Winning in Online Chess is Hard

Chess

You have probably noticed that I haven’t posted as much articles as I have used to in the last few weeks. This is because lately I have been busy with other things, such as playing chess and selling cards. With this new series of Personal articles I hope to give you some more insight into my personal life!

It seemed easy

I dare to say that I am at least somewhat proficient in the Magic the Gathering trading card game, in both the Constructed and Limited modes. As a result of this I expected to be reasonably skilled in making trades and advancing the board state. However nothing prepared me for the challenges I had to face when I started playing online Chess.

My online experience

I started playing on lichess.org. The GUI may not be the easiest to understand on all fronts, but it is free, which is a huge plus! At the end of every game there is also an option to request a computer analysis which is immensely helpful in becoming a better player.

At the start I matched with opponents with an Elo rating of about 1500, which seemed to be the average, and I got outplayed in almost every game. As my rating dropped closer to my true skill level I started challenging players with a rating of about 1000 and things got better, though it was still nearly impossible to win. I do feel that I have to push on with this because I expect myself to be able to win games and it might make me a better Magic the Gathering player as well.

Even with losing almost all of my games I still describe my experience as fun. It will probably remain fun as long as I keep improving. Eventually I should be able to win, right?

Some tips from a novice

Of course I have been reading some tutorials and friends have helped me in some direct games as well, but it does remain hard to truly understand what needs to be done in order to become a better player.

I can give the following tips:

  • Try to advance the game with each move, every time you go back and forth the opponent can advance.
  • Protect your important pieces at all costs! I have blundered my queen way too many times.
  • Don’t force things, play chess like a control game, not like an aggro game.
  • Focus on trading pieces only when ahead.
  • Remember that you always need to look for the strongest move, all the other possible moves will likely put you at a disadvantage.
  • Play games of at least 8 minutes for both players to give yourself time to properly think.

The goal in this phase is to get positional proficiency. In a latter phase you can add some tactical skills with which you can hopefully surprise the opponent.

What is next?

With the help of the above-mentioned tips I finally managed to get two wins in today! The games do feel slow, but that is a good thing as it means that you are not losing pieces quickly and you have enough time to properly think.

It also seems to be quite easy to get back into the 900-1000 range from my current 800 rating as I generally challenge players with a rating of about 1000. It is nothing like the so-called Bronze Elo Hell in League of Legends for example. Once you improve your skill your Elo rating will definitely improve, as long as you challenge opponents of a sufficiently high enough rating.

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