Learn How to Play Chess Online: Free Chess Lessons for Beginners, Intermediate Players & Beyond

The most desired Christ­mas gift of 2020? A chess set. It’s cer­tain­ly desired, at any rate, by the rapt view­ers of The Queen’s Gam­bit, the acclaimed Net­flix minis­eries that debuted in Octo­ber. Cre­at­ed by screen­writer-pro­duc­ers Scott Frank and Allan Scott, its sev­en episodes tell the sto­ry of Beth Har­mon, an orphan in 1950s Ken­tucky who turns out to be a chess prodi­gy, then goes on to become a world-class play­er. Dur­ing the Cold War, the intel­lec­tu­al and geopo­lit­i­cal prospect of Amer­i­can and Sovi­et mas­ters going head to head stoked pub­lic inter­est in chess; over the past month, the sur­prise suc­cess of The Queen’s Gam­bit has had a sim­i­lar effect.

Whether or not you feel a sense of kin­ship with the series’ unre­lent­ing­ly chess-obsessed young pro­tag­o­nist, you may well feel an urge to learn, or re-learn, to play the game. If so, all the resources you need are online, and today we’ve round­ed them up for you.

To get start­ed, Chess.com has pro­duced “Every­thing You Need to Know About Chess,” a series of Youtube videos “designed to give every aspir­ing chess play­er the ‘one chess les­son of their life’ if they were only to get one.” Watch them, or explore these web-based tuto­ri­als. And even if you don’t have a chess set of your own, you can get start­ed play­ing imme­di­ate­ly there­after: cre­ate an account at Chess.com and you can play against the com­put­er or real play­ers around the world matched to your skill lev­el, all for free.

To shore up your knowl­edge of the game’s fun­da­men­tals, watch this five-video series by instruc­tor John Bartholomew on top­ics like unde­fend­ed pieces, coor­di­na­tion, and typ­i­cal mis­takes. The Chess Web­site’s Youtube chan­nel cov­ers even more, and its basics playlist teach­es every­thing from open­ing prin­ci­ples to the nature of indi­vid­ual pieces, pawn, rook, knight, and beyond.

But nobody with a taste for chess can stop at the basics, and the sup­ply of instruc­tion has grown to meet the demand. The St. Louis Chess Club offers a series of lec­tures from nation­al mas­ters and grand­mas­ters geared toward begin­ning, inter­me­di­ate, and advanced play­ers.

At Chess School, you’ll find videos on“the great­est chess games ever played, the immor­tal chess games, the best games from the lat­est tour­na­ments, world cham­pi­on’s games, instruc­tive chess games, famous play­ers games and much more.” Among seri­ous play­ers you’ll find many fans of Agad­ma­tor, whose exten­sive playlists exam­ine cur­rent mas­ters like Mag­nus Carlsen, past mas­ters like Gar­ry Kas­parov, and exam­ples of tech­niques like the Eng­lish Open­ing and the Sicil­ian Defense, the lat­er of which enjoyed quite a moment in the era of The Queen’s Gam­bit.  The series has hard­ly gone unno­ticed in the chess world: on chan­nels like Chess Net­work, you’ll even find videos about the strate­gies employed by Beth Har­mon, whose style has been pro­grammed into chess-play­ing AI “bots.” They also have a “Begin­ner to Chess Mas­ter” playlist that will con­tin­u­al­ly build your under­stand­ing of the game in a step by step man­ner.

The char­ac­ter’s per­son­al­i­ty, how­ev­er, remains a cre­ation of Wal­ter Tevis, author of the epony­mous nov­el The Queen’s Gam­bit. Tevis’ oth­er works famous­ly brought to the screen include The Hus­tler and The Man Who Fell to Earth: works of lit­er­a­ture con­cerned, respec­tive­ly, with mas­tery of a decep­tive­ly com­plex game and the con­di­tion of the social out­sider. These themes come togeth­er in The Queen’s Gam­bit, whose author also described it as “a trib­ute to brainy women.” Per­haps you plan to give such a per­son in your life a chess set this year. If so, you know which book to wrap up with it — apart, of course, from  Ward Farnsworth’s 700-page Preda­tor at The Chess­board: A Field Guide To Chess Tac­tics. Or Bob­by Fis­ch­er Teach­es Chess. If you have oth­er favorite resources, please feel free to add them to the list below…

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Free 700-Page Chess Man­u­al Explains 1,000 Chess Tac­tics in Straight­for­ward Eng­lish

A Beau­ti­ful Short Doc­u­men­tary Takes You Inside New York City’s Last Great Chess Store

A Brief His­to­ry of Chess: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to the 1,500-Year-Old Game

Vladimir Nabokov’s Hand-Drawn Sketch­es of Mind-Bend­ing Chess Prob­lems

The Mag­ic of Chess: Kids Share Their Unin­hib­it­ed, Philo­soph­i­cal Insights about the Ben­e­fits of Chess

Gar­ry Kas­parov Now Teach­ing an Online Course on Chess

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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