Learn chess: the very first step

I have written about what I want to accomplish in the following year, and where I am now. I don’t call it anything. Not a goal, not a new years premonition. Nothing of that crap. This is not because it’s the end of the year that I want to do this, but something that I have wanted to do a long time now, and now that I have the time, I am taking full advantage.

I thought it might be useful to chronicle my own path in chess, so others, that want to learn to, can easily follow what I have done. I learned the basic movements when I was 12 from my sister’s boyfriend at the time and from there never took any lessons or anything. I bought some books over the years, but never really committed to them, so this is where we are now.

If you have scoured the internet for chess instruction, you might come accross IM’s and GM’s giving advice to beginners, but they don’t have clear view anymore of what a beginner really needs, and most are given from an American point of view, which have a weird, spartan view on how chess should be learned. Yes, “tactics tactics tactics” is an advice often given to beginners, but all you learn from it, is pattern recognition, something you will not need right now. First you need the absolute basics. You might think that once you know the moves, you are ready for tactics, and while there are great books of tactics for beginners, let me tell you… you are not ready for them yet.

I recommend three things: Step 1 from the steps method (the manual and all the workbooks for step 1, further steps will be needed the further you get into chess instruction), the soviet chess primer and a beginner chess tactics book (“1001 chess exercises for beginners” by Franco Masetti or “tactics time” by Tim Brennan)

I will even tell you in what order you need them.

First, Step 1
The soviet chess primer starts well for a beginner, but quickly starts about mating. While mating is the goal of the game, it shouldn’t be where you start. You hardly know how the pieces move yet at this point, or how to prevent hanging pieces (pieces that are unprotected), so you should learn to adjust your chess glasses and make them sharper. Step 1 of the steps method will do that for you. It starts with the absolute beginning. How the pieces move and then gets gradually harder and harder. It gives you games to play on your own or with other students (if you have a child or sibling, they are great to practice with), and it only increases with incremental steps each time. You also need to do exercises, and although they look like tactics, they teach you just what you need to know at that point. So no mates in ones or such things, you get to learn how to defend a piece for example and learn to look at the best move at that time. All the workbooks, that accompany this, will beat you to death with different exercises per chapter, so you know what you are talking about when you have finished step one, the basics though.

The soviet chess primer
When you have finished the first 7 chapters, you may want to look at the soviet chess primer. It’s a great source to accompany the steps method. Russian Grandmasters in chess have studied with that method, that in and off itself should tell you how good it is, but for someone that studies alone, as I will be doing, it needs a trainer that can give you the level, and that is why I think this is a great source to use together with the steps method.

Tactics Time
When you have finished step one, this is the time to take out the tactics time book and start doing those exercises. You will know a few things by now, not a lot, but enough to start exercising your chess muscles by doing tactics. Only now you are allowed. This step is anywhere from 2 months, if you are a fast learner, or a year from when you start, so don’t get your hopes up just yet.

This is the process that I will be following as well. I hate studying from one resource at the time, so I will be mixing things up. I started with the steps method already, and I already see an improvement in how my mind processes the board. i evaluate moves better, and to be honest, I am not that far in step 1 yet. I highly recommend it.

I hope this little guide helps you on your journey to chess mastery, and I will post updates on how my own journey is going, when I am going through it, so you get my experience, from beginner to wherever I may end up.

Every post is written first in scrivener 3, which you can get a 30 day free trial of here at literature and latte.

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