Finding your chess motivation

Chess motivation is different for everyone.  Here are some tips.

Most players agree that to improve at chess it takes a combination of playing and study. Both are needed to harness your chess motivation but players often prefer one over the other. Some players (myself included) really enjoy reading chess books and playing over grandmaster games. Others, find that about as exciting as watching paint dry – they prefer playing.

Practice makes perfect and is the best way to improve but study can help you avoid road blocks before you ever encounter them. For example, understanding rook and pawn endings will save you time if you are presented with that ending in one of your games. Whichever camp you are in, finding your chess motivation to play and study is important to make you a well rounded player.


People play chess because they like to compete and improve their play. For me, it really doesn’t matter who I play, so long as I feel that I am learning something. Finding motivation to play blitz chess isn’t too hard. You can logon to a dozen chess Internet sites and get paired with an opponent right away. Blitz is fun and exciting but most people would agree it won’t increase your playing strength the same way classical chess does though. So, how do you sacrifice your chess motivation (not to mention adrenaline rush) of a fast paced game with the intellectual benefits of a slow game? For me, it’s simulating a tournament.

Play-by-email chess

Keeping your mind sharp is important. If you don’t have the time for blitz and slow time controls are not for you, enroll in’s play-by-email tournament.  Playing multiple games at a time with 3-days-per-move time control is a good way to expand your board vision and help your calculating skills. You need only spend a few minutes calculating your move. Once you submit it you can have another few days before your next move is required. This is a casual way of playing quality chess without spending large chunks of time in front of a physical (or virtual) chessboard.


Part of my commitment to chess motivation is finding an hour each day to study. It doesn’t have to be all at one time though. I often use 15 minute blocks here and there. Below are some elements that make up my study program. I like to mix things up but tactics and endgame training happen every day!

  • Tactics.  The most important skill to keep sharp.  LiChess (10-20 problems)
  • Endgame training.  Read endgame books. Practice knight vs bishop endings on Lichess.
  • Game collection study. Play over a game from a world class player: Alekhine, Capablanca, Kramnik, Anand, Karpov, Kasparov etc.  Top players suggest playing over a game 3 times.  The first time is to understand the general strategies of each player.  The second review is to play through the annotations thoroughly.  The third is to come up with your own ideas and test them against an engine to see why they do or do not work.
  • Openings. I list this last but I spend some time trying to understand opening ideas that I might have missed during my playing sessions.

Some players find it difficult to study chess. A friend of mine describes chess study as the equivalent to “prison reading” — something they might do if they were serving a life sentence. I get it. Part of the thrill of chess is the competition. You want to beat another player and you want to see if the time you invest in chess is improving your results. Looking over the games from grandmaster tournaments might improve your understanding of chess but it is a completely different mind set.

Fortunately for us, the Internet has made chess study much easier. Playing over well annotated games of the masters is considered the best way to develop your playing style but there are other options too. One of them is YouTube. Many grandmasters stream their online play on gaming services like Twitch and archive their sessions onto YouTube. If you lack the motivation to crack open a chess book, try some of these YouTube Channels. They are certain to boost your chess motivation.

My Favorite YouTube Channels

GM Hikaru Nakamura – there aren’t too many 2800’s who share their strategies while they’re playing. He is one of them. Check out his speed run series to see how he cuts through the competition on his way to 3000 ELO. He’s great at using visual arrows to show his audience what he’s planning and the ideas behind his opening choices.

Agadmator. While not a GM, agadmator spends time going through classic chess matches. Here, he is presenting the World Chess Championship Match of 1960 (Tal vs. Botvinnik). If you prefer visual learning to reading a book, this channel is for you. This is the world’s largest chess playing site. There are lots of quality videos on their YouTube page ranging from live chess tournaments to post game analysis.


To get better at chess you need to play and study. Fortunately for us, we have a wide range of options available to us. Chess software can be customized to play you at your own level. Online chess provides ways for you to play others and learn visually without ever touching a chess book.

I hope these ideas stimulate your chess motivation!

How do you handle your chess motivation? Please share with us in the comments section below.

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