I’ve learned a lot playing on Chess Hotel. What I’ve learned is that most players on the site that are rated 1100-1400 are making the same mistakes. They are all
a) Neglecting development. One recent game saw an opponent set up P’s on c3, d4 and e3 and this was coupled with the problem in “b.”
b) Playing a3 (a6) and h3 (h6) early. Apparently they are in mortal fear of pins so avoid them at the expense of development. Apparently they do not realize that B’s have other good squares in the opening besides inflicting pins on enemy N’s.
3) As mentioned in a previous post, sacrificing a piece on f2 (f7) without any justification.
In the game mentioned, while my opponent was playing d4, c3, e3, a3 and h3 plus putting a couple pieces on passive squares I had managed to complete development except for castling and connecting R’s. In the process he had also abandoned any semblance of influence on the center by playing d4xc4. The result was crushing defeat for him.
Players are often encouraged to not study openings at all or go to the opposite extreme and study an opening (usually an inferior one) until they know it like the back of their hand. In the latter case they are told that’s a way to win more games. Once out of their book knowledge everybody plays to their rating though.
Then there is the advice to study tactics until they puke. And that’s pretty much all they know. Whatever happened to authors who try to teach player how to play chess with understanding? In the past authors attempted to introduce beginners to openings, strategy, tactics and endings.
Jeremy Silman said, speaking of the players he writes for, “These people need something to grasp onto. This isn’t about tactics or openings – you can get that in other books. This is about how to get a grip on a position and how to understand what’s going on.” Silman complains that grandmasters will say to him, “No grandmaster thinks like that!” Silman answers, “In one way, he’s right. No grandmaster does think like that. And in another way, he’s wrong. They all think like that, but they do it subconsciously and instantaneously. But weaker players can’t do that, they need to learn to walk. Eventually, when they master this, it becomes subconscious for them too. That’s what the book is all about.”
As for those tactical server sites that are so in vogue today, read what FM Jon Jacobs had to say: "I'm also skeptical of all the adulation that guys your strength - those who blog, at least - seem to lavish on those automated tactics training programs. Of course tactical prowess is vital; but it could well be that people absorb tactical themes more efficiently by going over entire games in depth (especiallly, YOUR OWN games) - as opposed to analyzing isolated positions, which is what the tactics servers do. And of course, if you're focusing on speed - trying to solve X problems in Y minutes, rather than delving as deep as you can into each one until you either solve it or run out of ideas - then obviously you'll learn nothing, it's simply an aimless amusement.”
An interesting discussion of move selection can be found HERE
This site also has some discussion of tactics and improvement an includes some comments by IM Greg Shahade and Jon Jacobs:
US Senior Master Mark Buckley said it was his goal to become an all around master. In order to do that he had to study everything that he didn’t understand. It’s my contention that this advice applies to all players at all levels but unfortunately it’s advice that today’s authors don’t seem to dispense.