Thursday, August 30, 2007

Advice for the Chess Novice - Improve Your Game for Free!

In today's Thursday series, Rook's Recommendations for Raising Ratings, I'm going to suggest you save some cash (at least for now) by taking some free advice rather than spending your money on all the enticing chess books, videos, software, and paid services (like hiring a chess coach or enrolling in an on-line tutorial subscription service) out there.

So here are three things you can do to improve your game that won't cost a penny:

1. Play Chess! My first recommendation is the most obvious -but surprisingly often overlooked. Play chess. Play more chess. Play everyday. Like a musician learning to play an instrument, without regular practice you are not going to be very good. Fortunately we live in the age of the Internet, so finding an opponent to play (for free) is a piece of cake. Read Starting out with Online Chess Play to get started. And don't forget the Internet is not the only place to play - there are other excellent options: Where to Play Chess : Introduction. And don't make excuses for not playing chess.

2. Record All Your Games Assuming you have learned chess notation, you should be recording all your games. It's important to learn from your mistakes - you need to be able analyze your games in order to determine what you did right or what you did wrong. The other great reason to record all your games is that you'll be able to revisit them years later so you can appreciate just how much you have improved or to wistfully reflect on that win over your opponent who was rated 300 points higher than you.

3. Use the free chess resources on the web. There is a mind-boggling amount of chess improvement stuff on the Internet, which you can easily find using a Google search. Finding chess resources is not the problem- picking a few select sites to begin with is (Rook Van Winkle's Chess Blog being a given, of course). Start with these three chess sites and explore them thoroughly before going further afield looking for all the other wonderful and useful chess improvement sites out there:
  • Mark Week's About Chess. If you are totally new to chess begin with the "Essentials" section (top left) or better yet, click here to start directly at the beginner's page. Next step, proceed to the Improve Your Game Section.
  • Novice Nook. After you have a little experience under your belt it's time to head off to Dan Heisman's "Novice Nook" site. Again, there is the ever present danger of being overwhelmed with too much of a good thing. Fortunately Dan addresses this problem with his First NNs to Read - a list, in chronological order, of the first 12 Novice Nook columns to read.
  • ChessVideos.TV. Register at this site and get some free video training, starting with the Beginner's section. There's no easier way to learn than watching.

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