I am often asked what are some of the causes which hold players back from reaching their goals.
Fear: Too many players play not to lose instead of playing to win. Having said that, it does not mean that one should play recklessly. Play smart chess, and always be in control of various stages of emotions during a game.
Discipline: Many players lack professional and personal discipline. For example, I have seen players going out late at night, having too much fun, not having enough sleep, and getting up late in the morning. Then they rush to the tournament hall with no shower and no healthy breakfast. This is just one of the many examples.
Focus: If there are 9 rounds in an event, one has to stay focus for all 9 games. If the goal is to win the tournament, then every point and half a point matters. Some are extremely focused for “important” games but not others. The bottom line is the intensity should be there for every game, not just some games.
Improvement: This should be a daily process. There is no “perfect” player. Every player has weaknesses. It is very important to pinpoint these weaknesses and eradicate them.
What not to do is for example, a player is weak at middlegame understanding or endgame, but constantly focuses every day on openings. If one wants to improve, one must fix weaknesses. Random training will help very little.
I will give you a personal example. I became the #1 woman player in the world when I was 15. But this was not enough for me. I wanted to become a grandmaster. I knew that there were a certain type of positions which I was uncomfortable with. So in spite of reaching #1, I worked hard to revamp my playing style. While I may have temporary short term setbacks, eventually I got back up, gaining well over 150 rating points, went on to become the first woman to earn the "men's" grandmaster title, win the triple-crown (women's world classical, rapid and blitz championships), and 12 Olympiad medals (5 gold, 4 silver, 3 bronze).
Even though I have not played a rated game since 2004, I am still working on chess improvement every day.
Coachability: I have seen players with enormous talent, possibly world champion level talent, but never even come close to being a top-level player. The reason for that is some of these players are very stubborn, and simply refuse to take advice from coaches. They want to do things their “own” way.
For example, some players are very weak in defending, or in positional positions. But they refuse to listen to their coaches to work on these problematic areas. Because of this, they keep losing game after game when their opponents are able to exploit these weaknesses. I have seen players with less talent reaching much further because they listen to the advices of their coaches, and work on the right areas of their games.
Diligence: I have also seen many players with immense talent yet go nowhere with their chess careers. Why? Lack of diligence. They are lazy, or they may work hard for a short period of time but results do not match the effort immediately. So instead of keeping it up or even work harder, they simply give up. No one can build Rome in one day!
There are many more reasons but here are just some of the big ones. Good luck with your chess improvement!