Curiosity: the key to improvement


How to improve at chess is the most debated topic among chess players, yet we do not have a clear method that can work for everyone.

No wait, there are 2 methods that are commonly suggested by strong players:

-Look at GM games trying to guess the next move.

-Study your games.

But, I do not think that all strong players (above 2300 elo) have followed these advices methodically. 

I think that the biggest difference between amateurs and good players is a different kind of mental attitude.

When a strong player looks at a position that confuses him, he wants to understand it. He is curious about it and he will probably spend some time analysing and making his own conclusions.

An amateur (often) does not do that. He may find a position that he does not understand, but he will skip it completely or if he does try to analyse it he will use the help of a chess engine or he will make a shallow and superficial analysis by himself (almost useless).

In other words he is more lazy.

The more you like chess the easier is to study it because you wants to know everything that makes you stumble.

They say that in order to become a computer hacker you need to: know programming, know english, being able to solve problems and above all have the right kind of curiosity that can give you the energy to proceed.

I think that this is true also for chess.

What do you think ?


It's a matter of motivation to learn things and having the resources available to learn them. We need language to survive, so we learn it. We need some other skills to survive, so we learn them. Chess is simply not needed for survival, so for many, the infinite complexities of chess will take a lower priority than say...earning a paycheck and buying food and paying rent, etc.


I think the lazyness theory is right on spot.

When I play my phone on a medium-level without any timecontrols I know exactly that I can win if I try hard enough.

But yet my win-ratio on that level is only around 30%.

Very often the first move that comes to mind works. So I don't blundercheck and I don't look if I can find better moves. This results in bad play and my losses often result from very simple blunders from overlooking obvious moves.

When I play a top-engine I'm in a completely different mindset. Since I've never won against it before (and most likely never will) I put much more effort into every single move. I double and triple-check and analyse all the candidate-moves. So my play in this case simply is much better.
My losses here mostly result from overloaded pieces or very long tactical lines.

When I play humans it's something inbetween. I play better than against the weak App but worse than against the strong engines.

If I could somehow force me to think at least for half a minute even on a very obvious move, I could probably avoid blunders who are still my main-burden preventing me from becoming better.


Here we can also bring the talent issue into play.

Some people say that to become a very strong player (above IM) you need talent, otherwise no matter how much you train, you will never break your natural elo barrier (assuming it exists).

But I think that elo rating does not represents your chess strength. It represents how much you care about competitive chess.

Can anyone become a GM?

No, but it's not because they lack talent, it is because they do not care about chess that much. 

Paradoxically, talent may be just how much you like chess.

And yes, this is probably naturally fixed for every people.

ForeverHoldYourPiece I actually made an article about this. Check it out!

kami_7 wrote:

But I think that elo rating does not represents your chess strength. It represents how much you care about competitive chess.

Huh ?

Rating is a pretty accurate measurement of your chess strength, provided you play enough rated games so that it is accurate (which many club players do).

Of course, it is very possible that some players that are patzers in the club are triple-checking their moves in tournament and do better that what you would expect, or reversly that some have so much stress in tournaments that their play degrades.


But there is absolutely no way to get over 2000 Elo without a good playing strength, no matter how much you care about your rating (except maybe bribing FIDE officials, but let's put that aside).

kami_7 wrote:

I think that the biggest difference between amateurs and good players is a different kind of mental attitude.


Oh it's much more than that players who are like Alekhine, Tal, Judit Polgar, Fischer cannot live without Chess it's a part of who they are.

They dream about Rooks, Bishops, Knights, Queens and Pawns

Chess gets in the blood it's so much fun that when you've got the absolute drive to compete and the fire in your belly it's all you want to do.

Some people can't understand that.


Now I'm wondering grandmasters might be curious about.