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A Chess Master's Guide To Improvement

I'm constantly asked about how to improve at chess. While I can surely list a resource here and there, improvement isn't about a one-off tool: it takes consistency and patience. This post is dedicated to providing a mental model and resources out there to improve, and, hopefully, win more games.



🎿 Imagine learning algebra without any help. I definitely wouldn't be able to do it. Similarly, when I skied for the first time this December, I couldn't conquer the "blue" hill on the first day without the help of my fiancé's parents. I look for mentors in all of my interests and learn from them. I believe in a Girardian model: that we learn by absorbing what others know. The challenge is absorbing the right knowledge, and doing so in the most efficient way possible. Chess is a perfect example of this theory, and can basically be summed up as:

  1. Pattern recognition: Improve by playing games and retrying moves that work.

  2. Chess theory: Improvement using a coach, Youtube academy, or chess books.

Now let's dive into resources for pattern recognition and chess theory.


Pattern Recognition 👁️


⚔️ Chess.com and Lichess.org are your go-to's to play. Chess.com is one the 250 most popular websites in the world according to Alexa rankings, and Lichess is in the top 2000, so you'll have no trouble finding an opponent. I prefer Lichess because it is open source, has a better interface, tournaments 24/7, is 100% free, and is much, much faster. Both offer after-game analysis with a computer.


🏎️ If you're competitive, motivate yourself by playing tournaments. Chess.com has some tournaments that are poorly attended, and lichess.org has tournaments all day, every day. They even have rating-specific tournaments.


💉 In-Person Tournaments are a great way to test your skills. COVID permitting, there are usually two main places to find in-person tournaments: your state chess federation (for example, here is Illinois, my state), and for national tournaments you the US Chess Federation (USCF) website.


Chess Theory 👁️


👩‍💻 Hire A Coach. The beauty of 1-1, or even small group coaches, is that they will analyze your games, teach you openings, middle games, and endgames, and cater to your specific needs. Despite my master level, in my lessons with Grandmaster Zahar Efimenko, I am constantly amazed by how much I do not know.

  • MMchess.org (disclaimer: this company) has 5 fantastic coaches Each coach has been screened for quality, English ability, skillset, and the ability to drive motivation.

  • Garry Kasparov (the former world champion) runs a MasterClass on chess (MasterClass works if you're self-driven)!


📺 Utilize Online Resources To Sharpen Your Tactics.

📕 Use physical chess book if you want go get off the grid. Last but not least, if you want a mental break from a screen, nothing replaces as good book. A good puzzle starter is The Chess Tactics Workbook by Al Woolum. Another classic book is Aron Nimzowitsch's My System, the OG book on positional chess.


🌈 This list of resources is comprehensive, but by no means conclusive. My last recommendation is go out there and explore - you may find something better! If you do, discover a unique a unique resource, please comment below or reach out at vilenchuk@gmail.com. I'm excited to learn from you!


This list will be updated as I discover more resources.

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