I am more than a novice in chess ( I got 5 points out of 9 in a local tournament) but I want to play really well. My biggest problem is I don't know what moves to make in the middle game, and can't fathom moves made by my opponents in the same time.                  
Speaking generally, what can I do to improve my game? I just seem to run out of ideas on a game.

  • I don't have enough time to write a full answer, however I have one thing to say (you may have already heard this). When playing against an opponent of similar skill, if you are unsure what to play it may be the case that they, too, are unsure what to do. My personal opinion on this is to make moves which improve your structure. Wait for your opponent to attack, and respond accordingly. It may be the case that you have a better structure since you made neutral strengthening moves, and can easily counterattack against their slightly weaker structure.
    – Aric
    Aug 9, 2017 at 8:58

4 Answers 4


If you want to improve there's a lot of stuff you can do. In order of importance probably something like this. 5-10 tactics problems a day. One old gm game a day preferably from a book with explanations given for the moves, or watch a few videos each day on youtube where the guy covers a gm game and gives plenty of explanation for each move. Buy Silman's Complete Endgame Course and read a few pages each day. Play long games on lichess (15-60 minute games) online then after the game review it and try to understand what mistakes you made during the game. You can use the game analysis feature, and engine analysis to do this. Then use the opening database there, set it to master games, and use the winning percentages to see some other ways you could have played the opening.

Doing these things will improve your ability to evaluate a position and expose you to new maneuvers and ideas you haven't seen before.

As far as knowing what to do you need to be able to evaluate the position on the board and have some knowledge or pattern recognition for typical ways to improve your position or worsen your opponents.

  • thanks for the advice! I will implement it. By the way, do you mean Chess.com when you say "lichess"? Please clarify. Thanks again! Jun 22, 2017 at 15:03
  • lichess.org is what he was referring to, although there's nothing wrong with using chess.com instead.
    – D M
    Jun 22, 2017 at 17:22
  • I just find its easier to use engine analysis and to look through the database on lichess since it's directly under the analysis board in post game analysis. On chess.com you need an extra window open to look through the database if I remember correctly, also you may need to go out of live chess and go to game archives to access computer analysis beyond the chess.com engine game summary if I am remembering this right. Instead of explaining all that I simply recommended lichess since it's easier to analyze your game there. Jun 22, 2017 at 19:34
  • Feel free to play on chess.com though. My student does all the time, although I'll usually analyze his games later on lichess.org. Jun 22, 2017 at 19:38

Don't worry, finding a good middle game plan is not easy for a beginner and takes some experience to develop as there is often more than one option to follow. It is not something you can generalize or something you can train like tactics puzzles.

The best way to improve is to find a stronger player to go through your games and discuss what you should have done (not move by move but in principal).

Essential for developing a plan is a correct evaluation of the current board position. Based on this evaluation you can develop a plan with the aim to improve your weaknesses or to play against your opponent's weaknesses. A few things to look for in a position:

  • good pieces and bad pieces (whose position you want to improve or which you want to exchange)
  • weaknesses in pawn structure, giving you ideas for "pawn breaks" or for winning pawns
  • weak king -> ideas for attack, or if it is your own king, need for defense
  • open files (which you usually want to occupy with heavy pieces)

Wikipedia has a good article on common pawn structures with the typical plan/"theme" associate with it. Also, reading annotated games or watching commentaries of games is a good way to learn how master players think about a position and develop a plan.

  • Thank you, @user1583209, that was very useful. I shall definitely implement your advice. Jun 19, 2017 at 15:44
  • if I may add something, I find it hard to pick the right move out of many choices, and even harder to predict my opponent's reaction to my move. On the other hand, I can usually see forcing moves quite clearly and I plan accordingly. Jun 19, 2017 at 16:36
  • Another useful tool is to study master games with your opening. Jun 20, 2017 at 1:17
  • I will advise you to watch free YouTube videos which are b/w two GMs & the Host explains move by move . This would help you to think deep and you would learn faster . Jun 22, 2017 at 7:17
  • Thanks, @Seth Projnabrata! By the way, when I comment on other's answers with the tag @"name", the @"name" thing is not appearing in the posted comment. Wonder why? Jun 22, 2017 at 15:08

To be concise, first you have to get quickly and soundly through the opening. This implies getting your minor pieces out quickly, contesting the center and castling so that you've reached an even middle game. Then you can start looking for tactics while avoiding your opponent's threats. He'll be doing the same, so you'll have to be alert to his tactics as well as his strategical intent. Is he moving his pieces toward your king position? You'll have to try to offset those plans by bringing your pieces to the same area. In a balanced position, when tactics aren't available, you should strive to improve your position - by gaining space on the board, keeping your pawn structure intact, controlling open files, looking for holes in the enemy position to place advanced pieces like your knights, penetrating with your heavy pieces, e.g. rooks, to the 7th rank. If you have controlled the center giving more mobility to your pieces, you can look for ways to direct them toward your opponent's king-side to try to ultimately storm that position tactically. As Silman has proposed, look for imbalances on the board, such as unprotected enemy pieces and pawns, poor coordination among same, isolated, backward and doubled pawns, weak defense around his king, backward development, etc., to try to take advantage of. Hopefully these suggestions don't seem too abstract, but these ideas can ultimately lead to concrete expression on the board. Going over annotated games by strong players should also help elucidate these ideas and bring about the desired improvement in your game along with notating and reviewing your own games. And of course playing regularly is also important to see many positions and absorb beneficial patterns.

  • thanks for your advice, I'm sure I'll be able to improve my game. Jun 22, 2017 at 15:05
  • Just keep playing a lot. If you apply yourself and learn more, over time you'll inevitably improve. And there's no deadline. It's a lifetime activity. I'm 80 and still learning, and enjoying the process as I do.
    – CConero
    Jun 28, 2017 at 17:39

It may be time to start learning positional play. Most positions do not favor a tactical attacking approach, at least until you have built up a better position so that it would work.

Put your pieces in better locations. Create weaknesses in your opponents structure. Wait until the position is ripe so that tactics can decide.

Lastly, learn endgames. You won't beat everybody in the middle game. A lot of games go on a long time and the end game is just as important if nobody wins earlier.

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