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Chess: Easy to Learn, Hard to Master | 18 Ways to Up Your Game

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

The global popularity of chess has led to its regular play in recreational and competitive settings. Chess is a game that may be played in competitions and even turned into a profitable endeavor. However, chess is not for everyone because mastery requires time and effort.

Chess is a clear and straightforward game to play and comprehend, yet becoming a master requires considerable effort and hard work. The rules are rational and make sense, but once you begin competing against more formidable opponents, you’ll realize there is much more to master.

We’ve compiled a list of 18 things to learn and consider if you want to improve your chess game. Whether you’re still a beginner or an intermediate player, there’s something you can start working on today. So, keep reading to learn about simple things that will help you master Chess.

These are the 18 things to consider when learning Chess and moving your way up from the easy beginner level to the challenging Grand Master levels: 

1. Set Up The Chess Board For Success 

I found many people throughout my life that understand how the setup and the rules work but need more strategic foresight to make good moves. Of course, logic and strategic thinking is only natural ability for some. Still, anyone can grow these skills through practice and persistence.  

The first thing you need to know before playing is knowing the correct way to set your board up. When you look at the board, the right corner closest to you has to be white. If it is black, turn your board to ensure it is white. All the tutorials and books follow this basic rule; you’ll have problems following them if your board is set up incorrectly.  

2. Know Each Chess Piece’s Worth And How Points Are Scored

Points are only used as an indicator of who is winning by calculating the worth of each piece. For example, a Pawn is worth 1 point, a knight and bishop are worth 3 points, a rook is worth 5 points, while the queen’s value gets debated quite often. For example, many say the queen is worth 9 points, while others say it’s worth 10, but on the official, it has a value of 9.

Knowing the worth of your pieces helps you calculate if it is worth trading or playing more defensively. Whether ahead or behind in points greatly influences your game strategy in the mid-to-end game.

3. Practice Controlling The Center In Chess

Controlling the center four spaces is one of the fundamental rules you must understand. Attacking and defending the center is the best way to allow yourself to win. If you possess the center, you have the freedom to expand in all directions. This is true for early to middle-game.

4. Develop Your Pieces In Chess

Understanding how to develop your chess pieces, when and where is an essential skill for a beginner. Rules like knights before bishops, knights on the rim are grim, don’t move the same piece twice too early, and don’t bring your queen out too early, are all things beginners should know. Of course, while every game is different, there are some exceptions to these rules, but they are all an excellent foundation.

5. Know Chess Openings And Why They Are Important

A chess opening is a name for a specific set of documented moves at the start of the chess match. There are over 1000 named openings with variants, many of which you will encounter in competitive chess matches and tournaments. Each opening has its unique strengths and weaknesses. 

6. Know The Chess Early Game 

In the early stages of a chess game, both players are eager to build up their board presence by capturing as many of their opponent’s pieces as possible while protecting their own and exchanging weaker for stronger opposing pieces. As a result, this is where knowing how to play well in openings becomes useful and where you may learn which defenses work well against certain kinds of openings.

7. Know The Chess Middle Game 

The middle-game is when you want to start looking for advancement by creating ways to force trades to put the enemy king in danger whilst defending your own king. Knowing how to apply chess principles like castle before move 10, connect your Rooks, Rooks should go on open or half-open files, and Rooks are solid on the 7th rank. These things will improve your game on your road to becoming a Master.

8. Know The Chess End Game 

The end game is when nearly all the pieces except for a hand full are gone. This is when you and your opponent play a deadly game of cat and mouse, trying to put each other into checkmate. Professional players are experts at the end game. Like openings, the end game also has positions and patterns that can be memorized and studied. If you constantly find yourself losing end games, try learning more end-game strategies.

9. In Chess, You Need To Be Able To Predict Moves

Predicting with high accuracy the outcome of a set of moves and the opponent’s counterplay shows that you can think ahead much better and is a big step to becoming better at chess. Therefore, you should always practice predicting what your opponent will do next. Being able to predict outcomes three to four moves ahead is a massive improvement from just being able to predict moves in one. 

10. Chess Has Fundamentals For Attacking

Only attack if you’re in the lead with development. This is because if your opponent is more developed and you attack them, they have a much higher chance of defending or even counter-attacking, which could lead to a loss in pieces and even further developing for your opponent. 

Unless your opponent gives you an opening to attack, it’s almost always a bad idea to attack or play too aggressively. The more you develop on the board, the more options you have for attack and a higher chance to benefit from an aggressive play.

11. Know How To Defend In Chess 

It is always a good idea to fortify your pieces once developed from their original spots. This way, if your opponent tries to attack your pieces, they are well protected, and if they take them, you can trade your opponent’s piece advantageously. In addition, consistently securing pieces with one another will significantly reduce blunders and mistakes. 

12. Build Your Opening Repertoire In Chess

Only having one opening is suitable for a beginner by building up your knowledge of how that one specific opening works and mastering that one opening. But once you progress into higher levels of mastery, one Chess opening can only take you so far. Therefore, knowing various openings and variants is a must to become a master.

13. Reduce Blunders In Chess

A blunder is a term used when someone makes a massive mistake costing a vital piece, disastrous positioning, or even leading to being checkmated. Learning from and reducing slips will lead to better gameplay.  

14. Practice Forking In Chess 

Forking is the act of attacking two or more pieces at once, causing your opponent to choose between which one they wish to sacrifice to save the other. Ensure your Chess piece is protected in turn for an effective fork. 

15. Learn To Pin In Chess 

Pinning is similar to forking, but instead of attacking two pieces at once, you threaten one piece with the possibility of taking a better piece behind it. As a result, you will have a big advantage if your opponent doesn’t see the pin. Likewise, suppose you pin a piece and a king. In that case, that piece won’t be able to move, which will most likely result in you advancing or taking other pieces while that piece is rendered ineffective.

16. Force Chess Moves Or Bait Out Moves

Forcing your opponent to move pieces they don’t want to move is a great way to mess up their position and maybe create an opening for attack. For example, if you want to attack but a piece is blocking your way, you could try to sacrifice a piece to trick your opponent into giving you a chance to attack. Just be careful that you don’t lose more than you gain when you bait.

17. Develop Your Ability To Spot Tactics In Chess

By now, you have a greater chess understanding of some ways to improve your skills, but understanding and spotting tactics will significantly improve your chances of becoming a master. Tactics like zugzwang, exchange sacrifice, smothering mates, forcing a stalemate, and perpetual checks are some tactics to learn and master.  

18. Use The Chess Engine To Analyze Your Games

Another of the best and most effective ways to improve your chess game is by simply going back to your games and rewatching and analyzing what you moved and how you could have done better. The saying “Practice makes perfect” is very much appropriate here.

In Closing

Chess can be learned and played by anyone willing to learn. However, mastering Chess is more complex. Becoming a chess grandmaster takes time, effort, and dedication. The rules of chess are straightforward to learn, and anyone can easily understand them. However, the difficulty of chess doesn’t come from the rules but instead from your ability to think ahead, anticipate your opponent’s next moves, and adapt accordingly.

JC Franco

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.