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I'm a pretty new to playing chess - I understand the fundamentals and can implement some of the basic ideas like forks and pins, but have never properly learned how to play. I'm looking for a comprehensive way of learning - when I look for courses online, they pretty much all seem to cover individual aspects of the game like tactics or openings or other things like that. There seem to be some books that are comprehensive although I'm looking for something interactive.

What would you recommend? Is chess the sort of thing for which there exists a full course of 'everything you can know', or is it in fact best approached by just learning random things here and there from practice?

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    You can have a look at Best chess theory books for beginners or other questions in the books tag.
    – Glorfindel
    Feb 23, 2023 at 16:26
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    Possibly related: Where can one find a complete chess curriculum? Feb 25, 2023 at 1:30
  • @Glorfindel Nice, that seems like a good starting point. Thanks!
    – Kobo
    Feb 27, 2023 at 20:26
  • @SecretAgentMan Ah, that seems perfect! I was slightly tentative about books compared to online resources because I’m not sure how easy it is to learn by simply seeing theory in a book, rather than being able to practice it directly like on something like Chess.com’s tutorials. How would you recommend best learning from a book?
    – Kobo
    Feb 27, 2023 at 20:28
  • Learning Modern Chess is good for common people, but becoming GM is like 1 in Millions. Very very brainy people become GM.
    – ShadYantra
    Mar 10, 2023 at 7:13

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The "Chess Steps" method is the training method used by chess clubs for youth players in the Netherlands.

It starts at beginner level, the last step (6) is for players of roughly 2000 strength. There are many workbooks, and also instruction manuals for trainers, but I don't know how much they add -- by far most of the value is in going through the workbooks and solving the exercises. In my opinion, that series of workbooks form a comprehensive course.

Note that doing it that way, you hardly get taught anything by means of text -- it's all solving positions. Which is what chess is, in my opinion.

There are other such courses (like Yusupov's series of 10 books) that start off at a higher level, so one can do first one and then another.

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  • That seems perfect! How would you recommend solving positions from a textbook, in a way that allows you to remember it for use in a game? Is there some way to produce the position on an online board, to practice them by playing the positions? Or is using your head enough (baring in mind I’m still quite new to chess so can’t see moves in my head as easily as others!)?
    – Kobo
    Feb 27, 2023 at 20:36
  • @Kobo: the kids have to set up the positions on a board, then solve them. You could do the same with, say, a Lichess analysis board. But as you aren't allowed to move the pieces (you're not allowed to move them when thinking during a game either), that would be very similar to just looking at the diagram in the booklet. It depends on what you consider most important I guess, playing chess on a board or online. Feb 28, 2023 at 22:09
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My suggestion would be to get a book on basic chess strategy. [Since I don't know of any for beginners in the English language, I'll let someone else edit this answer with a specific recommendation]. This will help you understand the "abstract" ideas of the game like king safety, piece development, control of the center/open files/weak squares and so on...

As for the actual execution of concrete ideas, that's what tactics are for! It doesn't make much sense to add a collection of puzzles to a strategy guide, so you may want to get some other book or app for that.

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  • Ah ok, that makes sense! So is it correct to say that chess is divided into strategy, which are the general concepts of the overarching game, and tactics are within that, which are the individual sets of moves you use to try and get an advantage? And then this is split into the opening, middle and endgame? Is there any component I've missed?
    – Kobo
    Feb 24, 2023 at 19:48
  • @Kobo yeah, close to that. Tactics and strategy would "split" chess thinking into more concrete and more abstract, while opening, middlegame and endgame would split the game depending on the amount of pieces on the board and how developped they are.
    – David
    Feb 25, 2023 at 12:53
  • Thanks a lot! Beyond basic books on chess strategy, is there much more strategy to learn? Or is advanced strategy just applying basic strategy in more elegant ways… or is there just no such thing as advanced strategy?
    – Kobo
    Feb 27, 2023 at 20:54
  • @kobo Maybe not more elegant, but more refined. Think for instance of bishop vs knight endgames with equal pawns. A beginner may be able to win with a strong knight against a horrible bishop. An expert player will know how to exploit the small advantages available in positions that are closer to being equal
    – David
    Feb 27, 2023 at 22:19
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welcome to chess and chess stackexchange!

Q1) I would recommend watching videos about some openings, and deciding which you want to play. You better have some moves in your head before a game!

Q2) There is not "everything you need to know" in chess as our understanding of it keeps growing, but a good way to learn what you might face is actually facing them. So play games, solve puzzles, and only buy a course if you think you really need it.

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  • That seems logical to me! Are there any openings you would recommend?
    – Kobo
    Feb 24, 2023 at 19:51
  • I would recommend d4 and queens gambit in case of d5 as white and e5 against e4 and d5 against d4 as black. But it is based on your playstyle, so play and see what fits you! Feb 26, 2023 at 17:00
  • GÜLLU nice, I’ll take a look. Thank you :)
    – Kobo
    Feb 27, 2023 at 20:38
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One thing that no one ever tells you, ever, is that you need to first try to realize that chess is a numeric game, i.e. a game of accumulating small, measurable advantages. Computers have helped us realize that a big deal, but rarely do you see anyone speaking to that in the context of comprehending the game fundamentals. Place the knight in the corner and see how many squares it can reach, then place it in the center and compare. Hopefully, that gives you a clue ... Don't study openings, please, that will delay your development for a long time. I am a 2200 player and I don't know openings - maybe first two or three moves and the names of opening systems associated with that, but that's about it. I play through the center, try to maximize my pieces strength, gain space. King safety can be also quantified, because king "unsafety" increases your opponent's pieces mobility when they gain a tempo by checking the king. Also, initiative is worth probably a pawn. Nothing but quantitative considerations, as you can see ... This way I aim to accumulate positional advantages or, in numeric terms, increase the value of my position, which, at some point, will manifest in tactical opportunities.

Good luck on your journey!

P.S. Sorry, I made it sound almost like you need to calculate the value of each move in a computer fashion - you don't have to. I sort of "eyeball" relative strengths of moves along the considerations above to choose the one that will improve my position the most.

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  • Computers have taught us a lot of things about chess, but they're a tool to assist analysis and never a replacement for it. The engine is where you look up the answer, not where you learn how to solve hte problem
    – David
    Feb 25, 2023 at 13:44
  • David, the question was about learning chess "comprehensively". Numbers is the key to understanding the fundamentals. That principle will not give you a ready solution every time, but will lead you on a path of mastering the whys and hows of the game. Feb 25, 2023 at 15:45
  • @postoronnim That’s a nice way of looking at it… I see the appeal! How would you recommend analysing a game from a numeric point of view? I can see how to compare something like a knight in the corner vs in the centre of the board on its own, although how would you then apply that to game context when there’s so much else going on? And how would you quantify it, so you know how to compare it to a different move?
    – Kobo
    Feb 27, 2023 at 20:50
  • @Kobo Rather than quantifying the value of a move precisely, I use this notion as a guide to forming strategies and coming up with most direct moves. I know it sounds awfully nebulous, but this helps me a good deal in staying motivated to find the best move. Here's an example: in the opening, I've moved the pieces off the back rank and can castle. However, I will first try to look for a better move - maybe I can disrupt the enemy position, or stymie his development. That move would have a higher priority because it would lead to a greater relative numeric gain in my position. Feb 28, 2023 at 15:53
  • @Kobo. Also, as far as move selection, knowing where the pieces have the highest value (towards the center or on open lines, or having access to squares otherwise) will help you identify which pieces to move. E.g. you have a rook that is not defending or attacking thereby making little contribution to the position - move it! Feb 28, 2023 at 15:56
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Learn Chess with Dr.Wolf appears to check some of your boxes

  • Interactive.
  • Suitable for new players overwhelmed by the sheer amount of "focused" material out there.
  • Covers all aspects of your game play with the "virtual" coach commenting on your move quality each move.

The stronger recommendation is to dig deep into really good annotated chess books which showcase a strong player punishing (while explaining why) the weaker player's moves.

Classics include:

  • Chess Master vs. Chess Amateur (Euwe)
  • Best Lessons of a Chess Coach (Weeramantry)
  • Grandmaster meets Chess Amateur (Davis and Norwood).

If books aren't your thing, look no further than YouTube speedrun series by some of the more instructive (and less braggy) players (GM Naroditsky, GM Hambleton etc.) where they offer excellent guidance through all stages of the game while they take on entire rating classes of players starting from the lowly beginner.

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