The two most heard reasons why people don’t work seriously on improving their chess are “I don’t have the time” and “I don’t have the money”. This means that many people believe that chess improvement is an expensive and time consuming thing. The truth is that this depends on what your goals are. If you want to develop your chess to a professional level you will need much time and money. But if your goal is to achieve a level of a strong club player there is a lot you can do without spending even a penny and investing only 30 minutes a day or even less.
First of all we need to choose training methods that simulate the real thing. When we train chess we should have the same mind setting as when we are playing a tournament game. Two very useful training methods are:
1. The 3-minutes exercise: replay a game that was played by grandmasters trying to guess each next move. Start at a position in the early middlegame and give yourself 3 minutes to think about the next move. Write down on a piece of paper the move that you would play and compare it then with the move that was actually played in the game. It’s important to use those 3 minutes, even if you think the next move is obvious.
Here is an example of the 3-minutes exercise: Youtube 3-minutes exercise.
2. The 20-minutes exercise: choose a complicated position from a grandmaster game. Set the timer on 20 minutes and thing about all the possible plans and variations in the position. Make notes about all your thoughts and ideas. After 20 minutes replay the next moves that were actually played in the game. Did you find the right plan and variations?
Here is an example of the 20-minutes exercise: Youtube 20-minutes exercise.
Don’t be disappointed if your score in this exercises is low. Remember you are training and learning. If you use this way of training consistently I promise you that you will improve your chess.
About tactics I can tell you that it’s far more useful to solve two difficult problems than ten easy ones. Challenge yourself! There are many websites were you can exercise your tactics. Like Chesstempo and Chessity.
Well, I hope that this guidelines make sense for you and that you’ll start making real progress soon.