Chess Progress
by Grandmaster Smirnov

I hope that you are fine. In this issue I am going to discuss a topic that is interesting for every chess player. We will discuss CHESS PROGRESS.

How to get better at chess? How fast can you improve your chess rating and reach a certain goal? Chess players ask me these questions all the time.


So, How To Progress in Chess?

Let’s use an analogy with a chess game. How do we get an advantage in our position? (or: “How to improve your position?”)?

--> Normally you can’t get a great advantage immediately. You first collect small advantages: a slightly more active piece position, a new weakness in your opponent’s position and so on. Each small advantage on their own don't change much in the position evaluation. (They don't call it a 'small' advantage for nothing). However, once you've collected “a critical mass” of small advantages – your position suddenly becomes much better and you get a possibility for a decisive shot.

--> Chess progress occurs in the same manner. You can’t acquire many new skills in a short time. Instead, you must collect small improvements: a new opening line, deeper visualization… and so on. Once you've collected a critical mass of small improvements, you will suddenly find yourself on the next level (maybe on the top pedestal holding your tournament trophy :) ).


There are a few important practical notes here.

  • You can not get a lot of new skills immediately. Each new (even very small) skill requires a lot of training (1 week-1month).
  • You need to focus on every new skill for some time. You will get new skills one by one (not all of them at once).
  • Chess progress happens in leaps. It is very important to understand this. It may seems like you are improving yourself all the time and that consequently your results should go up steadily too. However, it doesn’t work this way in practice.
  • In reality you will train for quite a long time without feeling any real progress; but then (once you've got a critical mass of small improvements) you will make a sudden leap forward.

    It is very important to understand this and to not lose your enthusiasm prematurely.


    Your goal is to collect small improvements constantly. It means that you should get a little new practical skill today (in a few days/weeks), another new skill tomorrow etc. Doing this implies that you CHANGE something in your game every day. Today you change your opening, tomorrow - your calculation method, after tomorrow – your game style…

    It is important to be ready for changes and not to stick in your current (old) habits.
    Read the last sentence 10 times, then print it out and hang it on the wall :) . It is one of the key factors which determines your progress or stagnation.


    In the end I’d like to give you a little task.
    chess progress

    White: Kg2, Qh4, Rb3, Bg5, Nf3 pawns: b2, d4, e5, f2, g4, h2.
    Black: Kg8, Qb5, Rc8, Ba5, Nb4, pawns: a6, b7, d5, e6, f7, g7, g6. White’s turn.

    It is a nice game from the recent super-tournament in Wijk an Zee. White has a decisive attack on the king-side and a winning position. For example, after 32.Nd2 black has no defense against Rh3.

    In the game, however, white has chosen another way. He played 32.Be7 preparing Ng5.

    chess progress

    Here is your task: how to save the black’s king?


    Here is the solution to the position above

    GM Igor Smirnov

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