How do Beginners Improve at Chess? (Top 6 Chess Tips)
As a strategy game, chess requires a touch of intuition and foresight. Chess is no easy game, and new players may struggle against more experienced opponents. In every method-based game, practice and experience are key. The more you play, the more you begin to understand the behavior of your opponent, and the more easily you can predict their next move.
While practice takes precedence in chess, beginners can also benefit from the advice and tips passed on by chess players with years of experience behind them. Below, we’ve compiled a selection of our top tips for beginners. You should study these, but also play experimentally, to begin with. Most chess players have their own unique style of playing and devising yours through trial and error can benefit you in the long term
Tip #1: Mind your set moves
As a beginner, it’s tempting to play chess with set moves.
Following set moves, which involves using preset motions throughout the game, can be very effective. After all, where you move your first pawn, or your first horse, can set the stage for the overall game- and set openings are so popular that they have specific names like ‘the English’ and the ‘King’s Gambit’.
However, most chess experts would recommend that you find a balance. Don’t play using set moves exclusively, and allow yourself room to roam the board intuitively, particularly if you’re playing a more experienced opponent. Not only can set moves to leave you more vulnerable to attacks, as other players will be able to guess your moves more easily, but they can also stop you from progressing and improving. Playing with intuition will allow you to improve your game organically, and this is essential to ensuring that you become a better player in the future.
Tip #2: Vary your openings
We briefly touched on the idea of using set openings above, and the way you begin your game is key to your success. If you’re using white pieces, you play first, and your options are therefore less limited than your opponents. Likewise, if you’re playing with black pieces, then you can assess the other player’s move and attempt to guess their intention.
As there are so many pieces on the board, there is no shortage of openings to choose from. Chess ‘opening’ refers to a set moves, and not the first move exclusively, which means that there are loads of varieties for you to explore. It’s worth researching various openings, but most experts would agree that the ‘Stonewall Attack’ and ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ are particularly effective, as both of these strategies rely on the positioning of pawns.
It’s important that you vary your openings, so you can grow comfortable with different strategies, and approach each game with a unique perspective. If you only know one opening, and you’re playing against an opponent that knows the perfect way to derail that opening, then you have no alternative and are set to lose.
By varying your moves, and having a number of different starting movements to fall back on, you significantly increase your chances of winning against a competitor who has chosen to attack you based on strategy. As chess is a game of strategy, relying on one exclusively can weaken you as a player, which isn’t ideal.
Tip #3: Make yourself at home in the middle
Most chess players seem to agree that the center of the board is the most important section to dominate. The center of the board is so valuable because by controlling the 4 middle pieces, you give yourself the option to roam more freely.
Until, or rather if, your opponent decides to castle their king- the center of the board is also home to the coveted King. This makes it a very strategic place to settle, because you not only give yourself a protective barrier from any advances, but you are also in direct line with the opposing King.
By setting up 4 pieces in the middle, you also have much better mobility and are able to access the entire board (or thereabouts). This is access also made both quicker and easier by the central location, and this is an excellent way to corner your opponent, as controlling the center of the board also allows you to dominate 8 squares- while your competitor is forced to the sidelines.
As controlling the middle is so common, it’s in your best interest to do it first. By staking your place in the middle, it’s likely that you’ll derail your competitor’s strategy, and that you’ll therefore have the upper hand in the game.
Tip #4: Make the most of every piece
Many players tend to favor certain pieces, and completely disregard the power of diversifying their pieces, by experimenting with them all. By clinging onto your Queen you are, of course, using a piece that can move in virtually every direction- but by disregarding your Rooks or even your Pawns, you’re not allowing yourself the potential for higher mobility.
Great or even good chess players will move every piece at least once in a game. This sounds basic, but so many beginners leave many pawns unaccounted for and abandon many other pieces throughout the game.
If certain pieces are proving more advantageous throughout the game, because of the inevitable layout that will take shape, then by all means- use them most. But if you’re looking to play powerfully, and dominate the majority of the board, then make the most of all of your pieces.
Remember that Pawns make great defense lines and that Rooks can span the entire width of a board in one move. Don’t disregard the potential for each piece to take you closer to victory, and make considered decisions before you move. Chess is a slow game, so taking your time is perfectly acceptable, and even expected.
Tip #5: Remember, this is a game of calculated payoff
This probably isn’t the first time you hear this, and it certainly won’t be the last, but chess is a game of strategy. It is, therefore, a game of calculated payoff. What does this mean? It means that sacrificing certain pieces for the greater good is necessary.
Playing strategically often means baiting your opponent, by putting your valuable piece in the line of attack, with the intention of later attacking your adversary more effectively. This can be a difficult concept to grasp, and many beginners will hold onto their pieces for dear life, fearing that losing a piece will mean losing the game.
However, losing pieces is normal and, in many cases, very positive. While having many pieces on the board can allow you to corner your opponent more easily, losing a few strategies can allow you to attack the other player more easily. So remember to calculate payoff, and don’t be afraid to offer up one of your pieces in exchange for a better move later on.
Tip #6: Play your cards close to the chest
As with virtually any game, playing your cards close to the chest is key. However, in chess, it’s particularly important that you remain neutral- and if possible bluff your opponent. For those not familiar with the idea of bluffing, it entails deceiving your opponent, into believing that you have a better chance of success than you truly do.
Throughout a match, your adversary will try their best to guess your next move. Foresight, not only for your own moves but for the other player, will allow you to win the game. Therefore, if your opponent is acting incredibly excited, then you may scour the board for a big move or a potential checkmate. Likewise, if you give away your emotions, then the other player will look more attentively and perhaps guess your next move.
Tips aside, enjoying the game is without doubt the best approach
Tips and advice from more experienced players are helpful, particularly as you’re just starting out. However, most former novices will agree that learning to love and enjoy the game is far more effective. Playing experimentally, using your intuition, and playing chess with a genuine interest will (in time) help you win against virtually any adversary. Therefore, you should use the advice above as a supplement to your own natural curiosity.
It’s also important to remember that the experts who passed on this advice will use it against you. If you’re playing a more experienced opponent, who is well acquainted with all the tips listed above, then chances are they will be able to predict your next move- or block you entirely. As discussed, this is where intuition comes into play, and having the foresight to be able to play without any set moves will truly prove an advantage.
Chess is a historical game and one that has withstood generations for good reason. It’s a complex, challenging and rewarding board game that jogs the brain and instills logical reasoning in players. As a beginner, you’re introducing yourself to a whole new form of entertainment, and the tips above will help maximize your experience.