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Learn to play chess online (chesscademy.com)
207 points by cmdz0rd on Dec 8, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 70 comments

For those who already know how to play chess but want to get better (preferably quickly with minimal, targeted training), I wrote a guide called "How to Get Good at Chess, Fast" that hit #2 on HN: http://www.gautamnarula.com/how-to-get-good-at-chess-fast/

I'm sorry, but I think your guide just reiterates the old wisdom that one needs to practice a lot and analyse games.

This is fantastic, thank you for sharing this with the people who missed it the first time around.

Glad you found it useful! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment on the post and I'll get to it as soon as I can.

Joined HackerNews today. Thanks for sharing this!

Hello! As a friendly warning, you shouldn't post "thanks!" type posts on HN. They'll get d/ved to oblivion.

I've been on hackernews almost from the beginning and I didn't know this rule. Maybe once in a while, it's good to share basic rules :-)

It's not really a rule, more like an observed behavioral pattern :)

The idea is that a comment should add something meaningful - constructive discussion, sharing your personal experience with the topic being discussed. Also, as far as I know, posts with high comments/votes ratio are penalized (flame wars detection).

Thank you for this, is there anything similar for getting better at math/problem solving? Right now I'm going through the art of problem solving series but I would like to incorporate more.

I love chess, but I abstain from playing, because when I start, I become obsessed with it and it takes over my life. I spend more and more time training, doing analysis, reading up, playing, trying to get better at it and become very touchy about my rating number..

And then I ask myself - why should I get better at chess ? I already play better than everyone who doesn't play chess. I play worse than anyone who can dedicate 4-8 hours a day, every day, training. Why should my emotional well-being be a function of a number which is my rating in some online chess service ?

So I stop playing...

Anyone else experienced this ?

That's likely true with anything else in your life. I love to cook, I'm much better than people who doesn't cook but I'm worse than anyone who dedicates 4-8 hours a day every day.

But I don't care, I enjoy it so I keep doing it. Do you not enjoy chess enough to play it without needing another reason?

I rarely cook to win :).

You play chess to win and losing is stressful and unpleasant. So you train more to increase your chances of winning. I still enjoy playing just for fun, but after a couple of "fun" games, the competitive side kicks in and it stops being fun and becomes a goal.

I used to play quite a lot too. I think the thing that stopped me was the realisation that to get really good, you have to memorise openings and responses to openings. If you don't, you'll be working from a disadvantage from the start (if you play someone who knows the opening responses).

My favourite bit was always the middle-game - fun through pure invention and strategy that can't be laid out in a book for memorisation because of the almost infinite possibilities!

I really the book "My 60 Memorable Games" by Bobby Fischer- it really gave you an insight into a great players' thinking:

Yes, I have an obsession with doing stuff that is practical and has real tangible benefits. I can't justify sinking hours into something that won't really advance me in anything other than getting better at chess. If I ever struck my millions and had loads of free time on my hands, maybe it would change for me..

I used to feel the same way, although I didn't get anywhere decent - quit playing after a few months. I thought I won't become anywhere near good so what's the point.

But that was young me, when I would try to be really really good or just quit it, whatever it was :)

Nowadays, I wouldn't care that much. Am I having fun? If yes, I should continue. If no, I should stop doing it if possible. So I'd say as long as you enjoy the time spent playing, that's cool if you worry about some number of the online service (as long as it doesn't get too far). If 5 years later looking back you could say 'oh yeah, that was fun', that's great. Just have fun.

Very few people devote 4-8 hours a day to chess. In fact, if you're willing to devote just three hours per week to target training, you'll quickly improve relative to others.

The important thing is to divorce your enjoyment of the game from the purely competitive aspect of it. This is admittedly hard to do--part of the reason I quit competitive chess was because I got burned out. But I plan on returning soon, because the time off has helped me rediscover my love for the game and I don't think competition will ever remove that from me again.

I face a very similar issue, not with chess but with an online game called CS:GO.

The day you figure out a solution or gain more insight into this, could you please please message me?

Channel it into something competitive that gets you exercise as well. I started BJJ and wrestling in my 40's with no prior experience. The health benefits make it worth it. The depth of the skills keeps me engaged.

I didn't become obsessed, but I agree that it takes sustained effort to get to and maintain an average skill level (1500-1700 ELO).

There's always interesting books to read, developments to follow. It's a time-expensive hobby to have, I stopped playing years ago.

Interesting. My experience was similar when, after years of playing competitively at club level, I decided to give up because I felt I couldn't progress further without devoting several hours a day.

For me it was more because I found chess to be such a demanding game. One can play well for hours (in a serious match) making many good moves only to have it all thrown away by one slip of concentration.

Same thing happens to me.

Then a few years ago, I started doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which sort of tapped into the same challenge/logic pathways.

But BJJ is a physical activity, so that helps justify the obsession.

I stopped playing Diplomacy online as it was by far the biggest component of my mental state while I was playing. Growing up is about becoming self-aware.

> I teach my beginning students simple openings like the London System as white

This is not a good idea for a number of reasons. One is a d4 opening will lead to a more closed game, at which the beginner is at a disadvantage, since it requires a deeper understanding of positioning and strategy.

Two is the beginner will learn less if playing closed games initially. A beginner should aim for open games (1. e4) where they will have more opportunity to learn tactics. As they advance, they can move to closed game (1. d4) strategy.

Inevitably, you will play as black and some of your opponents will open with 1. d4. So you will be learning a little about closed games from the beginning even if you're never opening with them yourself.

One thing I did initially was just to usually play the same opening moves. As white, I always played 1. e4. As black, I would see what piece white moved, and then played the same response to that every time. This cut down on the openings I had to learn - at the end of move 1, the board was always in one of twenty positions, as opposed to one of forty positions, or one of sixty positions. Easy alpha-beta pruning.

For example, I never played the Italian Game as white. If white played it, I might play the Rousseau Gambit, which is probably not good against experts, but is good enough against beginners who depend on knowing the traps of the Italian Game. Even if they do 4. d4, you can do 4...fxe4 and then the board is wide open again, even if you're at a slight positional disadvantage.

It's often instructive to watch great players play chess. ChessNetwork has a series of hundreds of videos in which he talks through every move of the games that he plays. I encourage budding chess players to check out his Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/ChessNetwork

I liked John Bartholomew's "Climbing the Rating Ladder" videos, where he plays players of different levels and talks about strategy and common mistakes at each level:


I love the channel for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. It has numerous lectures targeted for beginner, intermediate, and expert players that cover a wide range of topics while analyzing games. The lectures are given by various GMs and IMs. Check out Ben Finegold's lectures, He is a great teacher and never fails to crack me up.


I love those kind of annotated videos. I had one of the Chessmaster series (9000 I believe) which had videos by Josh Waitzkin where he did the same thing, often going into the psychological side of the game too. I spent a summer addicted to that program and my skill skyrocketed.

I also quite like the banter blitz series from chess24. Svidler and Gustafsson are fun to watch and listen to.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvxuZooPUPA Svidler's session from earlier this year

Less educative but more entertaining is Grandmaster Eric Hansen's channels called "chessbrah" on Youtube and twitch.

I wish I had learnt to play when I was younger, i.e before my teens. I learnt as a teen while in secondary school, and it came at a time where I needed to learn some mental discipline.

In high school we used to coach younger kids from a neighboring primary school. Some kids would be all over the show, but the ones who did well picked up quite well. A few of them made provincial school tournaments, and fewer would make nationals. The gap in our training would then be apparent at that level because they'd be playing against kids who are learning enough chess theory, i.e endgame theory.

We once had someone in our team leading in material, but fail to mate her opponent, so sad yet funny because it was like a witch hunt, chasing the opponent king all over the show with a few pieces. We hadn't taught them some endgame tactics.

I think chess is one of those games that many people should try out. I'm glad I had a friend in the game when I went through painful teenage years.

> The gap in our training would then be apparent at that level because they'd be playing against kids who are learning enough chess theory, i.e endgame theory.

Openings are a vast area of theory as well.

I played competitive chess in my teens for a bit (my neighbor was insanely good at it and I got better just by being his punch bag) and I always refused to learn any theory. I think it's comparable to cheating on a test, it's supposed to be a game and a puzzle and I would feel the same if I learned how to solve a puzzle by memorizing solutions from a book.

Hmm, I had a similar outlook (although with Magic rather than chess :P), but got over it. Learning theory isn't like looking at the solution for a puzzle, it's like learning specific problem-solving skills. It doesn't take the challenge away but rather enables you to play at a higher level which, with a decent game, is going to be deeper, more interesting and more challenging.

Now I think of learning enough theory to get to an intermediate level (at least) is more like a ticket to play the game at all: the game I play now is qualitatively different from the game I used to play and broadly better. To be sure, it was still fun when I was floundering around, but competitive play with a high-level mental framework (and yes, some specific information directly copied from others) leads to far higher replay value.

I'm sure chess is the same.

Yeah, we had openings, middle-game strategy, endgame, as well as tactics, in our roster.

I know there were Chess Opening Encyclopedias, someone once donated one to me, but we could never afford to buy much material as we were lacking in boards as a start. Our school never had enough to spend on chess, it was athletics, soccer and netball that were on the budget. I live in South Africa if it adds any context.

I once got suspended at high school for 'focusing too much on chess'. I happily obliged and told the principal that I'd stay at home and study on my own, within 2 days I was back at school, and continued with my chess :)

Lichess.org is fun too. I'm not much of a chess player but I sometimes find the chess puzzles to be fun at http://en.lichess.org/training

That is really useful, I like assortments of puzzles like these. They keep my brain sharp.

http://chesstempo.com is the state of the art for tactics puzzles auto-adjusted to your strength.

And for the ability to review already seen problems using spaced repetition.

This site has promise, but I think the training section needs to become smarter. I worked through about 20 problems. None of them were challenging for me, but that's because I'm not in the target market (I'm about the same strength as the site's creator). However, what concerned me was that they didn't become more challenging at all. The difficulty seemed to randomly vary from one problem to the next. Given the capabilities available to an online system, the training exercises should quickly adapt to the level of the student.

Personally, while growing up, I spent many, many hours with a book of tactics by Maxim Blokh that had a numeric value assigned to each problem, corresponding to its difficulty. Telling the student the difficulty level is less than ideal (and can be avoided online), but the ability to focus on problems just outside of my "comfort zone" was an invaluable training tool.

Your username rules don't allow hyphens but you don't lint them out of Facebook names :(

Cool site, though!

I have a space and an accent in my name.. Linking to FB completely prevented me from signing up. After getting the initial error, nothing else would work.

Yeah, me too. I can't tell if the system if just getting hammered, or if it is a problem with the FB integration.

same here

There was some chess tutorial going around online that I failed to properly bookmark. The tutorial was premised on the fact that for casual fun games, you shouldn't have to memorize a bunch of strategic openings and instead adopt some of the older methods of playing before everyone memorized everything.

Does anyone remember this and have a link to it?

That's usually the recommended way of learning chess:

1. Basic moves and tactics

2. Advanced tactics

3. Strategy

4. End game (when few pieces are left the board)

5. Middle game

6. And finally, openings

When I was taught by a GM, and the way I teach kids, start a bit different.

-Basic moves and tactics -Very simple endings (RR+K, then Q+K, finally R+K). Without this, many games between kids just can never even finish! -Strategy -Basic opening theory: Nothing memorized to even 5 moves, but evaluation of the first 2 or 3 opening moves in basic lines, built upon the basic chess knowledge we had been taught. This way we avoid very short games that teach little, because white was silly and started with G4, or moved their queen 5 times in a row.

After that, kid's games look like chess: They have a beginning, a middle and an end in a sensible number of moves and many moves are about gaining material. Once we reach that point, we really can start talking about higher level topics. It's only then were openings are left for the end, because understanding things like tension and weak squares is far more useful. Kids probably have played over a hundred games too, so they can also start to see patterns, so they start having to have some intuitions about combinations all by themselves.

I don't know of the specific tutorial you're mentioning, but a good way to avoid memorized opponents is to play the London System as white, and a kingside fianchetto system as black.

In both cases you can play the same moves against virtually any opening and get a solid middlegame position.

It might have been a link to 'Fischer Random' chess. This is played like normal chess but the arrangement of pieces on the back row is random, with some restrictions for game balance.

The random starting position removes the advantage of memorizing openings.


For casual fun games, the opening is completely irrelevant. Just aim to use all your pieces, control the center, keep your king safe and aim at the opponent's.

I've been using chesscademy.com for like a year or more, they have excellent chess strategy puzzles. Problem is however that site has some annoying little bugs on touch devices that I've reported a few times and got zero response from owner, and AFAIK they still haven't fixed them. Also I've noticed that some puzzles started repeating quite often, which all led me to conclusion that this project has been abandoned?!

This is for more advanced players:

When I played chess I liked Chessbase's products. They have their fingers in many pies, including engines, interactive trainings, game databases etc. Most of the content is created by IMs/GMs and is very good quality.

Unfortunately everything they do is Windows-only. Playchess, their online chess portal is on iOS and it's absolute crap compared to the Windows client.

Chess is relatively easy to learn, but incredibly difficult to master (especially if you're just starting out but are old enough to be reading HN). It can also be really addictive. Many have made it in to a complete obsession. Reminds me of math in some ways, for its depth, beauty, and difficulty.

I entered that obsession. Then I realized just how long it would really take me to even get decent and stopped. Now I simply respect chess from a distance.

I've gone to chessacademy.com before to see if this existed and it didn't. Thankful it does now!

psst- it still doesn't ;)

haha like codecademy before it! They get so mad when you say "Code Academy" too - still wonder why. That domain HAS to be available.

Woah, I didn't know. I always thought it's "Code Academy" and everyone else around me referred to it this way. I hate it when people go too clever just to be cool.

Love Codecademy and they're good natured about it and can laugh at themselves, but they WILL correct you if you say it as two words :)

For me, an invaluable companion for learning openings has been http://www.eudesign.com/chessops/. The design of the site is unchanged since ca. 1995, but it works well.

Is there anything similar for Go?

I'm about to start tutoring with a teacher in Go. We're going to be doing similar things. My weekly homework includes:

1. 30 minutes of problems a day.

2. Play 5 rated games (i.e. games that COUNT with 30+mins on the clock for each player) and record game

3. Give a detailed review of my thoughts of 3 of those games

4. Memorize any professional game and, at the start of the weekly tutoring session, replay it from memory for my sensei.

But in a more informal setting here's what I'd recommend:

1. Immediately after finishing an in-person game, ask to review the game with your opponent from memory. Hopefully get a stronger player to watch you two reviewing the game, and maybe replay the game on a new board so that you can check the true board position to jog your memory.

2. Do problems! The Elementary Go series from Kisiedo is good, as is the "Graded Go problems for beginners" series.

There are a handful of great Go teachers who post things on youtube. Nick Sibicky teachers at the Seattle Go Center and his videos are amazing. https://www.youtube.com/user/nicksibicky Haylee is a korean professional who plays online and posts her videos. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTji1kQNoWIH85dB_Vxka9g

Get strong!!!!

Not similar, but there's an interesting Go-related article on HN today [1].

Too bad; I liked to think that Go was a sacred space, like an ancient Turing machine. Not anymore.

[1] http://www.technologyreview.com/view/544181/how-facebooks-ai...

Guo Juan's classes are fairly nice

goproblems.com gives you adaptive problems.

First time I tried chess on my phone. Fat finger is a usability problem with irreversible consequences. I had to abandon a game.

Maybe drag and drop is not the best interaction model here.

Tried sign in via Facebook. My username wasn’t accepted :(

I've been using this the last couple of days, it is GREAT. I've been playing chess almost my whole life and I've learned so much.

... is it me or is a facebook login required?

can't even sign up after login with facebook. frustrated and go back playing chess on my ipad.

Good job. Does it have online PVP?

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