What skills do you need to be good at chess + how to improve it.

  • By: Preetam
  • Date: June 18, 2021
  • Time to read: 8 min.

If you want to be a good chess player, what skills do you need? 

It is an interesting question because many skills can help improve your game.

Some say the most important skill in chess is thinking ahead and planning for future moves. 

Others believe that having great tactical skills will allow you to win more games against strong opponents.

What about intelligence? Does one have to be smart in order to play chess well?

To answer these questions, let’s look at 6 skills necessary for excelling at this ancient game strategy!

6 important skills you need to be good at chess

The skills you need to be good at chess are more than just being good at math. 

6 skills will help you become a chess champion:

  • Visualization
  • concentration
  • planning & Strategy
  • anticipation & calculation
  • tactics
  • Analysis

You also need to understand the board and how each piece moves in order to play well. 

But do you have to be clever or know a lot of math? Nope! All it takes is practice!

Ace these most essential 6 skills & give yourself a ton of practice, then you are good to go.

Skill 1 – Visualization skills is important to be good at chess

Visualization skills are important to be good at chess.

It is the ability to imagine the board and the possible outcomes of a move in your mind. 

Visualization skills will help you see the whole board as well as all of your opponent’s pieces in their entirety.

When you visualize the game, it will help with your concentration and planning skills. 

You should use visualization skills when looking for strategies or searching for a way out of a tough spot where there is no immediate constructive move available.

Doing a study on various games can help develop this skill. 

However, some people have an innate ability to see ahead even further than weaker opponents without study. 

You cannot learn this talent through training alone. 

But may require other genetic factors that promote visual thinking like creativity or intelligence.

A player who has trained hard enough might eventually develop these traits as well. 

The more time you spend on this skill, the better it gets!

Here are some ways that can help with improving visualizing skills:

  • Practice! Practice! & Practice! Play a lot of games.
  • Read chess books by grandmasters.
  • Watch & study master-level videos on Youtube.com
  • Play chess against more vigorous opponents (online or in-person)
  • Learn about the openings and endgames with online resources like Chessable for more analysis.
  • Think visually! Imagine your pieces as they would look after making moves, not just where you want them to be. In other words, what is the final position that you are aiming for? This will help develop insight into how to move your pieces in order to achieve this goal. To do so, try visualizing these two things happening at once. First, see it played out through an animation. Then, trace back the moves to see where the pieces are after each move.

Skill 2 – Concentration is an essential skill for becoming a master of chess

Concentration is considered the basic requirement for mastering the game of chess.  

As a chess player, you must have complete focus on the game. Nothing should distract you from the game.

Chess is a game that is all about making decisions. 

Even beginners can learn how to play chess, and they might just have the skills necessary that are not as advanced or experienced.

A player needs to maintain their concentration for an entire game to master this complex game of strategy.  

They need a lot of time practicing playing games against themselves. 

Because it is difficult enough if you know what your next move is going to be!

A distracted chess player is sure to lose the game because they cannot think as clearly. 

They are not able to focus on making their next move. 

It is essential for any player, especially beginners, to practice the art of focusing at all times.

A distracted mind does not work well during long-term strategic planning as chess requires. 

So players need clear reasons if they want to do anything well with this game!

Ways to Improve your concentration skills for chess

  • Practice playing games against yourself without looking ahead or thinking about what will happen later in the match. Just focus on one turn at a time. If it doesn’t work out, then start over until you do eventually succeed with no mistakes.
  • Play other kinds of games such as word puzzles like crosswords or memory games.
  • Practice meditation
  • Get good sleep & be less stressed.

Skill 3 – Strategy & planning skills to improve your chess game

Right from the start of the game, a chess player needs to be good at planning. 

It will help if you plan your opening strategy even before you face the opponent. 

I can even depend on your opponent’s skills.

You must also have the ability to adapt your original plan when things aren’t going well. 

This all comes when your strategy & planning skills are at the mark.

Your Strategy defines how and when you attain the superior position in the game. 

This in turn, determines your path to victory over your opponent.

Remember, there are no lucky moves in the game of chess. It’sIt’s all in your Strategy – or maybe your opponent’s!

How to come up with a proper strategy for chess?

  • You can start by looking at your opponent’s pieces and the positions on the board. You should also know his opening strategy, identify weaknesses in it, and strengths that you may exploit to win the game.
  • Say your opponent has a strong pawn structure with some open files for rooks. Then you will need to find ways of breaking through this defense or try attacking from other areas so that they come out victorious!
  • Memorize some opening principles – this can be the best Strategy for your to ”castle” early.
  • Learn from the experience of the experts. Watch the game videos or read their books.

Skill 4 – Calculation & anticipation skills to improve your chess game

To be a good chess player, you need to have the skills of calculation.

You can use your experience and knowledge of chess rules in many places. To decide on where each piece should go next. 

How they might work together in an attack. 

And more.

But, the most important part is to anticipate what your opponent may do next. 

This decides how & when you implement the other skills.

Just like too much of anything is bad, too much anticipation can actually strain you.

So, you need to find the most effective and efficient balance. And that comes by, again, practice.

Ways to improve your calculation & anticipation skills

  • Start simple. Observe your opponent’s last move & anticipate a small series of outcomes.
  • Understand the forcing & non-forcing moves. Forcing moves like checks & captures are essential. You must try to calculate & anticipate these. Non- forcing moves are other simple moves without much consequences. You need not spend time anticipating these.
  • Use tactical puzzles to improve your calculation skills
  • Force various moves and analyze the outcomes.

Skill 5 – Tactics

Tactics are the use of moves to gain an advantage. 

Tactics also refer to a chess play that wins material or imposes some other kind of disadvantage on one’s opponent.

The German chess master Richard Teichmann once said, ”Chess is 99% tactics”.

Steps to improve your tactical skills for chess

  • Familiarise with vocabulary surrounding the tactics.
  • Study about different types of tactical patterns.
  • Improve your tactical awareness – look for all the tactical aspects of every chess game.
  • Try calculating as many types of threats, checks & captures as possible.

Skill 6 – Analytical skills

The ability to analyze & evaluate who among the players holds the upper hand is highly important. 

You must understand what aspects are in favor of you and your opponent. 

Only this will help you with defining & redefining your game strategies effectively.

How to improve your analytical skills with chess?

  • Again, Practice mindfully. Note down and analyze your self game. What goes well & what goes wrong.
  • Work on your visualization skills and play various iterations of the game in your mind.
  • The ”blindfold work” is also said to improve your analytical skills in chess.

Do you have to be smart to be good at chess?

It’s not new to think of chess as an intelligent person’s game. 

But, if you ask, ”Do I have to be smart to be good at chess?”

The answer is NO. You don’t need to be intelligent to be good at chess.

You need a lot of practice for this game. 

The more time you spend practicing, the higher your skills will get better.

However, intelligence does help in some cases. 

It can provide deeper analysis and understanding about various aspects of the game, which may otherwise take too much time with just hard work.

How to improve your chess skills?

As a chess player, you will want to perfect your mental focus in order to get the best results. 

Developing and practicing systems that can improve your gameplay is essential.

  • Figure out your playing style. What type of Strategy and tactics you are naturally good at? Deduce if you are good at attacking or defending.
  • Note down every move of your game in chess notations. Later, take time to analyze it in depth.
  • Choose one or two chess masters as an inspiration. Watch their gameplays. Understand their strategies & tactics.

To Sum it Up

So, these are the 6 essential skills to improve your chess game. 

The ability to use these skills correctly is what separates the masters from the amateurs.

But don’t get discouraged; practice can improve your chess game. 

It can get you closer to becoming a grandmaster in no time.

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