During the nearly 2-week long Batumi Chess Olympiad, I had a chance to speak to a lot of young talented players from all over the world. They came to me because they know about the SPICE program at Webster University, and they know that our system helped young players reach new heights (e.g. Wesley So, Le Quang Liem, Ray Robson, Jorge Cori, and many more).
Many of them asked similar questions and have nearly identical problems. I will highlight a few of the most important questions and share with you the general answers I gave them.
Question: I work very hard in chess but I am stuck at a certain level (2500-2600, 2600-2650, 2650-2700, 2700+. etc.). I cannot seem to get over the hump. How can I fix this?
Answer: The answer is quite simple. This is a completely fixable problem. But the road to get there requires patience, hard work, dedication, focus, professionalism, and most likely some losses along the way.
Players have to be completely 100% objective with their self-assessments. This is the part where most players will fail miserably. And if you fail in this step, everything else will be much harder or even nearly impossible to correct.
The biggest problem is chess players themselves, especially stronger players. They are very competitive. They have a hard time telling themselves that they are incomplete players and/or they have many serious issues which hinder their chess growth. This is why so many players get stuck at certain levels for years, and sometimes they just simply cannot get over the hump.
This is why most of them need objective outside help. And this is why my SPICE program is so effective. We have professional problem solvers who can pinpoint every little problems which players themselves either do not realize or do not want to admit. Our findings are completely confidential, even after the students graduate and move on.
On some occasions, the problems are not necessarily chess problems. They can be mental, psychological, or even physical, etc. If players have weaknesses which stopped their chess growths, we will find them, and if they are willing, ready, and able to, we will help them fix each and every problem. Our analysis are incredibly objective and complete. We are very blunt with our findings. The big question is how much effort will the players be willing to put forward to improve. If they are not then let’s not waste each others time.
Question: How do I know what my chess ceiling is?
Answer: Unless you are Magnus Carlsen, and even with him, most players do not come close to reaching their chess ceilings. What they reached is the ceiling of the effort and sacrifices they are willing to put forth. For example, it is one of the biggest misconception is if a player is in school (middle school, high school or university), he / she cannot be a serious chess player.
This could not be further from the truth. All my grandmaster students I worked with reached their peaks while attending school. What they learned is how to manage their time and schedule (which many top players are very bad at). But this also means that they have to give up or sacrifice something. Some gave up playing video games, going the movies, going to bars, going to casinos, or and/or something else.
Our students at SPICE - Webster University go to classes, do their homework, work on their chess, complete chess homework I give them, work on their physical fitness, etc. and still find time to play in big tournaments and gain ratings. If players want it bad enough, they will find a way to manage their schedule and continue to progress. If they just look for excuses not to succeed, why then waste my time or their time?
Because of this discipline and hard work, they collectively won won 2 World Championships, 5 World Open Championships, 50 National Titles, and multiple Chess Olympiad Gold medals since August 2012. They also learned to improve many off the chess board skills as well.
So a short summary would be every player can improve and get better every day. But they have to know the direction and areas of improvement, work on them, and be prepared to work hard, be disciplined, and succeed. Life is too short to constantly whine about everything. It is better to put the energy for positive chess improvement!