Intermediate Study Plan

Intermediate Criteria

The intermediate criteria is for players with a chess.com blitz rating between 1100-1399. For other rating systems see the ratings comparison page.

Expectations

For steady improvement, we suggest intermediate players to put in about 6 hours of chess per week. A reasonable range is anywhere from 3 to 10 hours per week.
Following our study plan and working about 6 hours per week, you can expect to gain about 130 points annually, with a reasonable range between 45-225 points.
25% of the intermediate survey participants who gained 225 points in a year!

Main Study Plan

The sweet spot for time spent playing vs studying seems to be around 70% play / 30% study for intermediate players. Please keep in mind these percentages are approximate and long-term averages. If you are spending 1 hour per week on chess it doesn’t imply you should spend 3 minutes per day on endgames. The long-term average will be around 90 minutes per month on endgames (60 mins/day * 30 days/month * 5%). Please contact us if you are interested in purchasing a custom study plan.

Play Games (~70% of the time) :

Rapid/Slow Games (~30%) – The most important time control will be games that are 10 minutes or slower. Try to play at least one 15+10 game or slower each week to practice your calculation skills.
Use these rapid games for your game analysis (see below).

Blitz Games (~25%) – Top gainers at the intermediate level play slightly above a third of their chess time at blitz time controls. 3+0 and 5+0 are fine, but it’s also good to mix in some increment games to make sure you get endgame practice. 3+2, 5+5 and 5+3 are common blitz time controls with increment.
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).

Daily Games (~10%)– Daily games don’t give the same focused effort as having a clock, but they can be beneficial for some players in addition to rapid/slow games. The upper half of rating gainers in the intermediate category spend 11% of their time in daily games compared to 20% for the lower half of rating gainers. 

Bullet Games (~5%) – I recommend bullet and daily games for recreational purposes. Bullet games can potentially create bad habits.

Tactics (~10%)

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 Chess Tactics Pro.

The Woodpecker Method, developed by GMs Axel Smith and Hans Tikkanen comes highly recommended.
The idea behind The
Woodpecker Method is to keep solving the same set of puzzles, aiming to solve them faster and more accurately with each pass. Tune Your Chess Tactis Antenna by Emannuel Neiman is a good book specifically for players in the intermediate rating range, teaching you how to spot when tactics are present.

Game Analysis (~5%)

Own Games – After each game, go back and retry your mistakes. Make a mental note of at least one key takeaway from each 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 beneficial at the intermediate level, but definitely not required. The average annual rating gain for intermediate players with a coach was 166 points (9 players) compared to 148 points (78 players) for those without a 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 intermediate players!

Books – Artur Yusupov’s award-winning training course is a good option to reach 2200. For intermediate players, we recommend starting with the first book in the series (Build Up Your Chess The Fundamentals 1). The series starts a bit heavier on tactics than strategy, but then moves into more strategic ideas as you progress.

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

YoutubeJohn Bartholomew, ChessExplained, and GingerGM are all good options for learning chess strategy. Jesse has some good advice on these channels in Learner Series #1.

See also: The Best Strategy Resources.

Have a chess.com blitz rating between 1100 and 1699? The ChessGoals Intermediate 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. This study plan includes modifications at the end to run for future 12 week plans.

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%)

The intermediate level is a good time to start moving beyond the basics and picking up some opening ideas. It’s still recommended to spend about 5% of total chess time on openings. This will come out to be about 30 minutes per week for the average player.

Books –  There are lots of resources for chess opening books. The Move by Move series is the most popular individual series at the intermediate level. Everyman Chess Move by Move series does a great job explaining variations through annotated. Here are a few worth checking out:

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%)

Theory – Silman’s Complete Endgame Course is the endgame bible for players in the <2000 range. The book is split into sections based on rating difficulty level. This adds extra enjoyment as you work through the chapters, feeling confident that you know your endgame fundamentals up to the corresponding rating range. The 3 Best Chess Endgame Books goes into more details on the top endgame books.

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.

A combination of Silman’s Endgame Course, playing games with increment, and endgame practice on chess.com will get you there! Chip away at the endgame practice a little bit each month.

Intermediate Chess Learners

Learner Series #1: Jesse increased his chess.com blitz rating from the low 1300’s to upper 1500’s in a one year timeframe. He was age 30, spending 3-5 hours per week on chess, and had been playing for five years.

Learner Series #2: Paul increased his chess.com blitz rating from the 1200’s to 1600. He was age 38, spending 10-15 hours per week on chess, and had been playing seriously for about 3 years.

Learner Series #4: Alex started playing chess back in the summer of 2016. His chess.com Blitz rating was under 1000, and now it’s over 1500!