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A chess friend of mine just crossed expert last night. He is 28 and started playing 6 years ago:
BTW, I drew my first game with him last year. :-)
I asked him at the tournament last night what he has been doing to go from 1781 2 years ago to overy 2000 now. He said that his main training is sitting for 8 hours at a shot in the library with the Encyclopedia of Chess Combinations and a chess board and giving himself about 10-20 minutes to solve each problem.
Then, during a game, he doesn't think about the fact that he's playing a game. He puts himself into the mindset of being back at the library and thinks each time he moves that he is just solving a position from his book.
He has also sought out really tough competition to play against, such as the Chicago Open and World Open.
28 is not adult.
He said that his main training is sitting for 8 hours at a shot in the library with the Encyclopedia of Chess Combinations and a chess board and giving himself about 10-20 minutes to solve each problem.
Wow. I hope it's worth it.
Kevin, I've got an inspiration for us: William (Billy) Collins of 61 years of age. I got the wrong impression of this nice fellow. There are three types of habitual players you'll find at Dunster and Mass Ave.: the professionals, of course, and then you have the Harvard burnouts and homeless, all of who may or may not have game. I realized Billy Collins wasn't a regular homeless player when I saw him ice an IM in blitz, and then follow that up with two wins over two NMs. I can't confirm from his USCF player page, but he was supposedly 1200-1300 at somewhere between 18 and 22 years old. The story he gave me was that from about 20 to 35 he played on and off (and studied chess on and off and made it to about the 1800's. After stepping away from the game almost entirely --I didn't ask why--, he returned to the game when he was homeless, I think. His rating since returning has gone from 1864 to a peak of 2127, but what is impressive is how strong he can be at times. Whatever the reason for his sometimes lackluster performances, he posted something like a 2900 performance rating at the 2010 Summerville Open, defeating David Vigorito (2542), Christopher Chase (2386), Alex Cherniak (2300), and Siddharth Arun (1894) --a pretty sick tournament result of 4.0/4.0. (By the way, he's the Billy Collins featured in Marc Esserman's Mayhem in the Morra!.)
I think he's a good example of what a person of approximately average mental capacity can do with lots of time spent on chess. And I mean a lot. At 6am when I'm heading into the Bux before class, I sometimes see him out there already, playing blitz. By the time lunch rolls around, he's either got a book of master games he's reading, some periodical or other, or still playing blitz. He's typically there, playing or kibitzing on the stone chess tables at Dunster, until after I've gone home at night. On top of all that, he usually playing Experts on up to GMs, resident and passer-through, e.g., I caught him playing a game against Loek van Wely a while ago.
The takeaway seems to be that, while adults certainly don't learn as quickly as children, immense amounts of time and effort can allow the adult to achieve a large fraction of the same result.
There is a write-up on Billy, in which a friend is trying to help him get off the streets: http://www.clownshoesbeer.com/uncategorized/billy-the-homeless-chess-master/
Despite the comment in the article, I'd hardly consider Billy a "genius." What's more, I don't even think he has natural abilities over and above anyone else when it comes to playing chess. His growth as a player is steady and is as sustained as the incredible number of hours he spends enthralled in it.
To think of all the crimes I could've gotten away with.
Thanks for the reference to Billy Collins. 1800-something to 2100+ as an adult so far seems to be a rarity--not to mention regularly beating GMs.
I imagine if he can get off the street and into a healthier personal arrangement, he can make master.
I have noticed that the vast majority of chess players and duplicate bridge players are alike as far as their rating progress goes. [or their abilitity to improve]
They hit a plateau and stay there. As for the duplicate bridge players, they could improve with the correct motivation but, instead, they keep making the same basic mistakes, over and over again.
Same for the vast majority of chess players. They get stuck at whatever level and then just stay there for years on end. And they keep making the same basic mistakes, over and over again.
One reason is that they achieve a level of play they are satisfied with. A level where they have fun...So, why should they put in the very hard work to improve? For most people, chess is played "for fun".
Anything above USCF 1900 (93rd percentile of tournament players) takes continual hard work. While "the kids," 10 years to 20 years old keep pressing you.
So why not stall out at as weak Class A player -- you keep having fun, and a social life to boot ?
Since 90 percent of U.S. tournament players don't break USCF 1800, it clearly works fine for most. QED.
Oh the dreams of greater glory. It keeps you buying chess books, at minimum.
I think the real impediment to adult chess improvement is basically what you and ponz are touching on. Adults make an extremely rational choice to only get so good and stay at that level. Not everyone wants to make chess their 2nd job. 10 year olds don't have electric bills to pay and the "prodigies" have their parents shuttling them off to tournament after tournament and paying for multiple GM coaches.
Unless I become a super GM, I'd never make as much or more money than I do now.
I was happy to get back over 1900 USCF last weekend. Of course, I still have ambitions of rising above 2000 (my peak is 1982) and that keeps me buying chess books, DVDs, and subscribing to Chess Informant.
@Ziryab, congrats on getting back over 1900! Sounds like you've found something that is working for you. 2000 is next.
I think there are several other adult players here on chess.com who have a good chance of making 2000 in the next few years. SilentKnighte5, Milliern, Benedictine, just to name a few. Why do I think this? I see them dedicating significant time and energy to the goal. I get the impression they are willing to make some sacrifices in other areas of their lives in order to spend more time on chess, and they are doing the hard work of systematically look ing at their weaknesses and trying to address them.
The few people I've heard of who have achieved this goal have exhibited the above traits/actions for the most part.
It is the same thing the kids are doing, they just have less impediments to doing so and GM coaches to hold their hands.
How old are you Z ? Tell me privately if you dont want to say here . I am 62 and now am fighting to avoid my floor for as long as I can ... I don't work on chess like I used to and am no longer worried about improving . Congrats on getting back over 1900 !
I was 49 when I broke into A Class and 52 when I hit my peak rating. Improvement is more difficult that it was a few years ago, and I have that nasty blitz addiction.
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