How to get better at chess?


Every chess player can get better. Even grandmasters can get better. That is my strong belief.

Every chess player, including grandmasters, has weaknesses. There are many types of issues such as: Opening, middlegame, endgame, tactic, time management, understanding positions, formulating strategies, creating sound plans, managing nerves, and much more. Even great players like Fischer, Kasparov, Carlsen, Karpov, Capablanca, Alekhine, etc. have weaknesses.

If players' ratings, including grandmasters, do not excel in a year or two, it is time to reassess and have a serious reboot. That is precisely what we do at SPICE. No player is alike. I do not have one improvement book for all because no grandmaster is alike. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. It is my job to dissect each player's game, detect problems, and come up with effective solutions. We do things very differently than all other chess programs. That is why SPICE has had incredible success.

Many grandmasters train hard. They do not become grandmasters if they do not. But "general" training alone is not enough. So imagine if you have a toothache. It is caused by one specific tooth. Would it help if you go to the dentist for "general" cleaning? Of course not. Same in chess. Players MUST eradicate weaknesses or else they will hit a plateau.

But here is the hard truth. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is a good start. But having the discipline to courage to fix these problems is the key to chess improvement. I can show students how to improve. But it is up to them to actually do it.

Below is something I posted not long ago:

How can you go from Point A to Point B if you have no idea where Point B is?

This is a big problem for a lot of chess players, and this is a typical question I get: “Can you help me get better in chess?” Here is usually the sequence:

Me: Well, the answer is yes. But what is your goal? How far do you want to get in chess?

Answer: I don’t know.

Me: OK, so how much effort are you willing to put in?

Answer: Not much. I am busy. I have too much homework to do or I am very busy every day.

Me: Do you know what are some of your biggest weaknesses in chess?

Answer: No.

Me: What are you working on right now? What type of chess training do you currently do every day?

Answer: I play a lot of blitz online.

As you can see, this is what I often encounter from chess players. So let’s go back to the first question I asked? If you are in a car, how do you go from point A to point B if you do not know where point B is? Just as in chess, if one has no idea of specific goals, how can one get there?

Every player should have his/her own individual goal. Some may want to be Grandmasters, some maybe International Masters, or some just want to be good hobby or club players.

So before you can go forward and be successful, you MUST do the following:

* Set long term goal: This is the ultimate finish line. This could be for 1, 2, 3 or even more years.

* Set midrange goal: This could be for 3 months, 6 months, or a year.

* Set short term goal: This could be for 1 day, 1 week, a few weeks, or a month.

Once you set these goals, you have to be willing to set aside proper time to train to complete these goals. If you are not willing to do this then you have no one to blame but yourself.

What is next?

Do a self-assessment to pinpoint your weaknesses in chess. Be true to yourself. Many will fail because they are unable to be honest about their problems. Without knowing your weaknesses, you cannot possibly know how to improve them.

Create a thorough plan to eradicate your weaknesses.

Start working every day to fix one weakness at a time.

What about if some say, I am not that good, or I am not that smart? Here is my answer:

If you are in a car driving from New York to San Francisco, you can make it in 2 or 3 days if you are a good driver. If you are an OK driver, you may get there in 4 days, maybe 5. Even if you are an extremely slow driver, but if you know where you are going, and are willing to keep driving every day, you may get there in a week, or two, or may be longer. But if you keep up with it, you will get there.

Yes, I realize that I may be simplifying it too much. But the point is if you give up, you will never get to San Francisco, or if you have no idea what is your destination, you will never get there, which is where most people will end up.

Therefore, take time, do a self-assessment, set goals, and start your road to chess improvement today! Good luck! No one can tell you how far you can go. It is all up to you!


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