Currently my chess.com rating is fluctuating between 1000 - 1050. What are some common pitfalls that players in this range make and how can I capitalize on them? I've been playing for about 5 months and am looking to take it more seriously. Here the account link: https://www.chess.com/member/strawhatjared

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    Seems you focused on rapid chess. I would suggest adding this to title and to question itself to make it more focused. Some options for improvement in daily chess may not be available in rapid games.
    – Piro
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 7:45
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    @Piro: And I think it would be a mistake to try to improve at rapid chess without first improving ability to analyze when not hampered by lack of thinking time.
    – user21820
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 8:40
  • Jared, what level of Lichess AI (against StockFish) can you beat without undo at unlimite time control?
    – user21820
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 8:43
  • I learned about chess.com from your question, thank you :) Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 9:59
  • Inspect element ;)
    – user32840
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 12:44

4 Answers 4


Probably the number one thing that can improve your chess at that level is better tactical awareness, both offensively and defensively. Here are some positions from just one of your games:

[FEN "rnb2rk1/ppp2pp1/3p1q1p/2bNp3/2B1P3/3P1N2/PPP2PPP/R2QK2R b KQ - 3 8"]

White is threatening Nxf6+ and Nxc7. You played Qg6, but this doesn't actually save the queen - White could have played Ne7+ and forked it. (Luckily for you they opted for Nxc7 instead, which wasn't nearly as good as it looked.)

Here's another of your opponent's tactics:

[FEN "5rk1/pp3pp1/5P1p/4p3/2Bn4/3P1P2/PP3K2/6R1 b - - 0 23"]

Here you played g6, but that allowed Rxg6 because the f7 pawn was pinned. g5 would have been better.

Now let's look at a couple of places you could have won material:

[FEN "5r1k/pp3BR1/5P1p/4p3/3n4/3P1P2/PP3K2/8 b - - 0 26"] 

Here White has just played Bxf7. The bishop is attacked, and it's protected only by the rook - and notice that the rook won't be protecting the bishop if the rook moves. If you could just make it go away, you could win the bishop. You could have played Nf5, attacking the rook, and either you win the rook for the knight or you win the bishop outright.

A little later this position arose:

[FEN "5r1k/p5R1/3K1P2/3B4/5n1p/5P2/P7/8 b - - 5 34"]

Here you played Nxd5, totally missing Rxf6+, which puts your opponent in check and takes out the only support of your opponent's rook, so your king wins the rook next move. It also eliminates the dangerous passed pawn, and that alone should have had you at least consider that move.

These are all fairly basic one or two move tactics. Being able to see this sort of thing on a regular basis will greatly improve your game at this level.

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    Can't believe one tactic could've changed the game from a draw. Do you recommend any resources for working on them?
    – Jared
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 5:24
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    @Jared It definitely can change the outcome. But, more importantly, being able to see simple tactial motifs which you already know, and getting more familar with tactics you rarely use/see (e.g. by using tactics trainer in chess.com or lichess.org) will greatly improve your game. If you are lookng for books, as a 1st book on tactics, I recommend 'Winning chess tactics', 'Chess kid's book of tactics', or 'Killer chess tactics'. Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 13:27
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    @Jared, In three out of four positions, tactics would not be missed if you considered all checks available to you, and all checks available to their opponent in response to the chosen moves. So this could be a starting point in training you calculation discipline, make sure you consider all checks on your move, and once you chosen the best move consider all checks that the opponent has.
    – Akavall
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 19:44
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    @Jared My favorite resource is chesstempo.com. It learns how good you are based on which puzzles you're able to solve, then gives you puzzles that are slightly above your level, forcing you to constantly improve. Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 4:29
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    @Akavall For a complete beginner, a good starting point is to look out for checks and captures thoughout the game, and also promottion in the endgame. Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 1:44

At that level the most common mistake is to focus exclusively on your own plans even to the extent of ignoring direct capture threats to your own pieces from the opponent. Players play a kind of hope chess in which they imagine their opponents will play plausible but bad responses to their trappy but bad moves.

To overcome this and improve there are two things you need to do:

  1. Every time your opponent makes a move you should ask yourself why they made that move. What are they planning to do? Can you stop their plan? Sometimes stopping your opponent's plan is more important than progressing your own plan.
  2. Every time you have decided what move to make you should stop. Don't make the move straight away. Picture the position with your move on the board and put yourself in your opponent's position. What would you do in that position if you were your opponent? That way you can drastically reduce the number of blunders you make.

If you can successfully implement these two items in your games your rating will improve dramatically.

  • Chess puzzles are a fun way of training tactical awareness. To make a good move you have to consider the opponent responses and their threats too.
    – qwr
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 0:59
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    IMO, a good way to get into the "what would I do if I were my opponent" mindset is to play games against yourself (you play both white and black, and play to win for both). That way you see the game from both perspectives at once.
    – Philipp
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 7:21

These 3 simple pieces of advice that can really help beginners are

  1. Move your minor pieces (bishops and knights)
  2. Control the center of the board
  3. Protect your king (i.e. castle)

Although these sound simple, just keeping them in mind will probably be enough to surpass 1000 on chess.com.

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    that's enough to get to like 600 but past that you need to have some awareness of threats and basic tactics
    – qwr
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 5:28
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    From what I saw of their games, OP was doing a fairly decent job of these already.
    – D M
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 1:38

I really like DM's answer, tactical awareness is the most important thing for you right now. What I'd like to add is not really a complete answer, but rather an addendum to that post, talking about how you should look for tactics as a beginner.

The comment on DM's post made by Akavall says the following: "In three out of four positions, tactics would not be missed if you considered all checks available to you, and all checks available to their opponent in response to the chosen moves. So this could be a starting point in training you calculation discipline, make sure you consider all checks on your move, and once you chosen the best move consider all checks that the opponent has."

This should really form the basis for your tactical calculations starting out. When considering what move to play next, consider candidate moves in the following order:

  1. Consider ALL checks, no matter how silly some of them seem.
  2. Consider ALL captures, no matter how silly some of them seem.
  3. Only after this, consider other candidate moves.

This works both ways. When trying to figure out what your opponent is planning, it's usually a good place to start looking what checks and captures are available to them; you'd be surprised how much these simple rules can help out in the beginning. To illustrate just how powerful this scheme can be, let's look at an insane game played yesterday in the Chennai Chess Olympiad between Wesley So and Hrant Melkumyan, two strong grandmasters:

 [FEN "r2qr1k1/pp1nbp1p/2n3pB/3pp3/3P4/2PBRQNP/PP3PP1/R5K1 b - - 0 1"]

 1...e4?? {Black's pawn moves to attack the white queen on f3, as well as the white bishop on d3. So black thought he would win a piece here. But he had forgot to look out for a particular capture in the position...} 2.Rxe4!! {Wesley So realized that he could just take the pawn with the rook, because black could not take it back without getting checkmated.} 2...dxe4? {This is not the game continuation, but let us just go over why black can't take back on e4.} 3.Qxf7+!! {Another stunning move! White sacrifices a queen with check, and black's king is forced to take back (white is threatening to play Qg7# in the next move)} 3...Kxf7 4.Bc4+ {Now white can check black's king all the way to checkmate, and on each move black has only one legal option} 4...Kf6 5.Ne4+ Kf5 6.g4+! Kxe4 7.Re1+ Kf3 8.Bd5#

Note how every move from white in this sequence is either a capture or a check (or both at the same time). In fact, every move from white except for the first one is a check. If Wesley hadn't been on the lookout for every possible check it would've been difficult for him to see 3.Qxf7+, and if he hadn't considered every possible capture in the starting position it would've been very hard for him to see that 1.Rxe4!! was even an option. In fact, we know that 2.Rxe4 is hard to see, because black missed it despite being a very strong grandmaster in his own right!

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    Yeah - 3 out of 4 of the tactics I chose to look at were checks, but 2 of those were also captures. Looking at possible checks and captures (for both you and your opponent) is standard tactical advice. If it's a capture and a check then that's two reasons to be looking at the move!
    – D M
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 1:48

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