I am novice with average of 1000 -1500 elo.

If I start learning games played by grandmasters by heart, as in memorizing them, does it help me improve my chess skill, or it is a useless waste of time?

Also, I’m not talking about just random grandmaster games, but games from grandmasters with style that I like for a particular reason, such as their attacking style for example

This doesn’t mean learning games with a deep analysis as to why this move was made (because of my low rating), but learning with a possible chance to learn typical/mini combinations.

Any suggestions?

  • 1
    I wouldn't have guessed that this would be very useful, but it is a time-honored technique for serious students of Go to memorize top-level games. This probably is partially due to differences in the games and partially due to differences in Eastern and Western learning styles. I still think that time spent on this would be more profitably spent elsewhere, such as on tactics exercises.
    – dfan
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 2:24

3 Answers 3


I'm going to be a bit contrarian and say that it may be more beneficial than the other answers here seem to imply. The reasoning is simple - what is the easiest way to remember a series of moves? Not by simply remembering which piece moved where, but by understanding what the purpose of each move is.

And if you know the purpose of each move, your mind may start to associate the remembered patterns with the purposes. This seems to me that it could be quite beneficial.

Now I'm not saying this is better than other forms of training, but if you particularly enjoy this activity, then it may be more productive than doing another form of training which you don't. Personally, I can't imagine why anyone would enjoy remembering details like this, but to each his own.

In addition, given a historical chess position, many GM's can easily recall which game the position is from (I saw a documentary where Carlsen was given a position from a random historical game and he got most of the information about the game right; he remembered who the players were, but I think he got the exact year slightly wrong). This indicates to me that GM's spend a non-trivial amount of time studying and remembering other games - it would be strange to dismiss this form of training out of hand.


It won't help much. You won't understand why they are choosing the moves they are making. The easiest and fastest way to improve is to go to your local chess club. They will pair you with opponents of your skill level. The better players will help you.

  • 1
    Exactly, +1 (or play online). Chess is all about reasoning, what you need to learn is the logic behind (to the extent that you can) and not just memorise games. It's like learning physics by just learning the name of the theorems and not know what they imply or where they come from! After all if chess was just about memorisation, it'd be a pretty dull game!
    – Ellie
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 18:44
  • This is correct, with one exception: memorizing the first few moves of each opening would be beneficial, though still understanding the motive behind those moves is much more valuable.
    – downhand
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 8:08

This is actually the main idea behind The Royal Game, a short story by Stefan Zweig. Very well written and very recognisable for anyone who plays chess.

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