Hi everyone!
I’m sharing my journey of my early years with Chess, from Rookie to a 1000 USCF rated player. I’ll present some of the materials that I used, as well as tips for a player at every level in between unrated and 1000 elo. Enjoy!
Starting Out (Unrated - 200 elo)
Enjoy the game. Play chess because you want to. To commit to becoming a strong chess player, one needs to enjoy playing the game.
Drilling how each piece moves until all moves are natural is key. A player should get to know how all the pieces are allowed to move.
Memorizing the setup of a chessboard, as well as the rules of the game (castling, en passant, etc. ) should also be done in this early stage.
  • “Natural” means less than a second of thought before a player knows where their piece is allowed to go.
  • Playing games like Knight's Tour, and practicing with friends helps players get up to speed faster.
  • This stage of playing took around two months for me to grow out of. The duration of this state is highly dependent on the level of practice a player puts in every day.
Play lots of games. Not all of them have to be from tournaments! Leverage what your chess club offers and play with others regularly!
Check your rating later. Unrated players can add hundreds of rating points to their ratings in a matter of months. It is easy to gain rating points in the beginning, and it becomes increasingly longer to gain every 100 rating points.
Take your time. The longer you can stand playing one chess game, the more strength you can show. Play Games in 10 minutes or longer. Never go for Blitz or Bullet until you reach 1200 rating points.
Start learning patterns. The scholar’s mate is one of the patterns beginners should pick up. However, a Beginner should quickly move away from trying Scholar’s mate and rather apply the Opening principles.
Setting Sail (200 - 500 elo)
Learn the three main phases of the game - opening, middle, and endgame. Learn to tell where each starts and ends.
Look through the opening principles - explain them to yourself. Memorizing rules doesn’t help if a player doesn’t know how to apply them. By the end of these exercises, a player should know these by heart.
Start analyzing your games. If you play online, use the “analysis” feature after every game. If the games are over-the-board, ask your opponent what mistakes you made. Always look over games yourself first: you should be looking for guidelines that you broke and what that caused. It is ok to lose games but be sure to analyze the games. Chess.com offers powerful game analysis. Having your Coach to review with you will help to summarize the game and emphasize on key areas to focus on is very valuable.
  • To YouTube! Look for beginner chess videos, especially those from the ChessKid team. These videos teach you concepts and norms in the game!
  • This stage of playing took around six months for me to grow out of. The length of this state is highly dependent on the level of practice a player puts in every day.
Check your rating. How is it trending? At this point, rating progression can give you a general idea of where your strength has been.
Start Puzzling! Tactical drills are critical in winning games! Look for tactics in one or two moves.
Run with it! (500 - 700 elo)
Regularly attend tournaments. Try for monthly tournaments, if at all possible. Don’t be afraid to lose a few rounds! The best way to grow is through losses.
Know your openings. Choose a few openings you love and get to know every aspect of them. You should be able to play against a computer with these openings and come within a 0.5 margin by move 15.
Know endgame patterns. Rolling rooks, direct opposition, queen and king, all of these and more are important to get right. Drill these until you can force them naturally in games.
Go for deep tactics! Start looking for areas where tactics can occur. Encourage tactics to happen, don’t only take the opportunity to pull a good attack. Drill tactics two or three moves deep.
  • Be a bookworm. Puzzle books like the Reinfeld Books on tactics give good exercises. Other books like Chess for Dummies can give good concept reviews, though they might be slightly advanced.
  • It took around two months for me to surpass this level. The duration of this state is highly dependent on the level of practice a player puts in every day.
Play lots of games. When analyzing, prove to yourself that you can win each and every lost game.
Look for patterns in your weaknesses. Are there any principles that need to be reviewed?
Going for Gold! (700 - 1000 elo)
If not already in one, join a chess club. A competitive environment is the best way to motivate a player.
Drill tactics one to four moves deep. The more subtle (overworked piece, indirect opposition), the better. Start looking at endgame strategies (rook pawns, opposite colored bishops)
Practice drawing a losing position. This skill is very important against a stronger player, where salvaging a half point comes in handy.
Start thinking about positional play. Small setups can make a big difference in an endgame. Look for videos on weak structures and positions.
  • Knowing how to maintain the initiative is key to this play. For attacking players, the game is lost without the initiative.
  • This stage of playing took around two months for me to grow out of. This timeline can vary widely, my time will not be the same as others’.
Play lots of games. Not all of them have to be from tournaments or from standard chess. Start thinking about how to set yourself up for the endgame.
Look critically at your pawn structures. These will determine later success.
Play for as long as you can. G45 or G60 games are the optimal. If you feel strong, play up one section in tournaments to get a sense of what the next level will require (1000 - 1200 elo).
In summary….
  • Build your play from the ground up. Do not skip over any rules of the game.
  • Once your foundations are solid, learn the early guidelines (a short summary is below):
    • Get your pieces and pawns out to control the center (knights before bishops)
    • Get your king safe (castle)
    • Get your rooks unified (all pieces are off the back rank)
    • Take over open files or free spaces
  • Drill these in real-life games until they are natural - until you understand why each one of them is there.
  • Go for tactics - in puzzles, in games. Set them up on purpose. Go as deep as you possibly can.
  • Be willing to accept feedback on your games. Analyze them yourself, to the best of your ability. Look into positional play.
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks on your rating. Whatever happens in a tournament, you will come back stronger.
  • Have fun. Play friends or family a few games. Get some joy out of the thrill of a centuries-old game.

Oh, and one last thing…

Every Grandmaster was a beginner once, so have a plan, ask help from Parents & Coaches to reach your goal and more importantly, enjoy the journey!

All the best!