Answering a Question About Adult Improvement

NM danheisman
Jun 13, 2014, 6:21 AM |

This morning I received an email:

"Dear Sir,

Permit me to ask a question, that has been asked hundreds of times, why after years of playing and looking at hundreds of games of chess, I don’t improve?

What makes a youngster become a grand master and an old player never improve?  It can’t be about coaching or learning different openings for black and white. It is imposable to learn all the openings and defences.

Thank you for your time.

Your truly’


Here is my reply:

"Thanks. This is a better phone/skype conversation than short email. Yes, youngsters brains are more "plastic" and they can learn easier; and usually they have more time than adults. But plenty of adults start at beginner and become very strong players, although rarely masters. Wetzell wrote the book "Chess Master at Any Age" and I have had plenty of adult students who gained 100's of rating points. But many adults don't have the time or inclination it takes to dramatically improve. 

If you are a regular reader of my Novice Nook column ( ) you know that many players, adults and juniors, go about improvement incorrectly and so never improve as much as others.  For example, they think chess improvement is mostly acquiring knowledge and don't improve their skills like analysis, evaluation, and time management  (eg see my article and my column Real Chess, Time Management, and Care: Putting it All Together:

Some of my other columns that touch on this subject:

Getting the Edge:

Breaking a Slump:

Breaking Down Barriers:

Every Good Chess Player:

The Curious Case of MrBoeJangles:

When Adults Learn Basic Material:"

Of course, there's a lot more to this complex subject but I think this is about as good a short answer (especially the links) as I could provide.