We all want to improve at chess. Books can be expensive, difficult, and time-consuming with diminishing returns. People are hesitant to spend their hard-earned money on a hobby. Let’s go over the best chess improvement resources that you can get for free.
Tactics are the heart and soul of chess. There are plenty of tremendous tactics books on the market. Let’s check out what is available for free.
The lichess tactics trainer is a treasure trove of tactics, all available for free. There are thousands and thousands of problems available to you without limit. Each tactic comes from a game played on lichess, and you can go through the game and see how the tactic came up.
E.g. Black to move:
ChessTempo is by far my favorite tactic trainer. The problems are very high-quality (better than lichess, in my opinion) and usually require a lot of in-depth calculation. Your chesstempo rating will roughly align to your USCF/FIDE rating, which is a cool feature of the site. If you want to know how your chess.com or lichess rating maps to USCF, check out our rating comparison page.
Chess.com offers 5 tactics per day for free users. It is very limited, but they do give you an option if you want to stay on as a free user. If you’re wondering whether it is worth it to upgrade, check out our analysis here.
Chessable also has many free tactics books. These books cover tactics from the Chessable Master’s tournament (book here) to previews of major books, like Sac, Sac, Mate. These books are available for spaced repetition, or review using the woodpecker method to train your tactics. There is even a free book for tactics in the Trompowski opening.
Opening study can be grueling and difficult to learn. Most resources on openings are paid (e.g. chess books), but there are a few resources for free. Before you spend too much time on openings, check out our study plans to see how much opening study we recommend for your rating level.
Chessable has exploded over the past few years and was even acquired by Magnus Carlsen last year. There are a lot of paid books for openings, but they offer free courses here as well. You can filter by free opening books on the site and see tons of results. Most of these are previews to full paid versions. These intros, such as Jan Gustafson’s 1. e4 e5 course, however, have over 30 trainable lines and give a nice overview to the opening.
The Lichess opening explorer gives you unlimited depth to any opening. They don’t allow you to train these openings in a way that chessable does, so you’re kind of stuck in exploration mode. However, you can create a study with a pgn with all the lines you want to study and import them to chessable to do spaced repetition.
Endgames are one of the most difficult aspects of the game to study. Again, before you spend tons of time going over endgames, check out our study plans to see how much time you should spend on endgame study. The best endgame books cost money. See our top 3 books (which cost money) if you want to spend a little money. For free resources you do have a few options.
Chessable has just a few free endgame books, but far and away the best is Basic Endgames by theoryhack. This book goes over many endgames but does not go too in-depth. For depth you really should buy a strong endgame book. Here are the first 9 chapters of the book.
I have personally studied this book a decent bit (as evidenced by the screenshot) have learned quite a bit. I recommend this book as a nice primer to endgames. If you’re a beginner player, this book should get you up to speed on the basics pretty quickly.
The tactics training site ChessTempo also has an endgame trainer here. They give you three problems per day for free users, and unlimited if you upgrade to a paid plan. The problems are usually not super helpful in endgame training, but you get what you pay for.
“Strategy” is a catch-all term for chess improvement. It could be anything from finding a plan, tactical motifs, positional play, pawn structures, or all of the above. We have a guide on the best resources for chess strategy, but most of those options are paid. Here we will go over free resources.
There are tons and tons of youtube videos from very strong chess players available for free. Hikaru Nakamura, John Bartholomew, and Chessexplained all have may, many videos on their channels that will keep you busy for a long time.
John Bartholomew is personally my favorite chess Youtuber. He has many playlists for chess improvement. First, are his standard games. These games are all at least 15 minutes per player per side, and John does a great job of explaining his thoughts and strategy in a very thorough manner. Second, is his Climbing the Rating Ladder series, where he plays lower-rated players and goes over common mistakes. Lastly, his Chess Fundamentals is a great resource for beginning to intermediate chess players.
One other playlist that I have found great for chess improvement in Hutch’s playlist on Chess With Grandmasters. Hutch is rated in the 1400-1500 chess.com range and goes over his games live with GMs Tal Baron, Eric Hansen and Niclas Huschenbeth.
The best chess improvement resources do cost money but there are plenty of free resources out there for you to boost your rating. All aspects of the game can be studied at length with no damage to your bank account. Let us know what your favorite free chess improvement resources are.