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Young Fabiano's Weekly Regimen

Before he moved to Italy and made a run up to the #3 ranking in the world (currently a close 6th), GM Fabiano Caruana grew up in New York City. Not surprisingly, in retrospect, he was always the top rated player for his age in the US.

Among his travels were frequent stops 90 miles down the road here in the Philadelphia area. After all, we had the World Open (now in a three-year "loaner" stint in Arlington, VA) and other monster Continental Chess Association events like the National Chess Congress and the Liberty Bell. So these were staple events on "the chess tour" for any aspiring young Eastern-US player, and fellow world Top-10 Hikaru Nakamura, who also grew up in New York, was another frequent visitor.

During these visits I got to talk a bit with Fabiano's father, Lou Caruana, who was very friendly and approachable. Although I didn't know Lou as I well as I did Josh Waitzkin's father Fred a generation before, I did at least have a chance to have a small insight into Fabiano's approach to mastering the game.

In particular, one day I asked Lou "What is Fabiano's week like? I assume chess is his main hobby."

Lou's answer exceeded my expectation of how intense Fabiano's approached the game. Even though Fabiano was only about 12 at the time, Lou said Fabiano...(I paraphrase, since I can't remember verbatim):

"...plays in about three tournaments each week, including the Marshall Master's event on Tuesday night and a bigger event each weekend. In between, he takes three hourly lessons from three different grandmasters, one for the opening, one for the endgame, and a third to cover general middlegame and planning." (!)

The US Chess Federation has a database of national (and many international) events played, so you can see Fabiano's early chess career results, and most later results, at this link.

Although not all GM's young careers are this intense, this should give the reader some insight into the amount of work that even a very talented youngster needs to make to achieve world class status. Fabiano's career continued to soar when his parents made the bold move of leaving New York and relocating to Europe, where Fabiano was able to represent Italy and have access to invitations to the consistently strong events that eventually led him to become a super-GM.

I would also like to point out that any good study program needs to contain what I called The Improvement Feedback Loop, which is based on the triangle of play/practice - study - and get feedback. Many aspiring players know about the play and study parts, but without the feedback you likely end up making certain mistakes repeatedly. In Fabiano's case the feedback was provided not only by his three strong instructors, but also by his (eventually) very strong opponents, who were undoubtedly willing to review their game afterwards to the benefit of the youngster.

Over the years, when Fabiano has a particularly good result (not unexpected now), I occasionally dropped Lou a short "congratulations" email. Now that Fabiano has become an adult, I guess that's no longer necessary, but it's still nice to keep in touch even though it's been many years since I last saw Lou...

Comments


  • 9 months ago

    FM grandmastergauri

    It's not true that you need 3 GM's though. I know Vishy Anand didn't have many resources growing up yet he still became World Champion

  • 13 months ago

    Chuckieman

    Fischer was a high school drop out, not homeschooled.

  • 13 months ago

    Xeelfiar

    You also have to be really rich. I mean, 3 hours of lessons form 3 different grandmaster! I don't know how much can this cost, but I'm sure it's a lot of money.

  • 13 months ago

    thought_control

    i do not think that the legendary WC GM Fischer was home schooled.  

  • 14 months ago

    Chuckieman

    Fabiano Caruana was "homeschooled", but in reality he spent most of his time at home on chess and did very little else.  Fabiano's father described his son's "homeschooling" as "erratic". 

    Here is the source: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/29/crosswords/chess/29chess.html?_n=1&pagewanted=print

    Hikaru Nakamura and another young GM Ray Robson were also "homeschooled".  That's how they were able to reach GM at such young age.  Josh Waitzkin was the only one that went to school, but he only became IM.

  • 14 months ago

    bfn

    Great article.  Here's an article suggestion or maybe something for the chess.com editors.  How's about doing player profile articles.  I'd be interested to read about all players (scholastic, adult, senior, etc.) of all strengths and backgrounds.  The chess world has a lot of interesting people with equally interesting stories to tell.

  • 14 months ago

    hicetnunc

    It's always very interesting to have an insider's view on these things.

    Thank you Dan,

  • 14 months ago

    etourneau

    Thanks for sharing this info Laughing

    This made me think of another aspect not often talked about, which is the financial one. Three lessons a week from GMs - GMs are usually not cheap - it has to be a significant amount. Add to that the transportation and hotel expenses when going to tournaments, among other things, like books, magazines, software, hardware, etc.

    As I came to realize myself, love of the game and will to improve are not quite enough if you really want to be more than a hobbyist type of player.

  • 14 months ago

    philidor_position

    I see, I hadn't considered homeschooling as an option. Thanks for the reply. 

  • 14 months ago

    NM danheisman

    Philidor_position - thanks. I don't recall ever asking Fred Waitzkin what Josh's weekly chess schedule was like, but I think Josh had some other interests besides chess (which, of course, was still his main hobby when he was young). I doubt it was as intense as Fabiano's which, of course, may be one reason Fabiano is in the Top-10 and Josh "only" became an IM. As for school, I think Fabiano was home-schooled, but that's only a vague recollection. Some others here at Chess.com may know more, so I bow to their answers.

  • 14 months ago

    philidor_position

    And do you have a piece on Waitzkin as well? Would be great if you shared the link to it if you have. I'm a great fan of his teaching style. Always wondered if he could make it to GM if hadn't quit playing.  

  • 14 months ago

    philidor_position

    Many thanks for the inside information. Smile That is a very intense schedule. Isn't there some minimum attendence for school at that age? How did he manage it?

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