I have heard it asked thousands of times, both in forums and on gaming sites, “What should I study? My game never improves!” Well, it might not be an issue of study or lack thereof at all. It might just be bad habits rearing their ugly heads, time and again.
Moving too fast
So many times I see beginners just pounding out opening moves, not taking more than a second to ponder what they are doing each turn. How do they wish to improve their game if they don’t even care where they place their pieces during one of the most crucial parts? Stay away from bullet chess. It creates bad habits in long games. Also, don’t just emulate the moves of strong players. They make those moves for a reason, and they know them. If you are just copying their setups, then you don’t know the reasons. Think good and hard before each move, no matter what stage of the game. Chess is about calculation. If you want fast-paced action, play Doom.
If you reach a certain part of the game and just move your pieces around aimlessly, you are doing it wrong. Each and every move, formulate a plan, even if it’s a bad one. At least *know* why you are making your moves. If the game is lost and you are playing on, you should still try and find the best moves available to you. Many a comeback has been had in just that manner. Know which squares you control, keep your eye out for tactics, and try not to blunder too badly. That’s the name of the game.
Playing lines with tons of theory
This may seem like a silly one, but I believe it to be true. Take this, for instance: A 1300 is playing a 1900 in a long, standard game. The 1900 starts the game with 1. e4, and the 1300 replies with 1...c5, or the Sicilian Defense. It is a sure bet that the 1900 knows the Sicilian better than the 1300, and will soon outplay him. I feel it’s better to choose lines that keep things basic and playable, like 1..e5 against 1. e4. I recommend getting a good feel for chess itself before deciding to take up openings that have fifty-billion strings of theory to them.
Of course, there are more, but these are the general topics that I have had on my mind lately. I will likely add another post in the future with a few other things that beginners miss, but this should suffice for now. Play slower, formulate a plan, and play as simply as possible. There is plenty of time to get cute and risky once you hit 1600.