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I'm more of a chess hobbyist, but I'm trying to learn more about the game. I've been working on playing some basic openings. I usually play on chess.com.

  1. What's a better timed game to learn from? I usually play 10 minute games, but I've considered switching to 30 minute games until I get better.

  2. I keep making a lot of the same mistakes, and I'll readily admit I likely have very, very poor strategy. Any tips on improving there?

  3. Is there a way (or a website or something) that I can put in the moves after a game (the PGN) and find out why a move was marked as it was (good, excellent, blunder, etc.)?

I know a subscription to the site is cheap, but I don't feel that I'm good enough yet (and don't quite have enough time with all other things I'm doing) to get a subscription.

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This is a little bit of a tricky question to answer definitively. There are Right and Wrong approaches, there are multiple opinions on what is the best method. I am going to try and approach this somewhat neutrally with my thoughts based of your statements.

1. What's a better timed game to learn from? I usually play 10 minute games, but I've considered switching to 30 minute games until I get better.

There are two camps here. Those who say faster games as it helps with pattern recognition. There are those who say longer time controls so you can train analysis and depth. Each camp is right in their own way. Pattern recognition is important, bullet and blitz time controls are quite good at developing that. Rapid games are good analysis. Daily Games are extremely analytical...possibly too much so.

Based of your response that your making a lot of the same mistakes. I think pattern recognition might be a bit of an issue for you at this time. I would actually be suggesting you look into doing Tactics puzzles for 10 to 15 minutes before you play a game with a longer time control say 10 to 15 minutes again. Playing bullet games which rely heavily on pattern recognition when you haven't developed that skill sufficiently is just not a productive endeavour.

2. I keep making a lot of the same mistakes, and I'll readily admit I likely have very, very poor strategy. Any tips on improving there?

If you know what the mistakes you are making , such as hanging pieces, you can use the chess.com puzzle functionality and if you click on customise then you will see themes. Select the themes for which you are commonly making mistakes on and set the ratings to be between your current rating and maybe 500 above. Spend time on the positions. Its ok to spend an hour on a puzzle. You are far better to spend time analysing the position getting it right than spending 30 seconds and going "I don't know..." and just moving to progress.

Strategy is very different to train than Tactics and is really about the analysis of the "long" game. Reviewing the board , developing a plan and executing it. The following article provides a reasonable overview. Main thing to remember though is to have a plan...but not to get to attached to that plan.

3. Is there a way (or a website or something) that I can put in the moves after a game (the PGN) and find out why a move was marked as it was (good, excellent, blunder, etc.)?

As you are using Chess.com I would actually suggest using the in built analysis tool.

enter image description here You will notice there is notation after the best suggested move. This is how the engine would interpret the position to be developed if played "correctly". You can even click on the magnify glass to copy the line to the overall game annotation as a variation enter image description here

In regards to seeing why the move is better or a blunder it is a matter of reading or playing out the variation. Adding it to the analysis allows for it to actually be played out as a variation.

I would suggest reading the following article from chess.com though as its quite comprehensive.

If you are willing to make an investment in your learning you could look into applications like DecodeChess which is a reasonably good platform and on the extreme end Chessbase which is a desktop application (extremely pricy though).

Recommendations:

I personally prescribe to the longer time intervals for my students as I believe that the process of Analysis significantly improves player skill. Pattern recognition is also extremely important which is why there is also the Tactical Analysis (Puzzles)

This is a very simplified stripped back approach but generally all good training should be balanced between effort,rest and available time.

Rapid 15 Minute games - 5 to 10 games / week

  • Analysis of each game Blitz 5 Minute games - 0 to 5 games / week
  • Analysis of each game Tactics Puzzles - 10 puzzles a day (exc Rest Days).

One to Two days of the week you don't touch anything chess related.

This sort of format I find generally works well for players between beginner to 1500 range. Focus on maybe learning 3 to 4 openings, the most popular ones focus on the first 4 to 5 moves. This will help set you up.

There are commercial sites like AimChess.com as well provide training programs and generally work on a similar principal. Which I also generally recommend.

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    Ironically, the example you show from the chess.com analysis tool is a prime case of why beginners shouldn't use engines for analysis. A move that goes from -7.48 to -5.51 can range anywhere from a mistake, a move that makes your life harder, a small inaccuracy, an average move or even the best practical move in that position. Otherwise great ansesr
    – David
    Sep 24 at 8:23
  • My big problem seems almost that after I get a basic "opening" (say, the Spanish opening, or Ruy Lopez), it's almost like my moves are somewhat random. And sometimes I "hyperfocus" on one side or area of the board. The main openings I use right now are the "Center Game" opening (that's what chess.com calls it anyway), the Queen's Gambit, the English opening, the Ruy Lopez, and the one that's like the Ruy Lopez but on the opposite side. I can't think of the name of it right now.
    – M1976
    Sep 24 at 11:05
  • @david Yes it is indeed. I didnt really pay too much attention to my example to be honest. I just had the screen open from a recent game. Sep 24 at 11:22
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    @M1976 hyperfocus on one side of the board is a normal phase of chess development. Chess vision of seeing the board as a whole comes later. To start with you can notice when you opponent has moved most of their pieces away from their king and switch to a king attack. Sep 24 at 12:27
  • @M1976: I still have a lot to learn, but I found that my openings improved significantly after I started playing the London.
    – Kevin
    Sep 25 at 8:32
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In addition to the other answer, I can recommend Lichess, it's totally free and has really nice features. After a game finishes, you can request evaluations. If you click "Learn from your mistakes", you get the positions where you made mistakes/blunders and you try to find the correct move. If you cannot find it, it tells you the correct move.

enter image description here

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1. I'd advice you to just play the time control you enjoy the most. Ideally, slower games let you think more carefully about your moves so they're great training, but time is a limited resource and you can only play so many 30 minute games.

2. This depends on the type of mistake you're making. If you're blundering your pieces away, then you probably need to improve your pattern recognition and calculation skills. Puzzles are great for that (it's like playing a real game where all positions are "critical"). 15 minutes a day of puzzle solving (at full focus, with no solving-by-guessing) should be enough for some improvement to appear after a few weeks.

But it could also be that you're making other types of mistakes. For example, "weird-looking" moves because you reach positions where you just "don't know what to do". If that's the case, then try learning some basic strategical concepts. Seeing some examples of your games where you make those mistakes would be really helpful to the answerers.

3. Yes: the human brain. If you want your analysis to help you improve at the game, you need to do it first by yourself and only then (if at all) check your conclusions with an engine. After all, it (hopefully) won't be there to help you in the next game, so doing the effort to figure out why you lost your queen will do more for your game than an app saying "Oh! You lost your queen here. That's bad. Don't do that".... You already know losing your queen is bad!

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    Re: 3 Agreed or even better with someone you know who is a strong chess player and understands the teaching concepts. I frequently still request "talk through" of analysis from stronger players because i find thats where i get my most value. Sep 24 at 11:51
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I dont think that you will improve unless you play SOME slow games. Others have mentioned the resources for learning from them. Then play whatever number of fast games gives you most enjoyment. Unless you are having fun there may be no motive to improve. Analyse the fast games only if are not sure what went wrong.

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