How Can Older Players Improve?
An older chess player.

How Can Older Players Improve?

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The member jayzorac wrote:

I have a question for you. Do you think “older” players can still improve to expert and master level? 

SILMAN: Mr. jayzorac wrote quite a bit about his chess history (from childhood to being an “older” player), but I really liked this: “I was in my early 20s and recovering from a football injury that ended that career before it started, and thought chess was a great way to keep competing with a lower chance of injury.”

Here are some articles that might interest you:

I also wrote a couple articles about older players and if they can (or can’t) reach master level. The answer is YES, they can reach master but only if they work very, very hard (kind of true about anything).

Anyway, keep in mind that chess is about having fun, and rating isn’t that important. However, if you want that kind of goal do it bit by bit.

If you are 1700, your goal should be 1800, then 1900, etc. Also, many players (in their youth) were very good at tactics but as they age their tactical vision isn’t what it was. If that’s a problem for you, try to master positional things, endgames, and also create an opening repertoire that really excites you at least 100 rating points ahead of you (and fits in with your strengths).

After that, try and play people (30 minute games or much longer games...blitz is really fun but it won’t help you make expert or master). 

Again, making expert or master is a very real goal. After that the sky is the limit.

Good luck!


The member Z_Farley wrote:

I am 14 and haven’t been playing chess for that long and I am already hooked, I am in love. I study thoroughly and regularly. My question for you is, is it still possible for me to become a master. Will my school studies get in the way, making it impossible for rapid academic improvement.

SILMAN: I think you have things backward: The first thing you have to think about is whether your studies will be hurt due to chess. An education is much more important. In fact, instead of saying, “Will my school studies get in the way of chess, making it impossible for rapid chess improvement?”, you should say, “Will my chess studies get in the way of school, making it impossible for rapid educational improvement?”


In any case, studying chess is well and good, but you need to create a serious study plan. The needs of the player are different from person to person, so it might be a good idea to get a strong player to point out your weaknesses (you might think you know your weaknesses, but you might not see them at all) and, if you have the money, hire a chess teacher to help create that plan for you.

Here’s a sample:

Let’s say Mr. Roboto is pretty good in tactics but has very little positional understanding. He also has an opening repertoire but doesn’t really understand it (he might think he understands it, but he really doesn’t). And, he might know a few basic endgame situations but his endgame knowhow is rather feeble. In this case Mr. Roboto should buy a good middlegame book (Look for books that “speak” to you. How to Reassess Your Chess 4th Edition might or might not be for you. Instead of just grabbing something, read 10 pages at the bookstore and, if the author’s writing style doesn’t put a smile on your face, look for something else.).

The same goes for Mr. Roboto’s search for a good endgame book. There are tons of them, so seek authors that you trust and like.

Opening books are a little different since they might be a bit dull but, if the material is great, it’s often worth grabbing! Not everyone can write very well, but if they are fantastic teachers or they are THE expert in a certain line, you might want to pick that book up. The one problem is how good you are. I love super-detailed opening books by grandmasters, but if you’re a beginner or even a 1700 player, it will probably be over your head. In that case, look for a book that explains that opening’s basics: pawn structures, typical tactics, patterns, and typical plans. Once you master all those things, by all means (if you’ve been drooling to get this book for ages) buy that advanced opening book.

Keep in mind that 12- and 13-year-olds have become grandmasters. So being a GM is most likely not going to happen. However, you can make 2200. And, since you’re young and you’re really into the game, hard work and study and practice can indeed propel you into the rarified air of chess master.

WHO (or what) IS BB?

The member bluebeard_39 asked:

Just wanted to ask out of curiosity who BB is.

SILMAN: Quite a few people have brought this up since I use lots of his games. Some think BB is the same as “NN.” Someone else thought I was into BB guns (I hate all guns!). A few thought the BB games were fake. Alas, the answer is Mundane: He is a student of mind whose first name starts with “B” and his last name also starts with “B.” Thus, “BB.” BB, a very nice man who loves chess deeply, has been kind enough to let me show his worst games since I view them as instructive. Thus, he is sacrificing his ego for low-rated members so you can avoid the pitfalls he often walks into.


The member BobbyTalparov asked:

I know you are a fan of Emanuel Lasker, so I was wondering if you happened to know of a book containing his annotated games --  something like Fischer's "60 Memorable Games," Bronstein's "Zurich 1953," or even the Move by Move series.  I've been looking, but have not found anything in those veins.

SILMAN: Pushing aside Lasker’s old instructive books (Lasker’s Manual of Chess for example), and pushing aside books that are not in English, and pushing aside books I haven’t read, I can recommend three very good books about Lasker (and all three offer many of his games):
Though quite old, it’s an interesting read about Lasker’s life. (I’ve read it three times…when I was a child, in my mid-20s, and a couple years ago). However, there are fairly new books on Lasker.


2 . WHY LASKER MATTERS by Andrew Soltis is very good and the Kindle Edition is only $9.99. I really like Soltis’ introduction:

“The greatest of the champions was, of course, Emanuel Lasker.” - Mikhail Tal
“Emanuel Lasker … was a coffeehouse player.” - Bobby Fischer
“The idea of chess art is unthinkable without Emanuel Lasker.” Alexander Alekhine
“My chess hero.” - Viktor Korchnoi
“The quality of (19th century games) games … they are horrible. Even Steinitz - Zukertort, Steinitz - Lasker (groans).” - Garry Kasparov.

Emanuel Lasker is a controversy. But he’s also a mystery: How could someone who played so many profound and yet so many second-best moves have become world champion? And how could someone who played so many dull and also so many sparkling games - in short, so many bad chess as well as great chess - have remained champion for a record 27 years?”

The answer that comes to the minds of many young players is that some stars of Lasker’s era would be, well, no better than mere masters today. There’s some evidence to support this. The level of play, particularly in defense, was poor when Lasker began to play, and endgame technique was uneven, to say the least. But Lasker’s opponents included Alexander Alekhine, Mikhail Botvinnik, Max Euwe, Jose Capablanca, Akiba Rubinstein, Yefim Bogolyubov, Richard Reti, Frank Marshall and Siegbert Tarrasch. They were much more than mere masters, to say the least. And his total record against the group is a big plus score.

Though Soltis gives us a bit of biographical material, his book is really about Lasker’s games.

3. EMANUEL LASKER: SECOND WORLD CHESS CHAMPION by Isaak Linder ($23.09 paper, and $9.99 Kindle). I’m extremely fond of this. In fact, this has become my favorite Lasker book. The book includes many details about Lasker’s life, his childhood and family, his work in mathematics and philosophy, the tournament tables, the many annotated games, photos, discussions about his opponents, and much, much more.

I have all three books, and if you’re a Lasker fan you should have all of them too. But if you have to choose one, then I recommend Linder’s.

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