Let’s climb the rating ladder together.

If you are on this page, it’s probably because you want to improve at chess! I would also imagine that if you are on this page, you are likely somewhat familiar with my involvement in the chess world.

One of my biggest passions in life is teaching chess. Put another way, I enjoy empowering others to improve at the game. Additionally, I have always had a great curiosity for understanding how to most efficiently learn something new (like chess) and put it into practice. This is part of what led me and my business partner at Chessable to develop our spaced repetition system, which is a proven method to increase the rate of learning.

Beyond drilling openings, tactics, and endgames with spaced repetition at Chessable, I often recommend several other methods for my students to learn, improve, and enjoy the game of chess.

Here are some of my best overall suggestions:

  • Regularly play rapid or classical games online or in-person. At minimum, I recommend a time control of 15+10 (15 minutes per side, with a 10 second increment per move). The longer the better, really! Blitz and bullet are fun, but they’re too fast to offer serious improvement value. Giving yourself ample time to think will produce your best, most instructive games. You need to play A LOT to improve at chess, especially when you’re first starting out. Don’t fall for the fantasy that you can purely “study” your way to chess improvement. Chess is very much like learning a language: you need to get out there and practice if you want to develop fluency. You will fail and feel silly at times, but that’s a good thing!
  • Analyze your games afterwards. Spend a few minutes thinking about the turning points in the game and noting where you or your opponent could have played better. Do this first WITHOUT the engine or automated game review! Most players immediately consult the engine, but it’s crucial to train your ability to assess a game independently and objectively. I’d highly recommend using the wonderful Lichess “study” tool to catalog your games and document your thoughts (think of it like journaling, but for your chess improvement). Once you’ve drawn some initial conclusions about a game, you can feel free to use the engine to refine your takeaways. Better yet, ask a coach or higher-rated friend for their opinion on your play! Analyzing with stronger human players is tremendously valuable not only in improving your play and refining your thought process, but also in broadening your exposure to chess culture.
  • Solve lots of tactics. Tactics are bite-sized chess puzzles with a concrete objective – usually checkmate or a win of material. Chess is a game of pattern recognition, and in consistently solving tactics that mimic in-game scenarios, you will develop discipline in calculating so-called “forced” sequences and build a strong mental database of patterns and. Over time, you’ll see such patterns emerge in your games, and you’ll readily recognize the tactical sequences that you’ve diligently worked through and hardwired into your brain! Lichess.org, Chess.com, and Chesstempo.com all have a large selection of tactics/puzzles, and you really can’t do enough of them. Likewise, there are countless books and courses dedicated to tactical patterns. One of my top recommendations in this regard is The Checkmate Patterns Manual on Chessable, which teaches you all the major checkmate patterns in chess. Whatever the format, tactic/puzzle solving should be a part of your routine. Solve them for accuracy at first, and work up to solving for speed when you gain experience.
  • Work with a dedicated chess coach who provides 1-on-1 lessons. A good coach will not only teach you the game properly, but they’ll also give you homework and suggestions suitable to your level and help you streamline your self-study, too.
  • Engage with your local chess club (if you have one) and play some OTB (“over the board”) games once in a while, being sure to analyze them afterwards. I encourage you to even enter a tournament at some point! It may sound intimidating, but tournaments are a lot of fun, and you’ll find that players and organizers are extremely supportive and helpful to new players.
  • Watch videos from your favorite chess personalities on YouTube, and similarly, tune into their live streams on Twitch. Online chess content varies widely in instructional value, and you should keep in mind that videos/streams are fairly “passive” learning compared to playing, analyzing, and solving. Still, we stand to benefit from strong players and coaches who take the time to explain the way they see the game.
  • When focusing on improvement, do your best to play on a desktop computer with a regular-sized monitor. Many of my students have found this makes it easier to see the board, avoid distractions, and move faster during time scrambles.

Additional tips based on rating level:

  • At the lower levels (Chess.com/USCF/FIDE < 1400), focus most of your time on learning basic chess principles, playing longer games, analyzing these games, and solving tactics. Openings are least important at this stage, and you should only worry about developing a basic repertoire (under 10 moves). You should know some of the essential endgames, such as K+Q vs. K, K+R vs. K, and, if you’re ambitious, K+P vs. K (opposition/key squares). In-game, you should be using plenty of time and working to recognize your opponent’s threats, minimize your own blunders, and capitalize on straightforward tactical opportunities that your opponents will inevitably present to you, as these are where most games will be decided. To that end, one book I often recommend to my students in this rating range is Tune Your Chess Tactics Antenna by Emmanuel Nieman. This book discusses how to recognize when a tactic may be present in a position.
  • At the intermediate/club levels (Chess.com/USCF/FIDE 1400-2000), you should still be playing, analyzing, and solving regularly. Openings become appreciably more important in this rating range, so you’ll want to build a coherent repertoire. I recommend picking a single opening repertoire for each side (white, and black against both 1.e4 and 1.d4, respectively), learning the theory up to Move 10-15 for the main lines and key sidelines at your level (the Lichess database is a great way to filter for this), and seeking out additional resources that explain the plans/ideas in your chosen openings. Continue to hone your tactical radar, and invest new time in learning key strategic ideas and common middlegame plans. Most players are largely beyond the “blundering” phase at this point (although blunders will inevitably occur, of course!), and strategy and positional play become noticeable themes. Closer, more nuanced games produce more endgames, so you’ll want to flesh out your understanding of that phase of the game, too. The Chessable course, 100 Endgames You Must Know, is an excellent resource in doing just that.
  • At the higher levels (Chess.com/USCF/FIDE 2000+), you will still find it useful to play frequently, but you ought to be more selective about your competition. Seek out stronger opponents (perhaps even titled players) who can more readily pinpoint and challenge your weaknesses. Meticulously analyze your play afterwards, and don’t shy away from ruthlessly identifying your strengths and weaknesses! Some of your issues may be quite “meta” at this stage, e.g. poor time management in certain phases of the game, or lazy calculation/visualization in longer sequences. If you don’t have a coach by now, I would strongly recommend getting one. At 2000+, you’re quite a good player, and your path forward will be more difficult to generalize. Most likely, though, you’ll want to spend extra time in deepening your opening understanding (perhaps even broadening your repertoire to include multiple options with both white and black), expanding your knowledge of pawn structures (a key link between the opening and middlegame), improving your middlegame strategy, and learning more technical endgames. A book that I absolutely love and I believe you’ll relate to at this level is Amateur to IM by Jonathan Hawkins. Hawkins was a college-age amateur chess player when he resolved to dedicate himself to chess improvement, and he documented what he did to become an International Master (he has since become a Grandmaster!). He especially credits serious endgame study in producing the most improvement in his game.

Video recommendations from my YouTube channel:

In my opinion, the most instructive videos I have published over the years are in the following video playlists: Climbing the Rating Ladder and Standard Chess. The former is a long-running series where I focus on common mistakes at each rating level, while the latter features 15-minute games that I play against various opponents, with live commentary and deep post-game analysis. Feel free to watch these playlists below to improve your game!

You can also head over to my YouTube channel playlist section to find other helpful video series. Some of the more popular and instructive ones include Chess Fundamentals (an excellent primer for core chess concepts that I hammer, such as undefended pieces, coordination, and pawn play), Tactics Training, Tournament Chess, and others. In total, you can find around ~1,700 such videos on my channel.

Wait list for 1-on-1 lessons:

If you are interested in taking 1-on-1 lessons with me, please fill out the form below. I teach individual lessons less frequently now than in the past, so I cannot promise you any particular availability. However, I do maintain a healthy waitlist and spots will periodically open up – so feel free to sign up and I will keep you posted.