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There's a lot of advice out there about how to improve your chess skills, some say, study openings, others say practice is more important that theoretical knowledge.

I'm aware that the advice depends on the current skills of the player asking, so feel free to share your knowledge by skill level.

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    I see votes to close here, and I get it, but if we hold ourselves to the explicit question-and-answer format (that is, no 'opinion' questions) I'm afraid the site will not exist. – Tony Ennis May 5 '12 at 15:47
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    I agree with Tony, these are the types of questions that will drive people to the site, especially beginners. You want all levels of players. – xaisoft May 5 '12 at 16:53
  • But this isn't Q&A. This is just an interesting topic-of-the-hour conversation starter where anyone and everyone listening in can start piling in their favorite lesson learned. This might make a good topic for a chat event, but it's not Q&A. Please read the description of the close reason. – Robert Cartaino May 7 '12 at 17:00
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    Discounting this as some "Stack Overflow rule" is sort of old school. We have 80 other sites with questions that don't always have one definite answer. SE doesn't generally host these polls to see what everyone thinks about the topic of the day. At least read blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective before you write this thing off as some way to drive users away. On the contrary, mainstay of SE Q&A is that it doesn't ask the same old questions asked hundreds of times on every other forum on the subject. Real questions have answers, but this is just a poll. – Robert Cartaino May 7 '12 at 21:52
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    This is a great question and should not be closed. This is the exact thing that someone will search in google and it will bring them to the site. – xaisoft May 9 '12 at 13:21
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Disclaimer: USCF B-player here.

My advice would be to play marginally higher-rated players and ask them for help in determining what one could do better. Most people will fall over themselves to help someone who puts forth an honest effort (hence, web sites like this one.) At tournaments, I've never had an opponent unwilling to go over a game.

I have had some surprises by entering my games into Crafty and letting it analyze every move. You can see pretty quickly where things go sideways. At my level the reason I lose is always tactical. That is, after my move, Crafty shows how I'm losing a piece ;-) It is encouraging that my opponents don't always make the best move, either, so I am not wholly doomed.

Back in the day I had an instructor (USCF Master) who advised A and B players: tactics, tactics, tactics. That is, we could win all our games just by concentrating on the next 4 moves or so. When that quit working, we'd be much better players.

I'd advise:

  • get an instructor who can beat you every time (+400 rating points, or so.)
  • learn a few openings pretty well. It's hard to stay motivated when every game is a mess by move 7.
  • study problems
  • focus on having good games, not on winning per se.
  • don't be afraid to lose.
  • play a lot, record your moves, then run them through the computer.
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    I never thought abut asking stronger players how to improve after a game. This a great suggestion. Thanks. – xaisoft May 9 '12 at 13:29
  • great suggestions! – garik May 16 '12 at 11:08

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