How to Play Chess: Lessons from an International Master

Rated 5 out of 5 by from A perfect pandemic course Although i have played chess for fun all my life, and read several books on openings, I never had a comprehensive chess study until now. Being cooped up with the pandemic seemed like a perfect time to get more involved in a game I have always loved . Enter Jeremy Silman. Mr Silman's lectures were outstanding! He is easy to listen to; his graphics are easy to follow; and his down to earth descriptions make this a fun course to listen to. I never felt I was being talked down to, and his lessons were always filled with encouragement for the average player. I learned a great deal of down to earth information in each lesson, and felt a great source of confidence when done. I know Mr Silman is an expert and Master, but he never came across as pompous or know it all. I especially liked the openings of each lecture with the bottle of alcohol in the table. It says to me this is a guy I can have a drink with and learn something from. I still go back to various lessons frequently for further study. Thank you Great Courses!
Date published: 2021-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course I enjoyed this course very much. I have been playing chess for years. I would say that half of the material was new to me.
Date published: 2021-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A lesson in life This course was a lesson in life, not just chess. The host was engaging and the material fascinating. Before taking this course, I considered chess to be a game requiring considerable skill, but just a game. I now know it is so much more. A brilliant course in all aspects. Thank you, Mr Silman
Date published: 2021-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved It! I bought this even though there were some negative reviews but they were wrong and it was EXCELLENT!. I'd sign up again in a heartbeat. The instructor understands amateurs and gave me all kinds of techniques to improve. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2021-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable course I am a good standard Chess player so I skipped the first few lectures, but I am really enjoying the rest which are well presented.
Date published: 2021-01-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Getting a system error Trying to order. I’m prompted to add my email in return for a free shipping but keep getting a system error.
Date published: 2021-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting, and informative. Brings both the lessons of a good game of chess along with some history of the game. I found it easy to listen to. The ideas presented are easy to understand and are clearly explained. The literature provided electronically is good reference material.
Date published: 2020-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great introduction for beginners! My teenage boys are quickly picking up the game of chess. I never learned how to play, but want to turn this into something we can enjoy as a family. This was a perfect introduction for me. The video and explanations are very effective and I was quickly playing at an adequate level to jump into a game with my sons. Thank you!
Date published: 2020-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course This is the best course ever. I recommended it to anyone who likes chees
Date published: 2020-12-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Good content, except the professor blasphemes The content of the lectures is very good, with one very sad exception. The professor takes God's holy name in vain several times. This contributes absolutely nothing to how to play chess. If the Great Courses would not allow a professor to call someone of African heritage the n-word in the class, it should also not allow God's name to be taken in vain, offending both the Deity and many people, like me, who otherwise would recommend this course but had to return it.
Date published: 2020-12-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well done! Only just begun but pleased so far. I haven’t played chess for probably 50+ years. Learned more in the first few lectures then I ever expected. Lecturer is very good and knowledgeable, plus the accompanying guidebook is great. Very comprehensive.
Date published: 2020-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How to Play Chess Very well thought out presentation. Video is excellent. The attached book compliments the video. Both present examples and puzzles, which if followed will and has improved my game.
Date published: 2020-10-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Always more to be learned I've played chess poorly all my life. I'm seventy. The course is teaching me a lot and I'm looking at the game in a new light. I hope to consistently beat a bot one day.
Date published: 2020-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is a very thorough introduction to the game of chess. He is an excelllent teacher.
Date published: 2020-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Got the course about a month ago, and am about two-thirds of the way through. I've been playing for many years, but this course gives me a whole different perspective on how to approach the game!
Date published: 2020-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent.. Highly recommended.. This course should for everyone who wants more than learning the basic movements...The instructor is well known and knowledgeable on this topic....It is a must for beginners and serious players...Buy or enrolled on line...You will not be disappointed !!
Date published: 2020-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent presenter - excellent course I thoroughly enjoyed Mr Silman's style and insights. I have played the game casually on and off for many years. This course has renewed my interest in the game and has improved my play significantly. I would recommend this course to anyone interested in this great game, at any current level of proficiency. I have taken many Great Courses and this was the best for my needs. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2020-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect Course Haven't finished it yet, but it so far has exceeded my expectations.
Date published: 2020-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Enduring Resource I bought this course many years ago and, since then, I've read a lot of books on chess, but this still stands out as one of the best resources. A lot of chess masters have forgotten how to speak beginner/neophyte and are unreadable. Other books are full of errors and bad tactics (i.e. Cory Klein's stuff). But Jeremy Silman's course taught me a lot as a beginner and I still review sections. Nothing but praise for this course. It earns 5 stars
Date published: 2020-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The excitement of chess The professor has a deep knowledge of chess. It gets complex rather quickly, but he does keep reviewing things. It isn't for the absolute beginner.
Date published: 2020-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Next best to F2F Instruction Of the many ways to learn chess, the Great Courses' Jeremy Silman's course is the next best thing to being in the same room with him, during the COVID-19 pandemic isolation. Online one can read four great KindleUnlimited books from a computer programmer/chess aficionado for an initial entree, or even take a Master Class from Garry Kasparov. However, Mr. Silman is very personable and has just the right amount of expertise to motivate one to think that there may be hope, if one works hard (and if the creek don't rise).
Date published: 2020-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very understandable I knew only the basics of how to play chess and hadn’t played in decades. So far I’ve only seen the first four episodes of the 24. It proceeds at a pace and with the information that’s perfect for me, and everything is very clear. The graphics of the chess board with the moving of the pieces is very helpful. Hopefully I’ll continue to understand everything well as the lessons become more complicated.
Date published: 2020-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Solid quality It’s rare to find a product that mirrors the hype, but this one does. Professionally presented in a manner that any serious student of the game will refer to, time and time again.
Date published: 2020-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from No one will ever kick sand in my face! Other kids used to beat me in two moves. What were they doing that I wasn't? This course is the answer. Instead of thinking the objective was to put the other's king in check as often as possible, this course teaches strategy. Strategy will make you a strong player. Strategy will open up the game for the real fun. What's the real fun? Learning how to think. What I have learned in this course I can carry over into other areas where depth of thought is needed such as in my writing. But the course applies to most atreas of life. So buy this course. It is the best college preparatory course I have ever seen.
Date published: 2020-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The class I've been searching for--forever! I'm an Intermediate player that knows how to play and has studied books and videos on and off for years. Recently, I purchased Kasparov's class from MasterClass and it cannot touch Silman's curriculum and teaching. Silman has a gift for explaining real insight into HOW good chess players think. He has already answered the big questions I've always had about calculations and patterns. I should have known because his endgame book is written so well--it is my favorite chess book. I am barely a third of the way through the class and I don't want it to end. I could not be more pleased with this class and it has really given me the expectation that I can play at the 1800 level. The 'chess club' set from which the lectures are performed is a really interesting and appropriate backdrop. Complete satisfaction!
Date published: 2020-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Chesd Very informative for beginners and advanced player.
Date published: 2020-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Master Chess Everyone who loves chess will likely love this course. The first two lectures have the obligatory introduction to the basic gameplay and the general parameters of chess. Good for novices and a refresher to more experienced players. The next two lectures will move intermediate players right along into familiar territory, but after that everyone will realize the material is pushing boundaries that you really should have thought more deeply about or just never knew in the first place. This was, for me, a highly enjoyable course. It was well organized, interlaced with historical anecdotes that illustrated the subject at hand, and remained entertaining while being instructive. I learned a lot of chess history I'd never have bothered with before. I also found myself drawn along, compelled to watch just one more lecture. It really was a lot of fun to learn new things about chess and seemingly without great effort. Before I took this course I would have thought myself expert at chess. I'll have to admit that this course has shown me the error of my ways. But I now have new tools at hand and plan on becoming an emerging threat to old adversaries. I blame this sudden surge of hubris on the lecture on Short, Brutal Games. Possibly, the simple expository lectures on opposition, triangulation, and end-games will lead to an untimely death by embarrassment.
Date published: 2020-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Explanations Unlike other sources, these lessons give situations AND WHY there are advantages to specific situations. The insight into chess strategy is wonderful
Date published: 2020-04-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very complete. Started with a thorough explanation of chess rules at the hobbyist level. Explains tactics, game plans, attacks, defense and strategy. Stresses recognizing patterns not rote memorization of complex openings. V. Little on tournament play, use of chess clocks, etc. But you can pick up this info later after you've mastered these skills.
Date published: 2020-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great presentation True insight into the world of chess. I am not a novice and this is an outstanding refresher with outstanding detail and strategy. Shows HOW to play.
Date published: 2020-02-19
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How to Play Chess: Lessons from an International Master
Course Trailer
The World of Chess
1: The World of Chess

Crossing lines of social class, language barriers, and national boundaries, played in family living rooms and local chess parlors and online games around the world, chess is a truly universal pastime. Discover the basics of the game and how it began; what each piece is worth and how it moves; and the mathematical notation that allows players to record games, learn from mistakes, and improve....

34 min
Secrets of the Pawns and Knights
2: Secrets of the Pawns and Knights

Although humble, pawns are the most complex pieces on the chessboard. Meanwhile, the leaping knights are perhaps the strangest pieces. Learn how these two pieces move and what strategies to employ with them to control the board. Look at a few situations that test what you've learned....

32 min
Castling, Checkmate, Chess Engines, Draws
3: Castling, Checkmate, Chess Engines, Draws

Complete your review of the basics of chess-including how to castle, the difference between checkmate and stalemate, and the etiquette of play. Then shift your attention to some astonishing aspects of the game and find out about simultaneous exhibitions, blindfolded play, and chess computers....

37 min
Must-Know Tactical Patterns in Chess
4: Must-Know Tactical Patterns in Chess

Build your arsenal of tactical skills by looking for winning patterns on the board. After covering three go-to punches-pins, skewers, and forks-Mr. Silman turns to decoys, double attacks, discovered attacks, and more. Armed with these patterns of play, you now have a major tactical advantage....

27 min
Chess Combinations and Kings in Check
5: Chess Combinations and Kings in Check

Continue your study of patterns-this time with combination moves that require crafty calculations. Whether you're wondering when (and why) to sacrifice a piece, or you're looking to trap kings in tight corners, or you simply want to unleash a torrent of carnage on the board, the tactics from this lesson will help you become a more formidable player....

34 min
Checkmate! Back-Rank, Smothered, and More
6: Checkmate! Back-Rank, Smothered, and More

Delve into the world of "piece collaboration" -using two or more pieces to win a checkmate. Mr. Silman shows you a number of classic mates that have delighted fans for generations. Not only are these mating patterns flashy and exciting, they will also give you a far deeper understanding of the game as a whole....

30 min
Checkmate against a Castled King
7: Checkmate against a Castled King

Castling is an excellent strategy, but a castled king is not invincible. Explore some of the patterns that can be used to checkmate a castled king-particularly using square h7. Look at when to sacrifice a bishop, how to use your queen to go on the hunt, and how pieces must work in partnership for success....

31 min
Legendary Attacking Greats of Chess
8: Legendary Attacking Greats of Chess

Famous chess players are some of the most fascinating figures in history. Enrich your understanding of tactics by learning about four of the most famous attacking players who ever lived: Paul Morphy, Alexander Alekhine, Mikhail Tal and Garry Kasparov. Examine several of their games to get a feel for their playing style....

32 min
A Cascade of Short, Brutal Chess Games!
9: A Cascade of Short, Brutal Chess Games!

Errors are common among players at all levels. We fall into traps, walk headfirst into an opponent's tactic, or simply miss a good move or hidden vulnerability. Review several ways a game can go wrong, from the quick "fool's mate" to many of the short, brutal takedowns from famous matches....

34 min
Chess Heroes of the Romantic Age
10: Chess Heroes of the Romantic Age

Step back to an era of gaslights and chess cafes in old Europe. The "romantic era of chess" of the 18th and 19th century was filled with raucous characters who employed swashbuckling tactics to please a crowd. Meet three famous players-Joseph Henry Blackburne, Adolph Anderssen, and Baron Ignatz von Kolisch-and learn what made their games so memorable....

35 min
Open Files and the Positional Rook
11: Open Files and the Positional Rook

Almost everyone enjoys tactics, but tactics are not the most important element of the game. Begin the first of several lessons on positional play and chess strategy, starting with the rooks. Learn why and how to create an open file and employ your rooks to best advantage. See examples of these mighty pieces at work....

26 min
Pawns: The Positional Soul of Chess
12: Pawns: The Positional Soul of Chess

In this lesson, you'll find out why "pawns are the soul of chess." Train your eye to see the pawn structures of a game and their strategic implications. After honing your ability to read a position and see patterns, study a few strategies for making the most out of the pawns-including pawn chains, the passed pawn, the Grünfeld Defense center, and more....

31 min
Positional Weaknesses and Targets in Chess
13: Positional Weaknesses and Targets in Chess

Continue your study of pawn movements by examining a number of potential weaknesses. Mr. Silman helps you notice and make use of vulnerabilities such as isolated pawns and doubled pawns. By sharpening your powers of observation, your chess game will take a giant leap forward....

32 min
Closed and Open Positions on the Chessboard
14: Closed and Open Positions on the Chessboard

It's always important to develop your pieces as quickly as possible, but once developed, open and closed board positions require very different strategic approaches. Study these differences and find out how to use your knights, bishops, or rooks for greatest success-and how best to get those pieces into play....

31 min
Chess Statics vs. Dynamics: An Eternal Battle
15: Chess Statics vs. Dynamics: An Eternal Battle

Much of chess boils down to the tension between static play versus dynamic play. Static play encompasses the long game and positional advantage, while dynamic play is all about tactics and aggressive attacks. Find out when to rely on each approach....

35 min
Using Chessboard Imbalances to Create Plans
16: Using Chessboard Imbalances to Create Plans

In this lesson, you'll begin putting all the pieces together from previous lessons. Learn to read the board for imbalances, and then discover how to put those imbalances to work. A wealth of examples teaches you to understand "the body language of the board"-a skill that separates successful players from their defeated opponents....

27 min
Legendary Teachers Who Transformed Chess
17: Legendary Teachers Who Transformed Chess

Meet several key players who advanced the game from the Romantic to the Modern era. In addition to learning about the personalities of players such as Andre Philidor, Wilhelm Steinitz, Siegbert Tarrasch, and Aron Nimzowitsch, you'll study some of their most interesting games to get a feel for how chess became much deeper than before....

35 min
Chess Endgames and the King's Magical Powers
18: Chess Endgames and the King's Magical Powers

While you must have tactical and positional skills to be a formidable chess player, learning the strategy behind a successful endgame is crucial to bringing your understanding of chess to the next level. This first of three lessons on oft-neglected endgame strategy introduces you to the powers of the king. Mr. Silman shows you how the kings can take over the chessboard....

31 min
Kings and Pawns in Next-Level Endgames
19: Kings and Pawns in Next-Level Endgames

Continue your study of endgames, especially those involving the king and one or more pawns. Here you'll find out how to avoid-or create-stalemates and draws, as well as the critical techniques for getting pawns to the end of the board-or blocking those dangerous pawn advances....

26 min
Triangulation and Two Critical Rook Endgames
20: Triangulation and Two Critical Rook Endgames

Round out your study of endgames with an examination of triangulation, a key tactic for gaining control (called "the opposition") in a king-versus-king standoff. Then turn to two common rook endgames: the Lucena Position and the Philidor Position. Mr. Silman offers several general rules for handling these situations....

31 min
Chess Openings: The Right and Wrong Way
21: Chess Openings: The Right and Wrong Way

Many people believe openings are the most important part of the game, but as you'll learn in this lesson, this belief is wrong on many levels. Here, you'll encounter a few simple strategies for developing your pieces and getting to the middle of the game. Learn Mr. Silman's recommended opening repertoire so you can successfully get through the opening with minimum memorization....

31 min
Chess Psychology and the Known Unknown
22: Chess Psychology and the Known Unknown

Chess is riddled with psychological traps-particularly if you find yourself playing a daunting opponent. Mr. Silman offers insight into several of these traps and helps you maintain your confidence, whether you're playing a peer on your level or one of the most sophisticated computers on the planet....

30 min
The Chess Amateur's Mind
23: The Chess Amateur's Mind

See how amateur chess players tend to approach the game-giving away pieces and neglecting to defend against enemy attacks. By studying several common amateur mistakes, you'll strengthen your own chess skills and get into the mindset of thinking through your opponent's best reply to every move....

27 min
Picking a Chess Hero
24: Picking a Chess Hero

As you've seen throughout the course, the chess greats all have a unique approach to the game, often rooted in how they understand other players. Round out the course by studying four final champions-Jose Raúl Capablanca, Vera Menchik, Bobby Fischer, and Hou Yifan-to analyze their style of play and enjoy the benefits of thinking about your own favorite chess hero....

38 min
Jeremy Silman

On the surface, a chess piece might seem to be a simple piece of wood or plastic with easily grasped movements. However, under the surface of each piece's facade is more than a thousand years of history, evolution, and specific strategies.

About Jeremy Silman

Jeremy Silman is an International Master and a world-class chess teacher, writer, and player who has won the U.S. Open (1981), the National Open (1990), and the American Open (1992). Considered by many to be the game's preeminent instructive writer, Mr. Silman is the author or coauthor of 39 books, including How to Reassess Your Chess: Chess Mastery through Chess Imbalances (winner of the Guardian Chess Book of the Year award), Silman's Complete Endgame Course: From Beginner to Master (winner of the Book of the Year award), and Pal Benko: My Life, Games and Compositions (the only chess book to have won all three of the major chess book awards). He also has served as a chess consultant for television shows (Monk, Malcolm in the Middle, Criminal Minds, and HBO's Arliss) and movies (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Pawn Sacrifice). Other writings include content for websites; a screenplay that was optioned by LMK Productions; a novel entitled Autobiography of a Goat; and hundreds of articles for a variety of chess magazines, including Chess Life, the Dutch magazine New in Chess, the British Chess Magazine, Chess Chow, and many more. Mr. Silman also has lectured and given simultaneous exhibitions in Tokyo, Japan. His chess career has taken him to all of western and eastern Europe, Brazil, Argentina, India, China, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand, and all over the United States (including Alaska), Canada, and Mexico. Mr. Silman's chess website ( offers reviews that take an honest look at many of the significant chess books from the past and bring much-needed guidance to the avalanche of new books coming out every month.

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