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10 Reasons Adult Chess Players Fail to Improve


Many players are asking me the same question, is it possible to chess openings for adult chess improvers in their 30s, 40s or 50s? Is it possible to begin playing at the age of 30 or 40 and progress to a FIDE master’s level? What are the biggest roadblocks that prohibit the majority of adult chess players from progressing and achieving their objectives? Let’s look at it more closely.

1. Insufficient motivation
Surprisingly, lack of motivation is the most significant stumbling block in both chess and life. Many older players are just unmotivated to improve their chess skills. They want to enhance their game, but not to the point where they are willing to give up anything valuable in the process.

How many adults are willing to forego watching TV, reading the newspaper, socializing, or playing chess in favor of chess? They’ve spent years cultivating the habit of watching that TV show at 7 p.m. every day. Many people, believe it or not, are unable to overcome that habit easily or at all.

The only way to break an old habit is to replace it with a new one, for as studying chess for 1 hour three weeks in a row at 7 p.m. (or any other time). The ability to commit is essential for success.

2. Memory Issues
Memory isn’t as important in amateur chess as it is in professional chess, but it can be a problem if you want to advance. Many individuals have memory problems, making it difficult to recall crucial information for chess success.

Good memorization skills are required for opening preparation, typical endgame positions, and even pattern identification.

Many folks are unable to recall key phone numbers or their own vehicle’s license plate. How are they supposed to recall the game between Anand and Kramnik in 2007 or how to draw a certain rook and pawn endgame? To get the master’s title, you don’t need a photographic memory like Carlsen’s, although it never hurts to work on it.

3. Incapacity to compute variations
Another major issue that many adult chess players are dealing with is this. They don’t seem to be able to visualize the situation well enough to see what will happen more than three moves ahead.

What is the best way to improve your ability to calculate chess variations? Some of the most typical strategies in calculation training include solving chess tactics without moving pieces on the board, practicing discovering candidate moves, calculating a line as far as feasible, and evaluating the end position.

Playing blindfold chess versus a very weak opponent is another method you might try. Rather than looking for methods, the purpose of this exercise is to teach visualization and position memorizing.

4. The lack of a study strategy
The majority of adult chess players have an abundance of training materials. Frequently, these resources are not what people need to study to advance their chess skills. These training resources are similar to puzzle pieces. To progress in chess, you must put these pieces together into a comprehensive picture, or rather a thorough training plan. When you have too many options, it can be difficult to make a selection.

Let me give you an illustration. Consider this: You’ve just signed up for a gym membership, but you’re not sure what to do there. You have no idea what exercises work which muscle areas, how to use the gym equipment, how often to exercise, what to eat, or how much sleep you should have. Sure, you can go to the gym once in a while, lift some weights, and get some exercise.

The question is if such exercise will result in general well-developed muscles and a good body. Obviously not. If you know what to read and who to ask, it will take you a few years and a number of injuries to learn these things on your own.

Would you rather try to figure things out on your own or follow a day-by-day training program that tells you exactly what muscle group to work, how to work it, what weights to use, what to eat, and how much sleep to get?

I’m sure you’ll agree that the outcome will be completely different in this scenario.

Chess is the same way. You can work on your own by reading something, studying some games, working out some openings, and thinking out some tactics. However, it is a long road to travel, and most adult players are just not prepared to do so.

5. Instability in the mind
Many adult players suffer from psychological instabilities, which can jeopardize their chances of winning. How many times have you seen a player say something like, “I’m playing against someone 400 points higher, there’s no way I’m going to win this round,” after looking at the pairings table?

Of course, you’re not going to win. Even before the game begins, you have already programmed yourself to believe that your opponent is superior and that you will lose due to the rating disparity.

I always advise guys like that not to pay too much attention to the ratings. It might not be simple at first, but you must have the confidence to play against anyone without fear of losing.

6. Insufficient chess stamina

Chess stamina is a problem for many adult chess players. That is, they can pay complete attention to what is going on in the game for the first couple of hours, but as the game progresses, their attention becomes skewed and they begin to lose focus. For a chess player, this is an extremely risky situation. Imagine you’ve been giving it your all for two or three hours and then you make a mistake and lose the game.

Even in the example of 44-year-old Vishy Anand, who attempted to reclaim the World Championship title from Magnus Carlsen, we can see that the majority of his game-losing errors occurred late in the game.

What can you do to boost your chess endurance? Playing at a high level necessitates a high level of physical fitness. You can keep both your mind and body in top shape by remaining fit and playing sports on a regular basis in addition to chess instruction.

7. “Fear of Ghosts” is number seven.

Some chess players, particularly adults, suffer from a condition known as “ghost terror.” These players are so frightened of making a mistake that they are more concerned with how not to make one than with fully concentrating on the game. This behavior puts them under a lot of stress, raises their stress level, and lowers their stamina.

You must boost your self-confidence in order to combat this issue. The only way to achieve this is to improve your chess skills and win more games.

8. Incapacity to compete
Surprisingly, a lack of competitiveness is one of the reasons why mature chess players struggle to improve their skills. They believe that chess is “simply a game” and that “winning isn’t so essential,” unlike younger players.

It’s difficult to perform at your best and have the motivation and drive to work hard and win games when you have this mentality.

9. Inability to deal with stress
Surprisingly, many adult chess players struggle under pressure in the same way that their younger counterparts do. When they are attacked, they lose focus and rapidly disintegrate. Adult chess players must pay special attention to this issue in order to succeed.

Playing high-pressure positions in practice games, such as when you’re a piece down or under serious attack, can help solve this difficulty. You will be able to survive in real life if you can survive in practice games.

10. Alternatives for Time Management
In truth, many senior chess players can improve at the same rate as younger players. To accomplish so, an adult player must commit to chess by working continuously, participating in tournaments, and playing practice games, among other things.

An adult player must devote 4-5 hours per day to chess in order to make significant development, such as becoming at least an international master, which is extremely difficult for many people who have a day job, family, friends, and other obligations. Only if you want to be a professional chess player should you do so.

There is no need to give up a lot of things you enjoy in life if you are only aiming for a class A (candidate-master) or master’s level. Most adult players may reach 1200 elo in 2-3 to maximum 4 years of regular chess practice, following sound advice, and participating in tournament chess.