Chess Development Plan - Theory

The other side of improvement is theory. Theory consists of inputting information from external sources to improve your chess knowledge or capabilities. This can be reading books, taking lessons, watching videos, doing problems on software, etc.

At the start, the key to theory is to concentrate on the “Big Five”. We are referring to the five major things a “beginning” chess player needs to learn well in order to play at a strong intermediate (1700-2000) level.

1. Tactics

Not only recognizing quickly basic motifs such as pins, double attacks and removal of the guard, but also knowing basic checkmate methods such as king and queen vs. king, and king and rook vs. king. A great resource for improving your tactics is Chess Tempo. There is also a great puzzle section on

2.  Activity

Using all the pieces efficiently all the time.

3. Time Management

Learning the correct pacing of not only entire games at different time limits, but also which moves to
take more than average time and which ones not to waste time.

4.  Thought Process

Your thinking is really #1. You should generally go through the same thinking process on every move. First, understand your opponents threats. Then see how you can parry their threats whilst creating threats of your own. You need to become an expert in calculating moves for you and your opponent especially in highly tactical situations. When it is your opponents turn to move, you should be thinking of general plans - how to gain space, how to improve your pieces, how to creating weaknesses around your opponents king etc.

5.  General Principles

General principles are excellent for guiding you to the right move in any situation.


On every move no matter what phase of the game you are in you should follow the follow guidelines.

  1. Make sure you are safe
    At its basic level, this means not losing pawns or pieces. But it also means looking at your opponents moves first and understanding what they are threatening. And then looking at your move, before you touch a piece, and making sure it is safe and you have successfully parried your opponents threat.
  2. Always take back
    If you don't take back, you will just lose pieces!
  3. Never Give up
    If you give up there is only one possible result - you lose! Remember, there is stalemate in Chess so you can often get a draw even when you are completely losing!


The Golden Rules guide you in the opening phase of the game.

  1. Control the Centre
    On every move, you should control on of the centre squares with a pawn or a piece. Controlling the centre gives you control of the game.
  2. Get your army out
    You should bring a new piece out on every move, or make a move that helps a new piece come out. Your pieces are on the back row. The piece should also be brought towards the centre. You shouldn't move pieces twice unless you absolutely have to because if you do, you aren't getting a new piece into the game. Remember when you get your pieces out, make sure it is safe!
  3. Castle
    The most important move in Chess! Castling protects your king and allows you to bring your rooks into the game.


The Silver Rules guide you in the middlegame. You use the silver rules once you have got all your pieces out, castled and connected the rooks.

  1. Get Active
    Getting active is about moving your pieces past the halfway mark, attacking something in your opponents camp.
  2. If you are pieces up, swap off!
    If you have managed to win a piece, you should swap off all your pieces for your opponents pieces. This is because they will have nothing left except a King and pawns, and you will have an extra piece!
  3. Improve your worst piece
    Always look for your worst piece and make it better. Remember, Chess is all about harmony and having your whole team work together.


The Bronze Rules are focussed around the endgame. A lot of kids don't realise the endgame is very different from the rest of the game. A lot of games with beginnners don't even make it to the endgamem. That is why most kids make a lot of mistakes in the endgame.

  1. Get your King Active
    Your King is the most important piece in the endgame. Because they aren't many of your opponents pieces left, your king can normally safely play an active part in the endgame, attacking pawns and help pawns become queens.
  2. Win Pawns
    Pawns are the most important thing in endgames. And attacking and winning pawns is critical to being successful. In the same sense, make sure you don't lose any pawns if you can.
  3. Queen Pawns
    Getting new queens is the key. So pushing pawns to become queens and making sure they are supported along the way is critical to winning the endgame.


If you can do all five of those decently well, then you are likely already a pretty good player. In fact, here is a big secret: if you don’t do each of these five at least moderately well, you can read 1,000 chess books and never get much better! Too many players make the mistake of glossing over important basic skills as if they now know them and then spend a lifetime reading things that provide diminishing returns and almost no improvement.

Get these five down cold and you will be amazed at how great and confidently you can play, even if your natural chess skills of memory, deductive logic, and visualization are no more than average.

It is also worth noting that if you are not the naturally careful type, you will have to work extra hard at trying to be careful. The attributes of carefulness, perseverance, confidence, enjoying chess study (and not just play), and willingness to tolerate and learn from losses cannot really be taught. However, all of these traits can be improved with self-discipline and the realization that getting better is usually a lot more than just playing some games and reading some books.

Before starting any improvement programme you must first abandon your fears about losing . Any good improvement program will include enough practice that you will be faced with plenty of losses and the need to endure times when your rating goes down. That’s life; it happens – no one goes straight up. So if multiple setbacks cause discouragement and not determination, it’s going to be one long path…


Next page: Phase 1: Rules and Beginner Tips

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