Novice Study Plan

Novice Criteria

The novice criteria is for players with a chess.com blitz rating less than 800. For other rating systems see the ratings comparison.

Time Spent

For steady improvement, we suggest novice players to put in about 7 hours of chess per week. A reasonable range is anywhere from 4 to 15 hours per week.
Following our study plan and working about 7 hours per week, you can expect to gain about 360 points annually, with a reasonable range between 185-515 points.
A quarter of the novice survey participants gained over 515 points in a year!

Main Study Plan

The sweet spot for time spent playing vs studying seems to be around 55% play / 45% study for novice 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.

Interested in playing games 95% of the time instead of studying? Try out the speed runner technique!

Play Games (55% 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).

Blitz Games – 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 – 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 novice players who want unlimited time to work out strategies during their games.

Bullet Games – I do not recommend playing bullet games for novice players.

Game Analysis (20%)

Own Games – After each game, go back and retry your mistakes. Try to notice any key takeaways from the game. This will slow down the creation of bad habits and help create good habits in your thought process.

Master Games – The top source for master game review is Logical Chess Move by Move, by Irving Chernev.

Logical Chess breaks down master games with text attached to every single move! Many rules are spelled out, for example “rooks belong on open files, or files about to be open” to help you cement ideas in your mind.

In other positions, Chernev will highlight key points with bullets to help determine advantages or plans in a given position. The only complaint I’ve heard about this book is that it has too many explanations! This is the perfect book for the novice player.

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

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.

Book Format – 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.

Chess.com Puzzles! Keep working your way up the rating ladder with chess.com puzzles. Most of these puzzles come from games played on the site. The ChessGoals Tactic Teardown series explains how to think through tactics puzzles.

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 novice players!

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

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

More Information is available in the Best Chess Strategy Resources post.

New to chess or have a rating less than 800? The ChessGoals Novice 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

Accessories

Openings

Chess.comChess.com’s Opening Principles Lessons is our recommended resource to learn the opening basics.

YoutubeTheChessWebsite and St. Louis Chess Club have some educational videos on chess openings.

Books

It’s not necessary to focus so much on the openings, but if you enjoy studying with books and want to dig into specific openings this is your book. GM Yasser Seirawan is a fantastic coach and was one of the top players in the world before focusing on chess instruction.

The first chapter talks about the early days of chess openings and a bit of the history behind them.

Chapter two will be the most useful and goes into basic opening principles.

Chapters three and onward talk about specific openings, and the ideas after each of the staring pawn moves.

Endgames

Theory – Learn 5 basic endgames until you reach the beginner level (800+ rating).
For chess.com premium members, the last three can be learned on Chess.com’s Winning the Game Lesson and practiced with Chess.com’s Checkmate Drills.
Alternative options are TheChessWebsite’s Endgame Playlist on Youtube and Lichess.org’s Piece Checkmates I to practice the last three.

  1. King and Two Queens vs King
  2. King, Queen and Rook vs King
  3. King and Two Rooks vs King
  4. King and Queen vs King
  5. King and Rook vs King

Practice – Play slow/rapid games with an increment. Keep refreshing yourself on the 5 endgames against the computer or a friend until they are automatic.

Books

Silman’s Complete Endgame Course will cover the basics needed at the Novice level in Part One. This book can be used all the way to chess master, digesting one part at a time as your rating increases.

100 Endgames You Must Know and Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual are two other options that cover endgames up to master level.

For more details on all three endgame books, check out our post on the 3 Best Chess Endgame Books.