Chess King improvement guide (introduction)

The question is as old as the Royal Game itself: “How do I improve at chess?”

Everyone asks this question at some point in their chess playing career. Beginners naturally ask the question, as the game of chess contains a bewildering array of pieces (each with their own moves) and an astronomical number of possibilities for moving them once the game has begun. Club players sometimes find themselves “plateauing” at a particular skill level or rating, a point at which they feel that their improvement has stalled, perhaps permanently. Even professional players can feel this inertia, unhappy with their apparent lack of progress toward becoming a better player. It’s a natural question for players of every level to ask, but it’s a difficult one to answer.

“How do I improve at chess?”

The answer will vary from player to player, but it’s primarily dependent on one’s individual level of experience and expertise. While the exact solution for one player will differ from that of another, it is possible to make some broad suggestions based on a player’s rating and skill level. That’s the purpose of this guide: to offer you some general suggestions for improvement based on your skill level, recommend some specific training materials which will help speed the progress of your improvement, and show you how to use these training materials in an effective manner.

To understand how we learn to be better chessplayers, we first need to understand how we learn any skill. We’re going to borrow some information from The Ultimate Guide to Chess King by chess author Steve Lopez (available as a free download from In that guide, the author describes the learning process as a circle in which students cycle between studying, practicing, and analyzing. Stated briefly, we’re exposed to new skills and concepts by studying them, after which we put our knowledge to practical use, and then we analyze and evaluate how well we utilized the information. We then return to the study stage, either to reinforce the acquired knowledge or, if we’ve used it successfully, to acquire new knowledge that we’ll put into practice.

For example, you might study the basics of King and pawn endings. Then, when you play a few games, you’d be able to put this knowledge to use (either in the late middlegame, when evaluating whether or not trading pieces to reach an endgame would be beneficial, or in an actual endgame in which Kings and pawns are the only material remaining on the board). After these games you would analyze the results (perhaps with the assistance of a chess playing engine, such as Chess King’s Houdini) to see how well you used your knowledge of King and pawn endgames. Then you’d either study the material on King and pawn endings again (if you’d done poorly), move on to more advanced principles of King and pawn endings, or (if you’re comfortable with your knowledge and performance) study a different endgame concept entirely (perhaps Queen or Rook endings).

This learning cycle is infinite; it literally never ends. No matter how accomplished you become at chess (or any other discipline), there is always more to learn. The trick is to use your study time effectively. Chess software can often help you make the most of your limited study time. And there is a free chess program you can use as an interface to access many kinds of chess training materials which will help you with the study and practice parts of the learning cycle. The program is called Peshka, and we’ll learn more about it in the next section of our guide.