Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rant - No Hope for Adults to Improve Their Chess Rating?

Abandon hope! That's seems to be the general message from the August 2007 Chess Life's Chess Coach Symposium article when the following question was put to the experts: "If an adult has been the same rating for many years, does she/he have any hope of improving?"

Here are the answers supplied by the chess coaches:

  • IM Greg Shahade says "'s a large, large mountain to climb. You have to be happy after you gain 20 points; it’s a miracle if you get 50. You have to refocus your attitude towards being completely, completely obsessed by the game. Of course, you can also get a little worse, if you get too old. Like Korchnoi."

  • FM Craig Jones says "As we age, we lose the ability to change. And, if you think about it, the only way to improve is to change."

  • FM Aviv Friedman "It’s very hard. I can’t think of anyone who has. "

  • GM Miron Sher says "From age 25-40, there are many possibilities for improvement. After age fifty, it’s good if you can stay the same rating."
Thoughts, anyone?


Anonymous said...

All the more reason to work hard at this. I hope to prove them wrong.

Sciurus said...

I guess pretty much every chess improvement blogger has an opinion on that one. Actually, I was thinking on ranting about the very same interview/article on my site after I read it but then forgot about it after calming down ;-) After all, all these coaches live from the money of people who want to improve, so is their service a hoax?

Anyway, on one hand, I am a firm believer that to a certain extent everybody can improve if he/she puts some effort in it. And it is always tricky to make oversimplified statements like the one you cited - I don't think I can become a GM and sure, if it is true that physical fitness is important at the top level, older GMs like the venerable Korchnoi will become a little weaker over time (but can still kick the butts of all these coaches!)

On the other hand, there are so many bloggers out there who write regularly on the topic of chess (self-)improvement like you and myself. And so far, I still have to see anybody who makes it from adult BEGINNER to, lets say, expert level or even USCF 1800. Please correct me if I am wrong with that. And many of us are definitely putting an indecent amount of time in this, so lack of effort cannot be the reason.

However, I think there is still hope. After all, it takes years to improve and I am only in my second year :-)

Loomis said...

I have actually had conversations with Craig about this and probably gotten more information than what he gave in his response. In particular, there is a distinction between how much better a good player can get and how much better a bad player can get. If you've been at the max of your potential through your 20s and 30s, you're not going to get better in your 40s and 50s. But if you've never made a serious effort at chess and aren't already near your ceiling, then I'm sure there are improvements to be made if the proper effort is there.

To improve, you have to find a part of the game to be better at. So as long as you can identify a place where you are weaker than you could be, I would say there is a chance for improvement.

There is a wide range of ages for "adults." My guess is that most people have no problem improving into their 30s or 40s. But there seem to be a lot of examples of people who decline later in life.

We should also note that the question starts with the premise that the player has been at the same rating for many years. This already indicates some heavy inertia against improvement.

Thanks for the link to the symposium, I hadn't seen it before.

Sciurus, note that all these coaches are for the most part teaching youngsters.

ookwelbekendalsemc said...

"From age 25-40, there are many possibilities for improvement."

Am i ever so glad that i'm only 36 ;-)

Anonymous said...

The more I think about this, the less anxious I feel. There's no way that I've already reached my "peak" as far as chess potential is concerned. Yes, memory is less sharp, and calculation isn't as strong as it used to be, but I know I've learned a lot since my return to chess two years ago.

Tom Fogec said...

I asked this question of Bruce Pandolfini at ChessCafe. See his answer

Anonymous said...

Sure, with lousy coaches/experts no one older that old can improve. But - with the right coach, all can! Now, who's that magician coach, that will prove the experts wrong?