Learning the moves of chess pieces is relatively easy. After playing a few games, players may want to improve. This goal takes more work and guidance than learning the moves.

Wooden chess pieces.Credit: Anthony Appleyard


Improvement in any endeavor, tennis, golf or chess takes time and practice. The usual route is a young player starts the activity. He plays with friends and if he shows talent, a relative or friend that has knowledge gives instruction. This continues until it becomes obvious that advanced instruction is required for the player to progress further. Recent studies suggest to become very good in chess or similar activities, 10,000 hours of study is required.

Chess Club

A chess club is the next progression for the beginning player. This allows the chess player to encounter different playing styles and can discuss the game with more advanced players. At a chess club, the player is exposed to chess notation, the method of recording game moves, chess clocks and other things associated with chess.


Chess ClockCredit: Sergei in public domain.

Tutors And Trainers

How to learn chess may require getting a chess tutor or trainer. When a player chooses a tutor or trainer he needs to find out the teachers approach to teaching. The tutor may study some games the prospective student has played, and perhaps play a game with him in order to access the player’s level. The teacher should be able to give a plan to improve the students level of play. During the course of instruction, the tutor will introduce the player to different books, strategies and master games. He will replay and analyze games with the student. During the critique, the tutor will give alternate moves, and discuss strategic and tactical plans to improve or win the game.

Chess Books

Chess has more books published about it than any other game. These books cover openings, middlegame, endgame, theory, strategy, tactics, tournaments and recent games. Many books are about how to play chess for beginners. To get the most benefit from chess books, beginners should study them in a planned manner. The best chess books for beginners cover different aspects of the game.

One hazard is a student studying a book that is too elementary or too advanced. If the player isn’t ready for the book, it may confuse or lead him down a path that he doesn’t understand. It’s not that the book isn’t any good, but that the player isn’t at the point to get the most out of it. That is one of the important parts of being a teacher, being able to recognize the students level and recommend the best chess books at the appropriate time.

Study Chess Games

Studying his own and others chess games will constitute a large portion of a player’s development. Beginners learn more from annotated games. Annotated games give consideration for other moves, or plans, and explain why they may be better or worse than the actual move played during the game. Games without notes are for more advanced players who will annotate the game on their own. A teacher should recommend games with clear and distinct principles to follow. Game collections of master chess players include their best chess games.

The Internet And Computer Chess

There is a tremendous amount of chess information available on the internet, both good and bad. Some master level games are posted on the internet within hours of being played. The avid player can study these games at their leisure. The responsibility of the tutor is to guide his student to internet chess sites consistent with the tutors lesson plans.

Computer chess has several advantages. One can play the computer at any time to strengthen their game. The player can play either the white or the black side. Most chess computers have different playing strengths to allow the player to evaluate their strength against the computer move by move. Some players use computers to analyze games and move variations.

Playing In USCF Tournaments

After playing casual games, the player may want to engage in chess tournaments. Tournaments allow one to play against different opponents. The United States Chess Federation (USCF) sanctions tournaments in the United States. Players must be a USCF member to play in a sanctioned tournament. The federation uses a formula to assign a numerical rating based on player performance. The rating system categorizes players from beginner to master. There is a similar formula for international play. These ratings determine tournament matchups and parings.

Playing in USCF tournaments can be a good teaching tool for a beginning player. Tournaments allows one to access his skill if he consistently beats weaker players and loses to stronger players. Tournaments provide a good teaching tool as the opponents replay, and discuss the games moves.

Postal Chess Tournaments

Postal chess competitors play a chess game through the mail. The player writes his move on a postal card and mails it to the opponent. His opponent responds in a like manner. Often, they play two games simultaneously; one as white and one as black. Each player has time limitations within which to respond to his opponents move. Internet chess is replacing postal chess with the moves transmitted by email rather than postcards. The games take time, but most have a time limit of two years. Most are finished before that time. To determine the result after the time limit has expired, a master adjudicates the game to determine the outcome.

International postal chess notationCredit: Unknown

Several organizations other than the USCF conduct postal chess tournaments. The rules and procedure are similar for each.

The rules for postal chess are such that the players can consult books and other chess literature to play their games. They can also physically move the pieces on the board to try out different moves and variations. It is illegal to consult with other players or use a computer.

The instructional value of playing postal chess is great. It allows one to work over different variations and learn from chess literature during the various game phases. It is a good way to learn chess strategy for beginners or players wishing to improve their play.

Playing chess is an enjoyable activity that a person can continue all their lives. A young, or even older, player can become a stronger player with study. Like any other intellectual endeavor, it is important how one studies. One needs a plan to continue and improve with or without a tutor and trainer.