Learner Series #18 – Ariel T.

Learner series #18 features Ariel, an adult improver and an active member of the ChessGoals community. He finished the 12-week Premium Novice Study Plan and asked me to help him review his recent games and design a new plan. He is combining some of the ideas from the Beginner Study Plan and the Intermediate Rapid & Classical Plan to fit his personal goals. Here’s the interview with Ariel!


How old are you and how long have you been playing chess?

Hi! My name is Ariel, I’m 24, and I started playing chess in February of this year. I have been enjoying this game for about 4 months now, 3 of them using the novice study plan. 

How many hours per week do you spend on chess?

I usually spend between 1-3 hours per day studying chess, depending on my availability. I spend approximately 15 hours per week overall on chess. 

Ariel Learner Series #18

Chess website usernames?

My username is FiftyTzent on both chess.com and lichess. I’m mostly on chess.com though.

What’s your current skill level or rating?

I’m quite a beginner, rated around 900 rapid on chess.com, a rating which represents my skill level quite accurately.

PLAYING OVERVIEW — describe where you play, time controls, how often, etc


I play OTB occasionally with some friends whenever I get the chance. Mostly untimed, and if timed mostly 15+10. 


The bulk of my play is online on chess.com, mostly 30+0 and 15+10 rapid games, and the occasional 5+5 games.

I try to play a rapid game every other day, around 3-4 games per week. 

STUDYING OVERVIEW — talk about what sites you use, how often you spend, tips

Game Analysis

I analyze almost all of my games primarily using the Game Report feature on chess.com, focusing on the key moments of the game. Recently I started going over the games and trying to spot the critical moments by myself, trying various options and seeing how the engine responds. 

I think for better results one should first analyze the game without using engines to spot the mistakes, and then see whether the presumptions are correct and what are the best moves. 


I use chess.com puzzles a lot, trying to get between 5-20 puzzles every day, and I really enjoy climbing the ratings there. Recently I settled around 1500 in puzzle rating. During my study plan, I read the book “Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess” (in 3 days, I was completely immersed), which is highly recommended for beginners like me. I intend to follow the book “Winning Chess Tactics” by Yasser Seirawan going forward. 


My opening study was the least orderly aspect of my study. I was quite all over the place with many resources and options to learn, but eventually I settled on some opening systems – the London System and the King’s Indian setup, following GothamChess and Seirawan’s recommendations in their respective platforms (YouTube videos and the “Winning Chess Openings” book). 

My opening study is a combination of watching YouTube videos on the openings and their ideas, following chess.com lessons on those openings (Learn the King’s Indian, London System for the Busy Chess Player, Pirc Defense for Black among others) and sometimes reading books. I know I spent way too much time on openings relative to my skill level…


For endgame practice, I use Silman’s Complete Endgame Course and the Endgames Trainer in chess.com (this site is awesome). I usually practice the beginner endgames – heavy piece vs lone king, king & pawn basic endgames, etc. I usually spent around an hour per week on endgames. 


I really like the Lessons in chess.com, they are very comprehensive and include lots of useful information in an easy and presentable way. I try to go through as many lessons as possible. 

OTHER USEFUL TIDBITS — Do you watch streams/videos, play variants, any unique things you do that others can learn from?

I watch tons of YouTube chess videos, mostly about opening strategy and plans in certain openings. I enjoy watching videos GothamChess (IM Levy Rozman) and GingerGM (GM Simon Williams), their explanations are very thorough and insightful, and quite fun to watch.

I also occasionally watch GothamChess streams just for fun, most of the educational content is in his videos rather than his streams. GM Hikaru Nakamura is also a great streamer, and some of his videos are really instructive and easy to understand.