I am new to chess and I am playng mostly online at sites like chess.com. Now I have a rate around 800, so it is still low, but my problem is that improving my skills is getting hard. The arrival to the rate 800 has been quite quick, but now I feel like I am stucking often to the same moves and the same way of reasonings.

How could I improve my skills? And most of all how can I improve my mental elasticity in playing chess in order to be a better player?

Thanks in advance.


2 Answers 2


It really depends on whether you are willing to do the work, but I have tried this with people before, and it has worked extremely well. Most weaker players are initially weak because they lose material so often and easily.

First, I believe strongly in an immersion-type training program. If I give you 20 problems, and you get 100%, you only learned 20 problems. If I give you 150, and you only get a 66.6%, you still learned 100 problems, or five times what you did when you got only 20 problems. I firmly believe that the more you see in a short period of time, the more you will learn. In this case, I am advocating quantity over quality.

This is based on my own personal experience, and is based on my learning Russian in the Air Force. The first night, I got 20 words to learn, but by the end of 47 weeks, we got about 300 words every other night. I also had a friend, who was 38 at the time, and he went from 1000 to about 1850 on the Internet Chess Club in three months doing what I am about to recommend.

I am not a fan of the chess.com and other site tactics programs for a couple of reasons. First, they are checked by computers, and often take the computer route in the defense portion of the solution, rather than the human path. Second, they are not well grouped by theme.

I still love the grouping on the two Fred Reinfeld books, "1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate, 21st Century Edition" and "1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations, 21st Century Edition".

You start with the 1001 checkmates book because the first chapter is queen sacrifices, so you have two big hints: Give up the queen, and checkmate. Now, I want you to try to do 50 per day (25 minimum though), spending no more than two minutes on each problem trying to figure it out. If you do not get it, just look at the answer, and play it out on a board, if necessary. You may not have gotten it right, but you have absorbed something. Write in pencil next to the diagram 1-5, with one being that you solved it easily, and five that you had no idea.

Go through the whole book at 50 per day. You can skip the last chapter on composed mates if you want. Do the same with the 1001 sacrifices book.

Now, you have read both, and have rated how easily you got them. Go back ans read the both books again in the same order. They are both grouped so well, that you will start to pick up on themes better than ever.

Funny, in early 2019, a new book, "The Woodpecker Method" came out, and recommends a very similar method to the one that I have been recommending for over 30 years.

I have found over the years that even guys, who are 2000-2100 over-the-board, are still not that great tactically, so keep doing this, and as you get better with your two original books, pick different tactics books for some variety. We never stop practicing that, and calculation, in general.

Of course, as you get better, there is a lot more to learn about opening pawn structures (search my other posts about this), and of course, the endgame.

  • 1
    Also, as you get better, hiring a coach, just to guide you might pay off too. Or, you can come back and ask another question. Dec 14, 2019 at 20:17

The best way to improve is stop playing.
You will learn a lot faster playing over GM games than playing patzers on chess.com or any web site.

Start studying books on the basics. Learn ONE opening well. Practice tactics daily. Play over GM games daily, especially ones that use the opening you want to learn.

As you improve some then look at endings, and keep up with your opening and tactics pracice; later on move to pawn structure, positional play; and later on psychology and playing the player not the board.

Won't be as much fun that way but it will make you improve.

You will learn more by stretching just a little bit to solve tactics or in tournament games when you go back to them. Try to play people 100-200 points higher but no more and only less if forced to by being matched against them.

My experience is that perfect practice makes perfect and making many mistakes while playing more positions only reinforces bad habits and hurts improvement.

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    The OP is rated 800 on chess.com: that's a level where pieces hang like Christmas ornaments in December. Playing more to improve board vision and trying to stop hanging pieces is far better at this stage - don't drop material, then we can talk strategy and the rest of it.
    – Remellion
    Dec 15, 2019 at 2:02
  • That is your opinion. My experience is that just playing will not help at all. Tactical positions and end games within his skill range would be more useful. Learning openings is a must. I went from UR to 1750 by playing over the GM games at the candidates tournament.
    – yobamamama
    Dec 15, 2019 at 13:47
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    I'm not saying that playing without training is the solution. Playing with a conscious effort to not hang pieces is a form of training. I have an issue with the assertion to stop playing altogether. You didn't get 1750 by not playing a single game either. And from another angle: would you pick a programmer one who's been doing his own projects but isn't 100% following conventions, or one who's never written a single line of code but has read lots of others' great code?
    – Remellion
    Dec 15, 2019 at 14:47
  • I am saying my experience is that the socratic method is a big fail. Trying to figure it out for yourself by just playing is inefficient and does not work well. It is far better to show people some good things and give them easy practice then to hope they will get it on their own by just playing. I also say that just playing especially against bad players is not helpful. You really need a good base to start from and then play players just stronger than you while you continue to train.
    – yobamamama
    Dec 15, 2019 at 17:57
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    I think that going over GM games for someone rated around 800 on chess.com is instructive, but probably doesn't help with improvement. What I found helped me (I was stuck around 800 to 900 USCF for years and years, before I started doing this...) was to go over games played by people around my level, or just above. See where they make mistakes. Also analyze my own games with an engine, and look for big evaluation changes. Learn to recognize mistakes (mine, and my opponent's). At that level, I think "improvement" is avoiding blunders, and recognizing an opponent's blunders. YMMV, of course
    – patbarron
    Dec 17, 2019 at 17:38

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