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The best way to learn how to play chess well?

Lose to your brother. Lose every day.

There’s nothing quite like sibling rivalry to up the ante. And make you want to get better at anything.

Okay. That was how I learnt to get better at the Royal Game back in the day when Internet wasn’t the thing it is now. Losing to a better player remains the best way to supercharge your chess training. But if your ego is a lot more fragile, the same Internet serves up many creative ways to get better at chess without throwing down the gauntlet in a hurry.

Like every love of labor, getting better at chess is all about deliberate practice over many disheartening games. Let’s look at few of the ways you can bring fun and creativity into your chess training.

The Free Internet Chess Server

The Free Internet Chess Server is the best known among online chess servers that allow players to square off against each other. With more than 300,000 registered accounts, it came about when The Internet Chess Club went commercial.

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Free Internet Chess Server

FICS is run by volunteers, so you might just forgive its less than sleek interface. After all, all that matters here are the 64 squares and the player you are up against. FICS is for serious players who want to improve their play.

Start with the Quick Guide.

How to Improve Your Gameplay?

Use the FICS Teaching Ladder.

The Teaching Ladder allows you to submit any game for review via a PGN file. Stronger players in the community comment on the game play of weaker players. You can also comment on the files submitted by other players. This collective intelligence helps with your chess training. Reviewing games solidifies your own understanding of specific moves and pinpoint weaknesses in your own plays. All annotated games are available on the FICS site.

Chess.com

Did you know that the most common chess opening is e4?

The one tip I learnt early on was not to memorize chess openings, but understand them thoroughly. Because the latter will help you develop as a tactical player. In blitz or timed games, good openings and tactics helps you steer the game without getting bogged down.

Chess.com is a widely popular chess site with all the tools and community of 13 million members to help you start learning chess from scratch. The site celebrated its 1 Billionth game in 2014.

With its many resources, I wouldn’t know where to start. Maybe, the rules of chess first.

How to Improve Your Gameplay?

Click on the Learn tab.

You can perfect your chess openings. Play each against the computer. Train yourself with the interactive Tactics Trainer. Without subscribing to the site, you can also learn from the 10 free Chess Mentor lessons. But the best way could be to play your friends or the Chess computer on the site. With some steam, you can then use the Games Explorer to understand the best games played.

Chess.com has lots of other resources which you can use to lift your interest in the game.

Play Against a Chess Engine

The Open Source Stockfish chess engine is the top ranked chess training engine in the world. Not quite Deep Blue, but even this free software can easily take you to the cleaners. Stockfish was the unofficial world computer chess champion in 2013 and was a runner-up in 2014 and 2015.

Stockfish Chess Engine

It is supported by a large community of developers and is constantly updated. Stockfish is a cross-platform download across Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS.

How to Improve Your Gameplay?

Stuck in theory? Use the chess engine to see the tactics you might have missed. Powerful chess engines can do the work of a stronger opponent and help you self-analyze moves. I am not a strong player but I have used chess engines to look at the blunders in my end game. I am also trying to create a set of counter-openings with black against stronger players playing with white.

A chess engine also complements any chess book you happen to be studying.

Take to Twitter

Arguably, there are better options to learn Chess. But using Twitter and Facebook could be an interesting experiment with these new age forms of “correspondence chess”. After all, you can do just about anything with Twitter. There’s a legion of games you can play with a tweet 10 Real Time Twitter Games You Can Enjoy With Just A Tweet 10 Real Time Twitter Games You Can Enjoy With Just A Tweet Read More out there and chess is one of them.

Last year, Indian Women Grandmaster Tania Sachdev took on the world in a round of “tweet chess” and won.

“It’s a great format with an innovative use of technology. If pushed by the top players of the world it could further popularize the game of chess and become the next trend.”

You don’t need to battle the world. It’s easy to start with a friend or a group of friends.

How to Improve Your Gameplay?

Gaining knowledge is the best way to supplement your chess practice. Follow hashtags like #chess or #chesspuzzle or befriend specific chess related Twitter accounts of the champions. Not all of them will be brimming with chess tips and insider nuggets, but they are useful to steep yourself in the culture of the sport. Try this Reddit list of top chess players and journalists on Twitter.

There are also accounts from an app site like FollowChess.com (@FollowChessApp) for the latest news.

Find on Facebook

If Twitter is there, can Facebook be far behind? When you are wiling away your time there, call your friends for a friendly game. Chess.com is the world’s most popular chess site and it lets you connect with your Facebook friends over chess.

Chess on Facebook

I haven’t tried this, but some sites cited a Reddit tip to say that you can play chess with your Facebook Messenger app on Android.

Those looking for a more comfortable way to get some free chess training can join one the many Facebook pages on chess. Some of the better ones are:

How to Improve Your Gameplay?

Social media sites may not give you the same feel of sitting around a board. You can substitute that with the high of beating someone across the world. There are, of course, many Facebook pages dedicated to the craft of chess with lessons, chess move puzzles, and game analyses.

Sites like iChessNet and Sicilian Defence could be few of the better alternatives to wasting time on Facebook 6 Unexpected Ways To Use Social Networks To Increase Your Productivity 6 Unexpected Ways To Use Social Networks To Increase Your Productivity Has your boss moved your desk a bit closer to his office? He knows you're Facebooking on the job. But you can use these networks to make your work life just a bit better. Read More .

Join Chess Academy

You might have noticed that most of the chess sites are choc-a-bloc with information but lack order. Chess Academy isn’t very old in the game, and it is pleasing to the eye. Think of it as an open online course for learning a hobby game Learn a New Hobby Today with 10 Popular Udemy Courses Learn a New Hobby Today with 10 Popular Udemy Courses Our hobbies are taking a back seat. Thanks to online classes, you can do something about it. Here are 10 popular Udemy courses to get you off the couch, and into a new hobby. Read More .

The educational site uses “Paths” as guided curriculums to help you master chess topics. A Path is based on your current ability. Each Path takes you through Lessons, Tactic Sets, and Game Sets.

How to Improve Your Gameplay?

Devour the videos, interactive exercises, puzzles, and games. For the moment Chess Academy is free. In the future, paid upgrade options might come in with more features and additional content.

Start Them Young with ChessKid

Every chess prodigy starts young. ChessKid.com is a safe and fun site for kids to learn chess. The site is an educational extension of Chess.com and is specifically designed for children. There are no outside links or advertisements, and there is no danger of social networking between kids and adults. Parents have full control of their kids’ accounts, as well as the ability to check games and activity on the site. The site says that the gaming content is designed for students from absolute beginners up to a chess rating of about 1600.

Chess for Kids

ChessKid has a free membership plan and a premium Gold membership with full access to all resources. With a free membership, kids can play live chess. They can also sample the puzzles (up to 5 per day) and read any articles on the site.

There are also apps available for both iOS and Android.

How to Improve Your Gameplay?

The site maintains its own rating system for players. This rating is independent from any official rating system. With practice and play, children can increase their rating and this gradually comes close to any ratings they might have in official records. Children can take part in chess puzzles, activities, and other tournaments regularly held on the site.

Master The Basics of No Stress Chess

We continue with chess training for kids and beginners with a physical chess board. A set of 32 Staunton chess pieces, a two-sided board, and a deck of 56 action cards make this game a unique training tool. The cards have the images of the pieces and what the pieces can do. Using the cards, kids and beginners can instantly form connections with the physical pieces on the board. Set the pieces on the board, shuffle the deck, and begin a game.

The game is also available on Amazon.

No Stress Chess No Stress Chess CHESS IN SMALL STEPS: Finally, learn chess without stress! The secret? An innovative deck of action cards with moves determined by random draws. Buy Now At Amazon $12.00

How to Improve Your Gameplay?

The action cards can be used for a variety of plays. For instance — Beginners and kids can begin a game with a “hand” of five cards and limit themselves to the strategy on the cards. As they master the basics, players can flip the two-sided board over and play standard chess.

Stalk Your Favorite Players

Pick a player and “cyber-stalk” him or her through their games. Thanks to the web, you can find PGN (Portable Game Notation) downloads of many games. A move-by-move analysis of the games by replicating them on a board will be an education for how to play the game. Maybe, you could have done better.

Download PGN Files

How to Improve Your Gameplay?

Almost all chess websites worth their name provide openly available PGN files for download. For e.g. PGN Mentor is a simple site with a library of PGN files organized around an alphabetical list of players, different openings, events and tournaments. These downloads can be viewed with any free PGN Reader.

Watch Tournament Broadcasts

Remember your childhood aping of sports commentary? Is it possible you picked up the guts of a sport from the broadcasts? Chess is no different and live commentaries can be fun.

Watch Tournament Broadcasts

Follow the matches that go on around the world with sites like Chess Videos TV that cover them all year. Then there’s always YouTube with channels like Chess Explained.

How to Improve Your Gameplay?

Learn the first principles of the sport and then follow the matches. Live commentaries also help you learn from the insights of experts and top players. Keep the FIDE Chess Calendar bookmarked.

The Ultimate Secret to Chess Mastery?

The best way to learn chess is to play chess

That still remains the “old-fashioned” way to master any game. The tools above just introduce more creative ways to go about with deliberate practice Want To Become An Expert At Something? Try Deliberate Practice Want To Become An Expert At Something? Try Deliberate Practice It's all too easy to feel crestfallen when you're arduously trying to improve a certain skill. Use the power of "deliberate practice" to get you over those infuriating plateaus. Read More . You might have noticed that I didn’t talk about many other chess websites and chess apps. They are all there within the reach of a Google search.

After all, chess is the world’s most popular board game and its impact has been far-reaching. This 2012 survey by YouGov revealed something that shouldn’t have been too surprising to someone who loves the little pawns — 605 million adults play chess regularly — a number comparable to regular users of Facebook back then.

[…] a surprisingly stable 70% of the adult population has played chess at some point during their lives. Even if they played as children but left it behind as they grew up, they still retain a deep admiration for the game.

I am sure you are part of that demographic. Thanks to the Internet, you don’t have to be born in Moscow or near the Marshall Chess Club anymore to have a shot at chess fame.

How did you learn chess? Do you prefer to play it on the board or online? What would be your best advice for a chess beginner?

Image Credit: Man and child playing chess by pio3 via Shutterstock, Finchen via Shutterstock

  1. Louis David Vierra
    August 20, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    The best way i found was reading the book called 'The Art of Chess'. It's a chess book based off the 'Art of War'. After reading that, i never played chess the same way. It changes everything..

    • Saikat Basu
      August 21, 2016 at 6:59 am

      The James Mason book. Yeah, have to read that. Thanks for the recommendation Louis.

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