Chess is really cheap to start, considering all the online courses that are available (chess.com for example). Also becoming a member of a chess association shouldn't cost you that much. In the end, it's very fun to play a nice game of chess once a week!
If you want to be a top player you have to start as a child and be a grandmaster in your teens. But if you want to be a good player for amateur standards you can pretty much start at any age. Within a few months you'll be able to beat 95% of amateur players if you apply yourself.
For a jumpstart in chess, I recommend checking out this amazing masterclass by Gary Kasparov. I mean, is there a better way to learn than from the best?
Table of Contents
My favorite chess set that doesn't break the bank is Ambassador by Wegiel. I've had it for years and spent countless hours enjoying the game.
Learn the fundamentals:
There's people that would argue that learning endgames is better, and that's certainly true as once you've hit a certain point in a game, it is solved and you should be able to play the solution. I would say learn opening principles, pick a favourite pet opening, and learn endgames.
Also- play against a human! Computers are cheating bastards. It's like trying to win against computers in a racing game. They're impossible to beat until you make no mistakes- eventually the AI will dumb itself down and hang pieces, making the challenge no fun at all! It's at best a mechanism for you to test theory and see how far you can go before you start blundering. If you want a stress free environment, do tactics puzzles instead.
Did all of this seem boring to you -> watch the St. Louis Chess Club youtube channel instead. Start with the children's lectures, because the kids in the audience could kick your ass.
Chess puzzles are great, these help you in mid/late game scenarios where strategy books fall short, as you can't predict the scenarios or arrangements you'll get in from studying "a queens gambit" or whatever.
But that being said, study openings, they will teach you to recognize moves in the early game, essentially all theory is based off of openings. Learning chess notation will allow you to read grandmaster games, which is a great way to learn if you have the patience to learn it.
Attack the middle, if you're a complete beginner.
For absolute beginners I'd recommend the two books from Vincent Moret. It makes it very accessible to beginners. He gives relatively few concrete "book" lines, but focuses on example games showing the tactical themes and patterns that occur in the opening, and the reason why some of the setups are the way they are.
The series takes the opposite stance as you do, in the sense that all recommendations are extremely sharp and tactical lines, yet it is aimed at beginners/low ranked players. The reasoning is obviously that the more you practice tactics, the faster you'll improve.
|My First Chess Opening Repertoire for White: A Turn-key Package for Ambitious Beginners||17 reviews||Check Price and Reviews|
|My First Chess Opening Repertoire for Black: A Ready-to-go Package for Ambitious Beginners||8 reviews||Check Price and Reviews|
For most beginners who want to get good I would suggest book that focus on positional play and endgame (I highly recommend Silman’s complete endgame course).
|Silman's Complete Endgame Course: From Beginner to Master||178 reviews||Check Price and Reviews|
I thought Seirawan's book on openings was perfect for beginning opening study and can be read fairly early. It basically gives all the openings a few moves deep and explains the thinking behind the positions and what each side is striving for. With 5-8 moves of theory you can get to a thematic point in the opening and just try stuff out without being deluged in information.
Between Seirawan's and Reuben Fine's books explaining the ideas, they got me to where I am now (~17xx USCF and chess.com). I've recently picked up a book on the QGD just because I feel it should be useful, but all I'm learning is that most opponents deviate so early that I can't use what I've learned.
|Winning Chess Openings (Winning Chess - Everyman Chess)||47 reviews||Check Price and Reviews|
|The Ideas Behind the Chess Openings||61 reviews||Check Price and Reviews|
Opening theory is used by black to drive the game to a drawish position, and white wants to develop into a position where he still has chances to win. There are variations of the Ruy Lopez and Sicilian that go 30 moves deep per side before you leave opening theory, the amount of memorization is obscene.
But the benefit you get from knowing more opening theory than your opponent at lower levels is very slight, a position advantage equivalent to half a pawn would be considered a great opening for white, a position where both sides were dead even would be considered a great opening for black.
Often at lower levels somebody will get an "advantage" out of the opening and three moves later throw away their rook thus negating the entire advantage they just gained several times over. Lower level chess players are best to focus on chess tactics and chess puzzles as the main way they lose games is throwing away pieces accidentally and missing chances to take their opponents pieces. It is sufficient to half-memorize a reasonable if not optimal opening, figure out the thematic moves used often in that opening, and sort of wing it.
Note that opening theory, and ability to memorize by rote, is extremely important at higher levels though.
Openings aren't bad to study because you'll want to avoid blunders in your opening but keep it simple:
For white: get comfortable with E4 or D4 to start. For Black: Learn the responses to E4 and D4.
If you're black and your opponent does something unexpected, at your level that means they will be making a mistake...if you aren't sure how to exploit it, just develop your pieces and try to control the center.
After your openings, Tactics! Tactics! Tactics! Lichess and ChessTempo will give you tactics based on your level, chess.com will give you mostly tactics at your level, and occasionally something well above you, just to keep you humble.
Why not get them an awesome, unique, hand-crafted in Europe wooden chess set?
Or this amazing House of Staunton Grandmaster set:
And a professional wooden chess timer:
A full 4.4" club sized Jaques reproduction set made from real ebony and boxwood. Weighted and felted, of course.
And a proper maple and walnut board to go with it. Pretty much the crème de la crème of Chess sets.
There's also an option of getting a full solid brass chess set like this:
Books I would say are still essential reading. There is nothing like a book to teach you the thematic moves you should be looking for in each opening after the opening goes off the rails. It's very easy to read books, especially opening books, too much though.
Chess databases have become a tool as a result of the internet and they in themselves cost money and are used to keep up both with the latest opening theory, and also to look at the tournament games your tournament opponents have played to let you prepare for them. Again, you can get carried away with opening theory, especially at lower levels of chess, where openings are rarely the biggest weakness a player has.
Various paid chess training tools have also been developed.
The biggest thing that has made chess cheaper is the availability of extremely strong free chess engines like stockfish. It's able to give you very good analysis of a game you played for free so you can see what moves were good and what moves were bad. Feedback isn't as useful as it would be from another player, but chess engines get the correct moves right more often. There are paid chess engines but the differance in performance is not even close to worth the money when free chess engines can eviscerate the worlds best players and keep them from even holding the game to a draw.
By far the biggest way to piss away money on chess is a Chess Coach though which all the top players use.
I think you're rarely going to find a cheap hobby that you can't make expensive, but chess you can easily play at the club level with $0 spent. You just can't become the best player in the world, to do that you need your parents to hire you a chess coach when you're five and become a prodigy these days.
How intensely do you want to play? The skill difference between any 'competitive' player and your average joe is obviously tremendous. As tethercat said, if you just want to 'learn strategy' over time, you simply need to play a lot of chess.
If you want to really learn chess, you're really in for a hard time. It is a huge disadvantage to not start when you're very young, but never fear! It is possible. The first step (after developing your game though general practice) is to learn proper openings and how to respond to them. Here is a well thought out response about beginner chess openings.
There is an awful lot of memorization when it comes to openings. Openings are also very boring to most people. The fact is, if you respond improperly to an opening or if you transition to the midgame in the wrong way, it can be a game-ending mistake.
You don't need an expensive chess board or expensive pieces. Once you know how to move the pieces, you can keep learning and learning. And also having fun. It's a simple but perfect hobby for everybody.
Actually, because you can play online for free, you don’t even need a chess board.
If you must play against the computer, download Lucas Chess. It has a variety of weaker engines. Against the weakest of them, simply not hanging pieces and taking the pieces that the engine hangs is enough to win.
Lucas Chess also includes collections of tactics and endgame puzzles, and a "guess the move" mode that lets you play along with a grandmaster game and try to find the best move whenever it's the selected grandmaster's turn. It's worth the download just for that last bit.
You should be watching other people play chess as well (good players). You'll pick up habits and learn things that you wouldn't otherwise. Try watching Eric Hansen and John Bartholomew.
Just a note, you will struggle to follow Eric at first. He plays really fast and you won't understand the moves. That's okay. Once you start understanding what's going on, you've already improved.
I started to play 3 years ago and now I play lot of very fast chess. At first it was impossible for me but it gets natural.
In the opening phase, the plan is to develop de pieces.
Then, trying to find a plan depends on the situation ! You can try a mating attack on the opponent king for example.
If you don't know what to do, a good thing is trying to restrict the opponent pieces (move a pawn so the ennemy knight can not jump on your side of the board) or to improve slowly your pieces : find a slightly better square for your pieces, where they have more impact, advance your pawns in the center etc...
On thing useful to know: if you and the opponent have castled on opposite sides of the board, the plan is almost always the pawn storm ! That is, both sides will attack the ennemy king by rushing the pawns, the quickest one will usually deliver mate.
I recommend lichess.org, pretty great website if you want to have fun online.
For a beginner, knowing a few opening principles is more than enough : take the center, develop your minor pieces (bishop and knights), rock to put you king in safety, don't take your queen out too early etc...
You can crush 95% of players without memorizing playbooks.
It's only at very high level that you need to know your theory well. Below that, you will outplay worse oponents and get outplayed by better oponents without theory mattering, all about strategy and tactics.
There are many resources for this, you can google "opening principles" and you will find lots of tutorials.
These numbers represent the time control : first number is the time in minutes you start with, second number is how many additional time you get for each move you play (increment).
Lichess has one of the best interfaces for online chess, in my opinion.
To learn chess quicker, there's nothing else I recommend more than the masterclass by Gary Kasparov.