Beginner Study Plan

Beginner Criteria

The beginner criteria is for players with a chess.com blitz rating between 800-1099. For other rating systems see the ratings comparison.

Time Spent

For steady improvement, we suggest beginner players to put in about 6 hours of chess per week. A reasonable range is anywhere from 4 to 10 hours per week.
Following our study plan and working about 6 hours per week, you can expect to gain about 190 points annually, with a reasonable range between 90-370 points.
A quarter of the beginner survey participants who gained over 370 points in a year!

Main Study Plan

Play Games (65% of the time)

Rapid/Slow Games  – The most important time control will be games that are 10 minutes or slower.
Use these rapid games for your game analysis (see below).

Daily Games – Daily games don’t give the same focused effort as having a clock, but they can be beneficial in addition to rapid/slow games. Daily games are useful for beginner players who want unlimited time to work out strategies during their games.

Blitz Games  – Top gainers at the intermediate level play slightly above a third of their chess time at blitz time controls.
Blitz games build intuition and are an opportunity to learn from a large variety of positions.
Retry mistakes after each game and think concretely about the critical moment(s).

Bullet Games – I recommend bullet mostly for recreational purposes. Bullet games can potentially create bad habits.

Tactics (15%)

Intuitive Tactics – Spend at least half of your tactics time working on quick tactics.
The strongest chess players can instantly recognize patterns, and that’s a skill you’ll keep building as you approach chess mastery.

For training quick tactics in a competitive format, Puzzle Rush or Puzzle Battles on chess.com are both fun options.
The top apps for solving tactics are Chess.com and Magnus Trainer.

CHESS 5334 Positions, Combinations, and Games by László Polgár comes highly recommended. The book is split into chapters based on mate in a certain number of moves, combinations on key squares, and some nice games by the Polgar sisters. Working your way through the book will give a firm foundation of the types of checkmate patterns available.

Game Analysis (10%)

Own Games – After each game, go back and retry your mistakes. Try to notice any key takeaways from the game.

Master Games – The top source for master game review is the chess.com Amazing Games collection. You can also find good YouTube channels, books, magazines, and databases with games to analyze.

Working with a coach – Working with a coach is probably helpful, but not required at the beginner level. A very small percentage of beginners in the survey worked with a personal chess coach.

Strategy (5%)

Chess.com Lessons – The chess.com lessons are a fantastic resource for learning chess strategy online. This is the top recommended resource for beginner players!

Chess.com Strategy Articles – Chess.com strategy articles by IM Jeremy Silman and others are highly regarded at the beginner level.

Youtube – Many streamers target beginner players in their game analysis videos. Agadmator viewers have quite a bit of success on average.

See also: Best Chess Strategy Resources

Have a chess.com blitz rating between 800 and 1099? The ChessGoals Beginner Study Plan is designed specifically for you. The twelve week plan will take the guesswork out of how to improve. Spend between 4-8 hours per week covering the core components of the plan.

Here are the main contents of the study plan:

  • Typical chess questions
  • How our study plans helps
  • Why use our plans?
  • Layout of the plan summary
  • Day 0: Getting Started – Initial steps to prepare for the 12 weeks
  • Alternatives – Free and alternative options for each activity
  • Tasks Explained – How to study each task
  • 12 Weeks of printable plans for tracking
  • Final thoughts

Openings (<5%)

Books –  There are lots of resources for chess opening books. The Move by Move series is the most popular individual series at the beginner level. I’d recommend perusing the Everyman Chess Move by Move page to check out some of the different repertoire books.

Chess.com – Both chess.com opening videos and chess.com lessons are great resources to learn the basics.

Youtube – Almost as popular as chess.com for learning openings. TheChessWebsite has many educational videos on chess openings.

Endgames (<5%)

Practice – Make sure to play slow/rapid games with an increment. Chess.com’s Endgame Practice is also a great way to move through different endgame techniques. We don’t recommend spending too much time on openings and endgames at the beginner level outside of learning the basics. If you’re interested in working through endgame theory, The 3 Best Chess Endgame Books goes into more details.

Beginner Chess Learners

Learner Series #3: David, creator of the Learn Chess with Dr. Wolf app, went from 1100 to 1550 lichess blitz in 3.5 years. He was 46 years old, spending 3-4 hours per week, and had been playing chess since age 10.