Little things that help your chess game

Most lower rated players want to improve their game, but many just want to blitz and have a good time. I certainly understand that! However, for those who want to be as good as possible, they will have to work hard.

Play against opponents who are better than you (being able to smash the same opponent over and over again is sadistic and doesn’t teach you much). Learn the basic endgames. Create a simple opening repertoire (understanding the moves is far more important than memorizing them). Study the tactics. And pick up tons of templates. It’s the drumbeat of success.

I wrote about all these things (you can find them on, but here we’ll use the games (and often the comments) of IM Cyrus Lakdawala to give you a quick start (shhhh… when I visited him I took all his games, so please don’t don’t tell or anyone else. I’ll give them back soon).

Here are some of the themes that Cyrus and any good player must deal with:

  • An unfortunate idea is the old, “I know what I want to do, and I don’t want to worry about what my opponent will do.” Good luck!
  • Another way to fail is to ignore the importance of squares.
  • Yet another black hole doesn’t have enough skills to create a serious attack from the king’s side. It’s a shame because low-rated players can’t defend very well.

SAMPLES: “The old back-and-forth” moreI don’t know my opponent’s plan.”

It’s about moving a piece and then moving it again (reminds me of The Hobbit’s “And back again”). It is WRONG!

This seems to happen when you see a killer move, do it (while laughing in your head how wonderful you are), the opponent easily fends off the move, and the killer move (his tail is now dragging on the ground) , goes way back all the time.

This is a very good way to lose many matches.

So what is the cure? Simple: Instead of tossing a coin into enemy territory, do your best to figure out what your opponent’s plans are.

Here is an example of this disease:

  • White’s bishop aims for black’s king. Yum!
  • White’s e5-pawn is under pressure.

Agree, these two things are easy to understand.

  • Black noticed a possible tactic via …Bxa3 when taking the bishop would leave the white knight unprotected.

It could be missed by either side.

I often see this kind of thing from beginner to 1800.

Now we’ll see the same kind of “not knowing the opponent’s plan” in our next example, but it’s quite subtle:

A simple opening with opportunities for both sides. Black wants to expand and castle, but where does Black’s black-squared bishop go? Lakdawala’s answer is short and clear: “I prefer to keep the bishop on e7 in order to meet Ne5 with…Nxe5.”

Simply put, if Black’s bishop is on d6 and White moves his knight to e5, Black taking the knight would lose a piece (fxe5 would bifurcate the f6 knight and the d6 bishop). Of course, if black never intended to take e5 and just wanted to have the bishop on d6, then fine. But if it was played simply because d6 was better than …Be7, you have no idea what you’re doing.

Do you understand squares?

Very strong players always think of squares. It is a good example.


A lot of players get upset if they think a lot of my puzzles are too hard. However, these are not created to make your ego feel good, although if you work them out, you have every right to look in the mirror and say, “I’m so smart, so beautiful, so wise.” I am a chess god!

Seriously, the goal is to teach you something. Try to solve it, fail (or pass), edit that little “?” mark and learn.


The board won’t help you, you have to help the board


Always know what the opponent wants to do


kill and kill again (or it will melt)


An extra pawn, better pawn structure and active pieces (mix it all up and see what you have)

The real puzzle here is the correct (and critical!) placement of Black’s towers.


A Benko Gambit. Only six moves have been made but now it’s time for white to place his pieces in the best squares possible. Additionally, White wants all of his pieces (if possible) to work together.

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