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Inspirational Adult Improvers

  • #1

    My chess goal is to achieve my Expert title by the age of 50. I know there are many other players like me, people who started playing serious chess as adults, who lack the talent or time needed to quickly achieve a title, but who have the gumption and dedication to continue working toward this lofty goal.

    I would like to put together a list of exceptional adult improvers that I (and others) can reference for inspiration. So far, I've only come up with a few examples (three players who made expert or master in their 30's through 50's).

    Do you know a player from your club, a friend, someone online, or even someone you read about in an article who might fit this profile?

    I would like the list to focus on:

    - Players who were at least 21 when they played their 1st rated game or players who were less than 1500 USCF/FIDE by their 21st birthday

    - Players who then went on to achieve a 2000+ rating.

    Please message me or post in this thread with any leads you can send me.

    Thanks!

  • #2

    I have a feelng it is going to be a short list but I am interested in the topic though.

  • #3

    Very interesting thread. I'm 39 and started playing chess irregularly 4 years ago (although I learnt how pieces move as a kid), here at Chess.com. 1 year ago I joined a chess club and now I'm taking it more seriously, and I have no long-term goals, just improving as much as possible. Unfortunately, I know no one fitting your description. It would take having a lot of free time, which is a difficult thing to have at these ages.

  • #4

    I fit with the first part (old beginner), unfortunately not with the second (2000+ elo) :-)

  • #5

    I am also a late starter that is striving to play better. I played my first rated tournament in September of 2009, putting me at 29 years old, and got a rating of 1445.  I had been introduced to chess in my high school years but I had no clue there were tournaments or masters or even books on the subject. I got really interested when I kept getting beat by another local player. I was roughly 26 or 27. Ever sense then I have been hooked on the game. Im 32 now and have just crossed the 1800 mark. I REFUSE to say that I cannot make expert or master because I didn’t start training with a coach before my 5th birthday. Will it be more difficult? YES. Will it take more time? YES. BUT IT CAN BE DONE! We just have to take the time to do it.  I had remembered an article that was on uscf’s website about a guy that did this and I eventually met him at a tournament in Louisville. Here is a link to his article.

    http://www.uschess.org/content/view/11391/640/

  • #6
    Larceny wrote:

    My chess goal is to achieve my Expert title by the age of 50. I know there are many other players like me, people who started playing serious chess as adults, who lack the talent or time needed to quickly achieve a title, but who have the gumption and dedication to continue working toward this lofty goal.

    I would like to put together a list of exceptional adult improvers that I (and others) can reference for inspiration. So far, I've only come up with a few examples (three players who made expert or master in their 30's through 50's).

    Do you know a player from your club, a friend, someone online, or even someone you read about in an article who might fit this profile?

    I would like the list to focus on:

    - Players over 21 when they played their 1st rated game or players who were less than 1500 USCF/FIDE by their 21st birthday

    - Players who then went on to achieve a 2000+ rating.

    Please message me or post in this thread with any leads you can send me.

    Thanks!

    I was 21 (so not over 21) when I played my first USCF rated game.  So of course I was under 1500 strength.

    I don't have a 2000 rating.  For what it's worth I definitely see it as possible for myself.  If I make it and this topic is still around I'll let you know though :)

    IIRC chess.com member FirebrandX says in his profile he started in his mid 20s.  I don't know what his OTB rating is though (possibly over 2000)

  • #7

    I think Bill Wall may have made a list of old players achieving GM, IM, and NM titles. 

  • #8
    Lawdoginator wrote:

    I think Bill Wall may have made a list of old players achieving GM, IM, and NM titles. 

    The OPs constraints would rule all all the popular names though.  If he finds one that meets his criteria and later became a titled player I'd be very interested in knowing though.

  • #9

    Thanks for the notes. The link to the Ben Gradsky article was very helpful. Those are the types of players that I would like to start cataloging. It says he learned the game at twenty and his first non-provisional rating was 1402. My guess is he played a lot of internet and/or club games before his first tournaments in order to start with a rating that high. (Or he has some above average natural "talent.")

    Most well known older adults who achieve titles do seem to have a substantial track record of chess achievement while they were kids or teens. It is still impressive to go from, say master to IM or GM in your 30's or 40's. I would love to find out about some that didn't start as kids/teens!

    For my purposes, what I want is a list of similar to me. :-) Specially, people who didn't have the benefit of having their young neuro connections wired favorably for chess via early training. I suspect it is an apples to oranges comparison to look at adults who achieve later in life but who were strong junior players versus people who didn't even learn the game until they were adults.

    There are quite a few people in my situation who have an audacious chess goal and are just starting out later in life. (I played in my first tournament at 25 years old.) NM BIll Richardson loves telling people that with hard work and the right training, anyone with above average intelligence can become a Master. I don't know if that is true but I would like to substantiate that at least a few people have done it.

    Many of us have read that it takes 10,000 hours of intentional practice in a field to master it. If that is anywhere in the ballpark, that would mean it should take at least 20 hours a week of dedicated study/playing for about 12 years to master chess. That is probably close. I imagine most teens who achieve Master started playing as 6-8 year olds and probably dedicated a lot more than 20 hours a week. But, how about adults? Do these numbers mean anything for adult learners? I hope the answer is yes and that I will be able to find and catalog dozens of examples. 

    NOTE: I clarified my requirements to "at least 21" instead of "over 21." (Thanks for pointing that out.) My basic assumption is that people under 21 who play substantial competitive chess have brains that are still forming and building beneficial neuro connections and that they should be in a different category than adult learners.)

  • #10
    waffllemaster wrote:
    I don't have a 2000 rating.  For what it's worth I definitely see it as possible for myself.  If I make it and this topic is still around I'll let you know though :)

    You look like you are very close if your bullet rating here is anywhere near your OTB rating!

  • #11

    This guy.

  • #12

    Expert can be done with obessive dedication, hard work, and proper direction from a coach or stronger player. Making 2200 on the other hand would be 100x harder for a middle-aged adult not having learned as a child. Every time I hear of a success story about someone making it to titled mastery as an older adult, a background check reveals they were very astute chess players as children already. That's not to say it's impossible, just unrealistic. But as I said, 2000 should be an obtainable goal with the proper training and dedication.

  • #13

    Check out my blog! I may be crazy, but I'm working toward an ultimate goal of earning a National Master's title! (But I'll consider getting to class A player a success) ;-)

    http://www.chess.com/blog/OldChessDog

  • #14

    Clear that everytings is easier if you start when you are child. And maybe is essential to star early to reach GM or IM level. However I am wondering if the low number of people reaching Master level having started chess in adult age is more influenced by age or dedication. All the adults player I know have much important priorities in their life (job, wife, children, ...). For a child the main sport is almost all...

  • #15

    I will look into it. I don't know of anyone over 21 that was 1500 or less and made it to 2000 or higher later in life.  I don't know of any master who started late in life and made it up to 2200, but there may be a few.  So far, 100% of all the masters I know all started playing chess before 21 and made it to the master level early in their career.  some master became masters at a later age, but they all started playing chess before 21.

    Here is my article on older chess players.

    http://www.chess.com/article/view/older-chess-players

    Oscar Shapiro (1924-2004) became a master for the first time in his life at the age of 74, but he had been playing since he was a kid.

    I was 1522 at the age of 18 (my first tourney) in 1969.  I was 1597 in 1975 at the age of 24.  In 1976 I was 1614.  In 1977 I was 1659.  In 1978, I was 1725.  In 1980 I was 1694.  In 1981, I was 1727.  In 1983, I was 1780.  In 1985, I was 1817.  In 1986, I was 1850.  In 1987, I was 2050, at the age if 36.  In 1989, I was 2070.  In 1990, I peaked at 2205 at age 39.  Then back down to 2100, and rating floor stuck at 2000 throughout the 1990s.  I've been trying to get back up to expert level again, but it has been tough at the age of 62.

  • #16

    @billwall,

    That's very impressive dedication to go from 1522 to 2070 in 20 years. Since you did make 2205 in 1990, that's officially NM and you should have chess.com put the tag on your name and get a free permanent diamond membership.

    If anything though, your career is about as good as I've seen for someone that wasn't a Class A player by the age of 13 or 14.

    Edit: I found your tournament history on USCF (currently 1893). Unfortunately the records only go back to 1991 where it shows you were hovering at 2000 until you dipped back into Class A in 1999. I guess they can't give you the NM tag since the records missed your peak by a year.

  • #17

    Wow, this gives me motivation to study and get better again if 2000 really is such a rarity for someone like me who was 1300 strength at age 21.

    I have to think there are people out there, they just might be hard to find.

    It's also a bit discouraging.  21 doesn't seem old in the least... not that I ever dreamed of GM but come on, not even 2200?  :(

  • #18
    waffllemaster wrote:

    Wow, this gives me motivation to study and get better again if 2000 really is such a rarity for someone like me who was 1300 strength at age 21.

    I have to think there are people out there, they just might be hard to find.

    It's also a bit discouraging.  21 doesn't seem old in the least... not that I ever dreamed of GM but come on, not even 2200?  :(

    It has to do with the way the brain forms connections as a child. That 6-year-old mark to start studying chess seems to be the magic point at which mastery comes fast and easy by the time the child is a teenager. If you start chess as an adult, the brain no longer shapes itself to the game the way it does for a child. Supposedly it still can, but very very slowly. Bill's 20 year quest to reach expert from 1500 shows just how much slower the process is.

  • #19
    billwall wrote:

    I was 1522 at the age of 18 (my first tourney) in 1969.  I was 1597 in 1975 at the age of 24.  

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for posting and for the link to your previous research. It was mentioned earlier in the thread and I was hoping to get that link.

    Given your history above, you are one of the few people so far who I have heard of who first played the game competitively as an adult and then went on to earn Expert or Master titles. In your case it was 18--but that is still an adult.

    Did you play a lot before your first tourney? Having an intial rating of 1500 to me seems very impressive. Did you play a lot with friends or at a club or with your father?

  • #20
    LewisSkolnick wrote:

    Duchamp, perhaps?

    Duchamp is a possibility. Anyone know if he had an official chess rating?

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