Whether you are looking for chess tips for intermediate players or lessons to get better at chess, this post is a detailed guide for you.
At your level, players mostly struggle in the middle game, with all the issues like not being able to spot the tactics or being unable to come up with the right plan.
That’s why we will highlight all the intermediate chess tactics and concepts that are highly useful, not only in the middle game but also in the opening and endgame.
One thing that is common in all three phases of a chess game is tactics. They are something you have to be alert for right from move #1.
Often it is seen that an intermediate player will oversee tactics and remain focused on the development and castling in the opening, so much that he will foresee the tactical opportunities on the board and miss the chance to get a clear advantage in the opening.
Let’s first define who an intermediate chess player is!
How Do You Know If You Are An Intermediate Chess Player?
If you are rated 1500-2000 in FIDE ratings or on chess.com, and your on-the-board vision and eye-to-spot tactics are clear at least 90% of the time, then you are easily an intermediate chess player.
Intermediate chess players are usually strong in the opening, average in the end game, and somewhat struggling in the middle game. They don’t fall for opening traps easily unless it’s a gambit they don’t know.
An intermediate chess player will always be strong in at least 1 chess opening with black and 1 with white, but the probability of him winning with that same opening against a stronger player will always be low because of the middle game knowledge and all the chess skills higher rated players possess.
Should You Memorize Chess Openings As An Intermediate Player?
The answer is yes. If you want to get to the next level in chess, you have to memorize many different chess openings to build an opening repertoire, and on top of it, you have to analyze your games with chess engines to have a grasp on those openings from opening to middle game transition.
Otherwise, you will remain in the rabbit hole of intermediate chess if you are reluctant on only playing the games.
The purpose of this article is not to give you a lecture on openings and middle games, we actually have created a list of the top 10 chess tips for intermediate players that you can work on, and become a better chess player.
Grasp a few or all of them and see what changes it brings to your overall rating.
Top 10 Chess Tips For Intermediate Players:
1. Work On The Endgame Tactics
Alertness in endgames is as important as in the openings. Many beginner and intermediate players look at the board and think their king is not in any kind of danger especially if they are some kind of pawn up or a minor peace up.
The thing is, resilience is a very good thing but sometimes over-ambition can fall you into tactics that can totally change a winning position e.g. A tricky knight forking the king and rook can cause absolute disaster to your winning odds.
Calculate till the end and maybe use some of the tips that GM Daniel Narodetsky has mentioned in the video below:
2. Stop Early Queen Attacks
An early queen attack is an absolutely useless plan even against a 1600-rated chess.com player. Unless you are a titled player and can recover from it very quickly after seeing the signs of retaliation or in chess terms a refute.
Some chess openings are also refuted e.g. Englund Gambit. You can easily counter and win against it with white pieces. Learning refutations like punishing the early queen attacks or bad openings like the Englund gambit can make you a better chess player.
Check IM Levy Rozman aka Gotham Chess’s guide on how to refute an early queen attack:
3. Learn 35 Chess Principles
Next in chess tips for intermediate players is having no idea of chess principles.
Do you know there are around 35 basic chess principles? Some of them are absolute and always true but most of them are conditional. e.g. “rook belongs to the open file” or “put your rook behind pawns both while defending and attacking”.
Both these principles are part of a chess strategy. 1st one is more relevant when you are in the opening to middle game transition or sometimes even in the end game but the 2nd one is an absolute principle in 99% of cases where you want to promote a pawn to a higher rank like Queen, Rook, or a Knight or to stop the opponent from promoting his pawn.
In the video below, you will find all these 35 basic chess principles. If you can remember them, they will help you a lot in strategizing during long games. At the end of the day, chess is all logical, and principled chess can save and win you a lot of games.
4. Know All The Themes Of Chess Tactics By Name
This is not limited only to chess. Knowing the names makes it easier to remember people and things even in real life.
There are 24 different types of tactics in chess. If you go through each one of them at least once every week and solve a few puzzles of them, it will help you a lot in becoming a better chess player.
Games till the master level are mostly won by tactics and not a strategy. If you are tactically aware and know the patterns, it will help you a lot in spotting them during the games.
5. Know The Right Method Of Analyzing Your Games
Analyze your games, at least the lost ones… they are very important to become a better chess player. Learning from your own games is especially the best chess lesson for intermediate players because you are going to make improvements in the known territories.
People get frustrated when they are unable to remember the right moves that they came to know during the game analysis.
And this problem is largely due to trying to analyze the whole game. As a beginner or intermediate player, it is almost impossible to fix a whole game in a single go. You have to bring small improvements in your game and not an abrupt change.
If you are curious to learn how to analyze your games, check out the video below:
6. Don’t Move With A False Sense Of Security
Chess is a very tricky game. Sometimes during the game, we feel a false sense of security that the position is absolutely fine but in reality, it’s totally the opposite.
It is very important to calculate whether the initiative you are looking at is an opportunity to get a lead in the game or a trap that can totally collapse your game because of a false sense of security.
You will better understand this concept from the short video below:
7. Know The 3 Basics Of Chess Endgame
End games are trickier for players lacking a vision of the full board. But there are some principles that don’t require that much brainpower. All you have to know is when to use them. e.g. “centralizing the king is an important endgame chess principle”.
But it’s not a general principle for all endgames, you have to have a sense of when to apply it. e.g. in most endgames that involve a single minor peace e.g. knight and pawns vs knight and pawns or a bishop vs knight sort of games are the perfect setups to centralize your king.
The 2nd important principle is to not give up on your pawns or pawn structures easily in the end games. Chances are that the material is equal but your pawns are better than your opponent’s pawns.
And after a sequence of pawn exchanges, even with an equal amount of pawn exchanges can remove your advantage of winning the game.
And the 3rd principle is to make a passer pawn. There can be instances where your passer pawn can be stronger than your opponent’s 6 pawns because you are Queening 1st and since your pawn is a passer, it can’t be stopped from promoting because of the situation of winning the “square rule” against your opponent’s king.
That rule of the square is explained by Magnus Carlsen in a video below:
Also if you want to see a practical example of three important chess endgame principles, watch the video below:
8. Learn When To Look For Tactics
You have already learned that your opponent can offer a tactical advantage at any point in the game. But what if you are playing Blitz or Bullets? Will you look for tactics on every move? It is impossible to win those games with a slow approach.
IM Alex has some knowledge of when exactly you should be looking for tactics. Watch it in the video below:
9. Always Create A Strategic Plan In Middlegame
In chess, they say “a bad plan is better than no plan”. You must have a plan before every move.
Especially in the middle game, having a strategy is a must.
If at a certain point your plan fails or a better plan appears on the board. You should be capable to transition towards it.
Because, at the end of the day, it’s an open truth that to become a top-level player, you must always have a plan. Even if there is nothing to do, just start playing back-and-forth moves for a while like chess engines, let your opponent do something, and then plan accordingly.
Start thinking strategically in your games and see how much positive impact it brings to your game.
For more details, watch the video below:
10. Don’t Get Greedy You Can Fall For Gambits
Gambits are the trickiest to not fall for. Even the world champion Magnus Carlsen, when he played his 1st ever professional chess game. He fell for the Englund Gambit and lost the game.
A good thing about most gambits is that they are refuted. If you know the theory of countering them, you can easily avoid or even punish your opponent.
And I have a piece of advice for you, never Gambit against a very strong player. They can figure out the refutation on the board.
11. Bonus Tip: Best Chess Books For Intermediate Players
Reading books is not a fun activity for most chess players nowadays. But to get from the intermediate to the top level, you have to go through it.
There are way too many concepts that can only be grasped through books and unless you are not naturally gifted like Hikaru Nakamura, you have to find your workaround. And books are the best option.
Check out some of the Grandmaster Tips from Indian Super Grandmaster Vidit Gujrati including his recommended set of Chess books that took him from a 1900-rated player to a top Chess GM in a video below:
That’s all in the top 10 chess tips for intermediate players. If you think they were too simple, then check these chess tactics for advanced players, and for more chess content explore our chess section of the blog 🙂