10 Ways You Look Like A Chess Newbie

So you think you’re a cool chess dude, but is it obvious to everyone else that you’re a chess newbie? Here are 10 pitfalls you need to avoid to help you shed the newbie tag!

1. You don’t know all the rules

Yes, I’m serious. Who taught you to play chess? Your father? A friend? A slightly crazy uncle? The chances are they taught you how the pieces move, how to checkmate, and that was all.  

There are a huge number of newbies who have never heard of the en passant rule, and are blissfully unaware of the finer points of the rules about castling.

Not knowing the rules, and - even worse - criticising others when it’s actually you who is mistaken, is the biggest sign that you’re a newbie.

Visit this link to brush up on the facts!

2. You think all draws are boring

“Boring!”, screams the newbie after a hard-fought game lasting several hours ends in a fair draw.  A draw is a perfectly valid outcome of a chess game, and doesn’t mean that the players weren’t trying. The stronger the players, the more common are draws because those titled folk really know what they’re doing and are hard to beat!

Some games are boring, but judge each one by the quality of the play, not the end result!

3. You’ve never read a chess book

There is a truly enormous wealth of literature about chess, and you’ve never read any of it? There are countless books on chess openings, middlegames, endgames, tactics, strategy, biographies and game collections.

We may be living in an age of online opening databases, and have GM strength chess engines available to buy for under £50, but chess books are important learning materials.  Plus, having a shelf full of chess books is the ultimate in geek interior decor!

Try some of the books recommended here for a start.

4. You don’t play any long time-control games. Ever.

Blitz chess is great fun and very addictive. Rapid chess is cool as well, and allows a bit more time for strategic thinking. But unless you play some chess at standard (long) time controls then you’re never going to deepen your understanding of the game.

As for bullet chess (all moves in 1 minute), it’s the crystal meth of the chess world. Go ahead if you enjoy it, but don’t pretend you’re doing anything other than sharpening your reflexes!  A steady diet of nothing but bullet and blitz chess will make your chess thinking as shallow as a paddling pool.

5. You bad-mouth Grandmasters

“Ha-ha, what a loser!”. “Grandmaster Z is such an idiot!”. “I could beat Grandmaster Y with my eyes closed!”

Becoming a Grandmaster is extraordinarily difficult.  Every player that has earned the right to put the capital letters GM before their name is part of an elite group that 99.99% of us can only dream of belonging to.  

But we’re all human, so when a Grandmaster slips up it shows us how difficult our wonderful game of chess really is. One terrible move doesn’t make a great player a bad one.

If you ever had the good fortune to play a Grandmaster, they could crush you like a bug. Show some respect!

6. You know nothing about chess news or chess history.

Imagine an amateur tennis player who had never heard of Bjorn Borg. What about a local league soccer player who didn’t recognize a picture of Pele?

As an amateur chess player, do you know who these great players are?

Chess has an amazingly rich history, and games from the great matches and tournaments of the past are freely available.  If you can count the names of famous historical chess players you know on the fingers of one hand, and have no idea what is going in the current world of chess, then you are missing out on a massive amount of chess culture and marking yourself out as a newbie.

7. You never resign

Don’t be ridiculous. If you are losing a chess game there comes a point when your position is so hopeless that resigning is a sensible and courteous decision.  Judging when to resign comes with experience, but it’s an essential part of the game.

8. You complain about your opponent not resigning

The opposite of #7, this character takes any opponent’s refusal to resign as an affront to all that is decent and right in the world. If you are easily winning a chess game, then just enjoy yourself! Your opponent is prolonging their own agony and will lose eventually.  Let their refusal to resign be grist to your mill!

9.  You don’t own a chess set

You might play most (and perhaps all) of your chess on the Internet, but real chess is played in the flesh, with a board and pieces. You can see the whites of your opponent’s eyes and sense their excitement or fear as the game unfolds.

Chess sets come in so many shapes and sizes, from inexpensive plastic sets to beautifully carved wooden sets that are passed down through the generations in families.

If you’ve never played on your own chess set, you’ve never played chess!

10. You think anyone who beats you must be a cheat

By far the most popular topic of discussion among newbies is cheating.  Now, there are undeniably some deluded individuals who get their kicks from cheating at online chess by using computer software to help pick their moves. Fortunately, they are in a small minority, so if you lose an online chess game, don’t immediately accuse your opponent just because your ego is hurt. Figure out where you went wrong and come back stronger next time.

So there you have it. 10 things that make it obvious you’re a chess newbie. Of course, you don’t do any of these things, do you?  But I bet you know someone who does...we were all newbies once.


  • 6 years ago


    This article reminds me of a time when I first started on chess.com.  I already knew about castling, en passante, and what all the pieces did but I was even worse than I am now and I hung a pawn on move 5 or 6.  Immediately after I resigned and for some reason didn't lose any rating points.  The guy accused me of hacking and I thought it was hilarious that he would accuse a 1050 rated player of hacking...

  • 6 years ago


    @ oginschile - Thanks. Smile I deliberately didn't include anything about playing strength in my list because that wasn't what I meant by a newbie.

  • 6 years ago


    Nice post!

  • 6 years ago


    Lol, truly a great post SoP. Mind you, I think "newbies" can be forgiven for a lot of those points as well. Chess as a game is different than chess as a culture. I think many of us who truly enjoy it as a game, enjoy it as a culture as well. But there is a difference in the two.

    I've had my butt handed to me by players who didn't know who the current World Champion was. And I have had some chess lessons over the board from people who don't own any chess books either. 

    This happens for two reasons... first.. I'm not that hard to beat Surprised

    Second, cuz some very talented chess players don't give a rats behind about the culture of chess.

    My feeling is it is their loss, but it doesn't make them any more of a newbie over the chess board.

    Having said that, I think you are still right on all points. Especially the complainers. I still remember a newbie complaining that he couldn't make a move that was clearly illegal, and then "claiming" victory cuz there was an obvious bug in the system.  Nothing I could say changed his mind.

  • 6 years ago



    Here is a video on youtube where WGM Anna Zatonskih played 5 simultaneous games blindfolded..



    People who could play like that don't need a chess set Wink

  • 6 years ago


    A wonderful article!! 

  • 6 years ago


    I'm also trying to get past the newbie stage.  For the pictures in #6 I immediately recognized José Raúl Capablanca on the left, but wasn't positive about the gentleman on the right, though I was pretty sure it wasn't Max Euwe.  A quick search showed me it is indeed Mikhail Botvinnik.  I need to work on my history of the game.

  • 6 years ago


    13. You are ashamed of losing to a woman

    Guilty Wink

  • 6 years ago


    11. You think the Queen's Gambit Declined is a terrible opening for black, because the move 2...e6 locks in the black bishop!

  • 6 years ago


    11.You think 1.e4 is better than 1.d4 because 1.e4 opens the diagnoals for the bishop and queen.

    12.You think you are not allowed to not listen to opening suggestions.

  • 6 years ago


    Had to take a quick glance at my bookshelf to check if it's all still there...Laughing

  • 6 years ago


    Btw, who are the guys on the photos? Capa is on the left, but on the right? Max Euwe?

  • 6 years ago


    11. Your openings repertoire consists of a4 and h4.

  • 6 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    Great article. #9 is, unfortunately, typical of many GMs too.

    A few more points that jump to the mind:

    11. You are not sure if humans can beat computers

    12. You think that Kasparov is the world champion

    13. You are ashamed of losing to a woman (or think you can beat any of them)

    14. You expect to become a GM in a few months "because you are smart"

    15. You believe that masters of the XIX century have a chance against modern top players.

  • 6 years ago


    carlsen said he doesn't own a chess set, but other than that great points!

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