Have you ever noticed that players (especially on the Internet) with a rating of 1900 or greater seem to move quicker, and more accurately? Even in a long game, they are able to navigate the position with ease compared to the 1500 crowd. Why is that? It’s because they have a plan. Even if they don’t have a complete plan in the particular game, they are able to understand small nuances of the position that other chess players may miss.
One of those is recognizing weak squares, both in your opponent’s camp and yourr own. They work on both defending and attacking at the same time, whereas a lower rated player might only attack, or only defend. A fine-tuned mix of both will increase your rating big time. After each time your opponent moves, ask yourself why he played it, and what, if any, the threat is. Stopping your opponent’s plan is huge in chess.
Another is becoming familiar with a couple openings that work for you. Trying new things is fine, and everyone does it at some point. But a chess player needs to know what his or her “style” is in order to successfully choose an opening repertoire. Ask yourself a few questions before choosing one: Am I an aggressive player, or do I enjoy slow positional bouts? Am I comfortable with an isolated d-pawn in some instances, or would I rather try and grab the whole center? Do I find myself attacked on the king side a lot in games, or am I the one doing the attacking? Once you get definitive answers to those questions, choosing your opening style becomes easier.
Finally, the dreaded endgame. There is simply no way around it; you must study up on endgames if you want to survive into the 1900s and beyond with your chess. You must brush up on the idea of king opposition, of tempo, and know which pawns to try and queen based on the opponent’s king location. And that’s just for starters. Gather as much information as you can on the endgame, and then you’ll find that your middle game improves because you are trying to reach an ending you are comfortable in. Believe it or not, at the Expert/Master level entire openings can be chosen because of how their end games usually work out.
Chess isn’t easy!