Looking to improve your game? The good news is that most chess players only have three weaknesses in their game:
- Opening weaknesses
- Middlegame weaknesses
- Endgame weaknesses
And it’s only half of a joke. Seriously, if you’re not a grandmaster, you have weaknesses in all three phases of the game.
Serious chess players need an “opening repertoire”. What this means is that you need to know ahead-of-time what moves you are going to play against the most common chess openings. And you need an opening repertoire for both Black and White.
Generally speaking, the typical types of opening weaknesses that beginner players have are:
- Falling behind in development
- Not castling early enough (King gets stuck in the center and checkmated)
Intermediate players also tend to have opening weaknesses:
- Not having an opening repertoire against “unusual chess openings”
- Allowing the opponent to gain too much space
- Giving the opponent too much “piece mobility”
- Not controlling the center enough
- Not preventing their opponent’s plans
The most common type of chess weakness in the middlegame is “tactical weakness”. At a beginner level, this means you miss the obvious one-movers, like you leave your pieces “en prise” to be taken, and you don’t notice that you can take a piece or miss a checkmate in one move.
At the intermediate level, the weaknesses tend to be more advanced tactical combinations. Overlooking two-movers is still quite common. This means chess combinations such as:
There are a lot of common “motifs” for chess combinations. You just have to start to cram all of the different patterns into your brain.
Intermediate players gradually get better at combinations. Younger players are often strong at “attacking strategy” (e.g. pawn storms). But intermediate and more advanced players tend to still have weaknesses such as:
- Defensive strategy: Most players prefer to attack, and younger players are often woeful in defence.
- Positional strategy: Learning where to place your pieces and the various aspects of “pawn structure” is hard work, but will massively improve your game.
- Transition to Endgame: it is important to know enough about endgames to know whether or not to swap pieces into the ending.
Beginners are at a loss as to what to do once you’ve swapped Queens, so that’s a weakness: not having any idea at all what to do!
The first rule is: don’t panic! Chess endgames or “semi-endings” are still like normal chess. You have to avoid losing your pieces, and you have to try to win your opponent’s pieces or pawns. The main difference is that pawns are more important in the ending, so it’s a bigger deal to win (or lose) a single pawn. And there’s fewer sacrificial King attacks in the endgame because there’s no Queens around to give checkmate. But for the diehard attacking players there is still the possibility of playing for “endgame attacks”.
Intermediate players have a better idea generally of what to do in some endings. Some of the simpler theory includes:
- King-and-pawn endings
- Bishop endings (same bishop endings; opposite bishop endings)
- Bishop vs Knight endings (e.g. “good knight vs bad bishop”)
- Queen vs Pawn endings
But intermediate players are still often lost in some of the more complex and difficult endgames:
There is a lot of endgame theory that needs to be learnt. Unless you do the work, endgames are always going to be a weakness. Stronger players will still beat you simply by swapping down to an equal endgame and then outplaying you in the ending.