expressed in words mostly. If there are variations, they should be short (3 moves or less would be a good rule of thumb)
  • Written in a way that engages you. Read a preview and review online of the book before you buy

Remember that books are one thing, but YouTube videos are useful too. Check out the channels by Dereque Kelly for openings and the Chess.com channel.

3) How to select a chess engine?

Any software with lots of tutorials and player personalities of various strengths and temperaments will be fine. Don't move on from a tutorial section until you really understand it - moving onto the advance content too soon will only confuse you.

I would recommend Ubisoft's Chessmaster (as I always do, if you read any of my other answers)

4) What other things I need like a notebook to write my chess moves?

For tournament play you should take:

  • A pen
  • Back up notebook (they are usually provided)
  • Something to eat and drink between rounds. Chocolate is good - its the closest equivalent to steroids in chess
  • Suitable clothing. If you live in the UK like I do, a spare jumper is a must

For training with a book, I would recommend a:

  • Chessboard and pieces similar to the ones you will be playing with in the tournament, as moving the pieces helps recall and learning. Most tournament chessboards I've come across are vinyl with white and green squares. Chess pieces are Staunton style, King size at about 2.5 inches
  • A document stand, so that you don't need to use one hand to hold the book all the time
  • A piece of card to cover up answers with. As a general hint, whenever you are working with a book and you see a new diagram, try to work out the best move for the player, then compare your answer to what was played
  • Notepad and pen. Learn to play the move, then write the move down, as chess etiquette is highly ritualised and is written in the rule book. You don't want a picky opponent to cause trouble this way
  • I would advise getting a chess clock unless you know what type is being used, as it will not be used much if you are studying mostly solo. But some people advocate getting one to get used to the controls and the background ticking

5) How to make a plan to practice tactics.

Get any beginner tactic book and solve the problems in dead time (on the train, whilst you are waiting dinner to cook, during your lunch break etc.) and solve the problems. Resource suggestions are:

  • Back to Basics: Tactics by Dan Heisman
  • Winning Chess Tactics by Yasser Seirawan
  • Chess Tactics for Kids by Murray Chandler (don't be put off by the title! In general, chess books written for a younger audience are written in a more engaging way than they are for adults, and with just as good content too)
  • ChessTempo.com

6) What else I need to do to train myself without a coach? (I can use internet and books instead of coach)

Nothing else, but conduct a post-mortem after the tournament game if your opponent is willing. this is where you discuss the game and understand which moves made your opponent uncomfortable and where you erred. Also, you can post the game on Chess.SE and ask for feedback.

This answer is also based on what I've learnt from Studying Chess Made Easy by Andy Soltis. At the end of the day, you will only take the material in if it is fun and relevant. There is nothing more frustrating than learning a lot of chess material at the end of a hard day's work, then getting beaten in tournament play over and over again. If this happens, try entering tournaments that are more at your level, or joining a friendly chess club.


Forget about becoming a professional. Do you know how many grandmasters there are that are working at minimum wage?

Play for fun instead. You need to learn one opening really well and learn tactics along with playing endgames. Later, you can focus on pawn structures and positional play.

There are some other esoteric subjects but until you are GM level they won't help you.

I wouldn't recommend playing blitz or speed chess slower than G15 until you are ready to plateau. But do not play super slow tournaments either, as G30 should be the slowest you play.

The best practice is the old way, which is exactly ten seconds per move. No more no less! Start at 15 or 20 seconds at first if ten is too fast. That forces you to take enough time to see the board and make a sensible move. You will do so much better in time trouble with that practice.

  • 2
    "speed chess slower than G15" - Huh?
    – D M
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 2:04

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