How to Gain 400 Rating Points in 12 Months
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How to Gain 400 Rating Points in 12 Months

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Which Factors Predict Rating Gain?

Over at we have been crunching the numbers to help chess players reach master level. Based on a survey of almost 400 players, how they spend their chess time, and how much improvement they have seen, there are three main factors that predict rating gain:

  • Hours Spent (more hours tend to see more gains)
  • Starting Rating (lower starting rating tends to gain more points annually)
  • Age (younger players tend to improve more quickly)

Those may seem obvious without looking at any of the data. If we want to classify chess ratings into three main categories there appears to be some natural cut-points.

  • Beginner (<1100)
  • Intermediate (1100-1699)
  • Advanced (1700+)

Beginner Study Plan

The Beginner Study Plan focuses on players rated below 1100 blitz. After analyzing the data on over 100 players rated below 1100, we concluded the ideal study plan should be as follows:

  1. Spend 4-10 hours per week on chess
  2. About 75% of that time should be spent playing games
  3. The remaining 25% of study time should be split between game analysis, tactics, endgames, strategy, and openings

The average player under 1100 gains about 280 points in the next 12 months when spending an average of 6 hours per week on chess. 280 points in a year sounds great! Unless you want to experiment with following the path of a select group of players that I nicknamed The Speed Runners. Speed Runners are attempting to blow through the beginner category as fast as possible without worrying about learning all of the fundamentals and tactics that most coaches recommend.

Who Are The Speed Runners?

I took a look at specifically how players rated less than 1100 are studying in terms of percentage of chess time spent on playing, tactics, endgames, strategy, openings, and analyzing. Using the rpart function in R to split out the data, there was a very interesting group of 12 individuals who spent over 90% of their time playing games and gained an average of 401 points!

Speed Runners are aged 10-60 with a rating range of 550-1000. They spend an average of 97% of their time playing games, with the remaining 2-3% spent retrying their mistakes. Retry Mistakes

They play a good mix of blitz (31%), rapid (21%), slow (20%), daily (14%) and bullet (11%).


For most beginners, I recommend going with the Beginner Study Plan to find a healthy balance of chess study. The lessons for example are an outstanding resource to learn the basics. If you're looking for something new to try for a while and rated under 1100, try speed running on! It's a simple 3-step process:

  1. Play a game on
  2. Quickly retry mistakes
  3. Repeat step 1

Please let me know what you think of this method in the comments below!

Intermediate and advanced study plans available at

NM Matt Jensen

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