Games per Year?

Games per Year?

| 37 | Chess Players

One of the most popular questions that is asked by amateurs and pros alike is “How many games per year should I play?” Of course, no one in the world knows the right answer. In fact, the one and only solution doesn’t exist since this is highly individual. Nonetheless, all of us know that lack of practice doesn’t allow one to improve efficiently, while competing too often makes one feel like a squeezed lemon, lose interest in chess and shed rating points. So where is the golden middle?

To answer this tricky question, we will review the schedules of the very best chess players in the world. While in general copying the training routine of a top grandmaster is unreasonable for less proficient players, here the situation is somewhat different. The world is not perfect, so most amateurs simply can’t afford to allocate too much time for tournament play. On the other hand, non-elite grandmasters often have to flock from one event to another to earn a decent amount of money. Naturally, neither of these cases is optimal. That’s why we will be looking at top pros: they are supposed to know this as no one else does, and have the opportunity to choose the amount of games that suits them best.

First of all, here’s the September 1, 2010 top-20. Next to each name you can see how many rated games the person has played in 2009:

1. Carlsen – 75

2. Topalov – 41

3. Anand – 25

4. Aronian – 93

5. Kramnik – 26

6. Eljanov – 86

7. Grischuk – 55

8. Mamedyarov – 69

9. Ivanchuk – 135

10. Gelfand – 96

11. Ponomariov – 42

12. Shirov – 93

13. Radjabov – 60

14. Karjakin – 69

15. Nakamura – 86

16. Wang – 83

17. Svidler – 114

18. Adams – 74

19. Jakovenko – 71

20. Malakhov – 84

Now let’s sort the list by number of games per year to make it more expressive:

  1. Ivanchuk – 135 (well-known chess addict)
  2. Svidler – 114 (admitted being tired, but couldn’t miss some important events)
  3. Gelfand – 96
  4. Aronian – 93
  5. Shirov – 93
  6. Eljanov – 86
  7. Nakamura – 86
  8. Malakhov – 84
  9. Wang – 83
  10. Carlsen – 75 (median number)
  11. Adams – 74 (median number)
  12. Jakovenko – 71
  13. Mamedyarov – 69
  14. Karjakin – 69
  15. Radjabov – 60
  16. Grischuk – 55
  17. Ponomariov – 42 (doesn’t play a lot after becoming FIDE ex-World Champion in 2004)
  18. Topalov – 41 (was busy preparing for the WC match against Anand)
  19. Kramnik – 26 (always acts like he’s preparing for a WC match) Smile
  20. Anand – 25 (was busy preparing for the WC match against Topalov)

It’s easy to see that the median number for elite grandmasters is 74-75 games per year (ironically, by doing so we get Magnus Carlsen, the highest-rated player in the world, as a role model in this respect). This should be close to the optimal amount of games/year for a person who takes chess seriously. However, it is essential to remember that this list doesn’t include rapid/blitz/blind/exhibition events, training games; doesn’t reflect the time spent on studying chess and analyzing one’s games. To become an eminent player, one should keep in mind all the intricacies of the training process, not only one feature.

Warning: this article should serve as food for thought, not a medical prescription stating that “you won’t improve unless you play X games a year.” Smile

In case someone is interested in my chess schedule, it normally includes about 90 rated games per year. The end of 2010 is going to be especially busy since upcoming are the Women’s World Blitz Championship (unrated), World Chess Olympiad, European Club Championship, Russian Superfinal, Women’s World Championship and (maybe) ACP Rapid World Championship (unrated).

Meanwhile, let’s take a look at another game from the recent Russia – China friendly match:

My opening choice was rather unambitious, and after d5 my opponent could have equalized. However, she made a mistake, on which I failed to capitalize. After I missed a chance to head for a better endgame, the game quickly ended in a draw by repetition.
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