In the world of chess, a common goal brings together newbies, enthusiasts, established players, and even grandmasters. That goal is to improve our chess rating.
Your chess rating, or your Elo, is a direct measure of your skill as a chess player. It is the simplest and best metric to use in order to track your progress and set short-term and long-term goals.
In this guide, we will look at how you can improve your chess rating with a systematic, realistic, and actionable plan.
The Elo rating system measures the relative strength of chess players based on their game performance. If you're not familiar with it, I suggest you read my article where I explain all about this rating system.
Understand Your Starting Point
To improve your chess rating, it’s essential to have a good grasp of where you currently stand. While there’s no global consensus on the classification of chess level by rating, here’s a rough guide:
- Beginner: < 1200
- Intermediate: 1200 – 2000
- Expert: 2000 – 2200
- Master: 2200+
This is very broad and generalized, so keep in mind that each individual level is in itself stratified. For example, if your rating is 1050, you’re an advanced beginner. If your rating is around 1300, you’re considered an early intermediate.
Set Your Goals
Establish realistic goals based on your starting point. Naturally, the earlier it is in your chess journey, the more room for improvement there will be, and the faster you are likely to improve. This is not to say that if you’re a beginner, you are guaranteed to improve at the speed of light. Rather, what I mean is that a 200-point increase from 700 to 900 usually occurs much faster than an equal increase from 1500 to 1700.
Distinguish between short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals could be something like learning a new opening to add to your repertoire or refining your endgame technique. Long-term goals, on the other hand, are specific rating milestones. A mix of both types of goals ensures balanced progress.
Setting achievable objectives will help guide your improvement journey. Let me give you an idea of a realistic path.
When I first started playing online, I went from a rating of 400 to 900 in the space of three months, and I’m sure this is not considered particularly fast; many people climb up the rating ladder at a much faster pace. However, as someone who plays chess as a hobby, I’d like to say that my improvement as a beginner was impressive.
Practice and Play Consistently
Consistent practice is vital for improving your chess game. The best way to practice is to play games regularly, whether in over-the-board tournaments, online games, or with friends.
The more games you play, the more experience you gain, and the more exposure you get.
Online chess platforms, like Chess.com and lichess.org, offer an opportunity to play against a wide range of opponents and practice various time controls. Participating in online tournaments and solving puzzles can boost your skills and confidence.
As a beginner, or even early intermediate, you should never concern yourself with memorizing positions. Instead, focus on the main principles in chess, learn a few openings, and understand why they work.
With time and playing experience, you will start to recognize patterns and gain general insights that are applicable to many positions. In fact, many grandmasters suggest that you can reach an Elo of 2000 without memorizing lines and positions.
To break past the 2000 limit, you may need to start memorizing some theory, but I’m assuming that if you’re reading this article, you’re not at that level yet. Am I wrong?
It takes time and effort to improve your chess rating, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results immediately.
When I was a beginner, I struggled a good bit with online losing streaks. I believe the problem is that a beginner usually has what I like to call a “chess attention span” which is relatively short. After playing and losing a couple of games, you would find a beginner playing more and more games just to regain points and “reclaim their honor”, without being fully focused and immersed.
My advice is to only play one or two games a day while fully focused. Then, spend some time analyzing your performance and studying. With time, this will pay off.
Study and Analyze Games
Analyzing your games is an invaluable tool for growth.
After you play a game of chess, it is important to analyze your game. This means looking at your mistakes, figuring out why you made them, and trying to learn from them.
You can use a chess engine, such as Stockfish or Torch, to analyze your games for you.
I know that it’s usually nice victories that we like to analyze, but tough losses are even more important to identify weaknesses and areas for improvement.
Look back at your opponent’s moves and see if you could have done anything to improve your chances of winning and minimize theirs. For example, as a beginner, you may be only playing one opening regardless of what your opponent’s response is.
Learn from Grandmasters
Studying games played by grandmasters can give you insights into high-level play. Analyze famous grandmaster games to understand their strategies and tactics and learn from them. This can enhance your overall chess understanding and improve your decision-making.
To this day, I still remember a tip GM Hikaru Nakamura gave in one of his YouTube videos I watched many months ago:
When you’re forced to double your pawns, always take towards the center.GM Hikaru Nakamura
Very valuable tip. I still use it in my games.
Suggestions and Recommendations
1. ChessWisdom (you are here)
Whether you’re a complete beginner or an avid chess player looking for additional guidance, then look no further.
ChessWisdom offers free guides and resources that will help you take your chess game to the next level:
– Beginner’s Guide: In this section, you can learn the basics of the game including the fundamental rules of chess, chess notation, basic tactics, and more.
– Chess Openings: In this section, you can learn the key ideas, common themes, and typical plans associated with many chess openings that you can add to your repertoire or learn to play against.
– Tips and Tools: This section provides tips and tools to strengthen your understanding of chess strategy, and sheds light on some interesting chess books and products. This article you’re reading right now is part of the Tips and Tools section.
– Historic Games: In this section, you can look at some of the most famous games in chess history and learn from the greatest chess minds.
More wisdom is actively being added to ChessWisdom, so stay tuned for more!
2. Remote Chess Academy
If you’re someone who wants to elevate their chess thinking process and overall game in a systematic manner, you might want to consider signing up for the Remote Chess Academy founded by GM Igor Smirnov.
It is an online platform that offers a comprehensive and structured approach to chess education, and was established with the goal of making high-quality chess training accessible to students worldwide, regardless of their location.
I have written a detailed review of GM Igor Smirnov and his academy, so feel free to check it out.
3. Chess.com Premium memberships
Chess.com, the leading platform for online chess, offers extensive learning resources including interactive lessons, puzzles, and video tutorials.
I have written an article reviewing the premium plans Chess.com offers to help you enhance your chess experience and take it to the next level.
Improving your chess rating is an ongoing journey that requires dedication, learning, practice, and a systematic approach. Setting clear goals, mastering the fundamentals, practicing regularly, studying your games, and seeking guidance from experienced players or coaches can significantly enhance your chess skills and lead to a higher rating.
Remember to be patient and have fun! Chess is a challenging but rewarding game. Enjoy the process of learning and improving.
If you have any questions or insights you’d like to share, please join the conversation by leaving a comment below. I’d love to have a chat with you.