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Is becoming a Master an achievable goal?

  • #1
    I was wondering is becoming an official chess master, whether FIDE, or US or UK, (it is graded about 2200 I think) a realistic long term goal for most intermediate 1500 upwards players, especially those over 1800. If say for instance a person has a 2000 rating in rapid on here will they be busting a gut to try and get that official title? Or does the title not really mean very much. I'm curious as to what people think and whether adult players consider it an important goal to aspire to (even if they won't reach it). Also does the master title confer any advantages when it comes to working as a chess coach or YouTuber? Obviously a grandmaster title is way out of reach as is an international master title so I wondered what people's thoughts were on becoming a master. Soltis even has quite a few books on it.
  • #2

    Yes Grasshopper, you will be a master someday, but first you must learn how to snatch the pebble...

  • #3

    I think it is achievable for most players under age 30 who start putting in 3-4 hrs/day.  I coached a high school chess club and I had players who put in about 1-2 hr/day who became top-10-in-county (1300+ rating) and were weak academically and behind avg. in math as well as those who were gifted academically.  I think any of them could have reached master with 3-4 hrs/day and proper coaching, though obviously the gifted teens were more numerous in that group and probably more likely to progress because of their already-developed self-discipline and study habits.

    I also was USCF Tournament Director for my county's scholastic, OTB, regular-rating tournaments and parents and coaches from other schools often noted that academic excellence did NOT determine which kids had strong ratings at their schools.

    The older you get the more difficult it is to play good chess in less than 90 min. per clock games.  All of the people I've heard about who reached OTB regular-rating master in their 50's or later were Class A players or better much earlier in life.

    Still, I think it's possible, though not a sure thing, for a 1500's player to get to master level at any age IF they can seriously study for at least 4 hours/day.

  • #4

    I did it but I had smaller goals from the start and didnt really think about becoming a master until I actually beat a few in tournament games . I played my first tourney in 73 at age 20 and lost every game . I first broke 2200 in 1984 , it took me 11 years . My first goal was to be better than one of our club players who was very arrogant and used to beat me mercilessly and then gloat about it , he was only B class in strength but I was just starting . I recall my next goal was to be an A class player . As an A class player I started playing against experts and masters and began to beat some of them . At this point I set 2 goals : to break 2200 and become Ga state champion . I broke 2200 in 84 and then became state champion in 87 .  Set reasonable goals  and then set new ones as you achieve them . 

  • #5

    Possibly of interest:

    "... the NM title is an honor that only one percent of USCF members attain. ..." - IM John Donaldson (2015)

    http://www.jeremysilman.com/shop/pc/Reaching-the-Top-77p3905.htm
    What It Takes to Become a Chess Master by Andrew Soltis
    "... going from good at tactics to great at tactics ... doesn't translate into much greater strength. ... You need a relatively good memory to reach average strength. But a much better memory isn't going to make you a master. ... there's a powerful law of diminishing returns in chess calculation, ... Your rating may have been steadily rising when suddenly it stops. ... One explanation for the wall is that most players got to where they are by learning how to not lose. ... Mastering chess ... requires a new set of skills and traits. ... Many of these attributes are kinds of know-how, such as understanding when to change the pawn structure or what a positionally won game looks like and how to deal with it. Some are habits, like always looking for targets. Others are refined senses, like recognizing a critical middlegame moment or feeling when time is on your side and when it isn't. ..." - GM Andrew Soltis (2012)
    https://web.archive.org/web/20140708093409/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/review857.pdf
    100 Chess Master Trade Secrets by Andrew Soltis
    https://web.archive.org/web/20140708094523/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/review916.pdf

    http://dev.jeremysilman.com/shop/pc/100-Master-Trade-Secrets-77p3835.htm
    Reaching the Top?! by Peter Kurzdorfer

    "... On the one hand, your play needs to be purposeful much of the time; the ability to navigate through many different types of positions needs to be yours; your ability to calculate variations and find candidate moves needs to be present in at least an embryonic stage. On the other hand, it will be heart-warming and perhaps inspiring to realize that you do not need to give up blunders or misconceptions or a poor memory or sloppy calculating habits; that you do not need to know all the latest opening variations, or even know what they are called. You do not have to memorize hundreds of endgame positions or instantly recognize the proper procedure in a variety of pawn structures.
    [To play at a master level consistently] is not an easy task, to be sure ..., but it is a possible one. ..." - NM Peter Kurzdorfer (2015)

    http://www.thechessmind.net/blog/2015/11/16/book-notice-kurzdorfers-reaching-the-top.html
    http://www.jeremysilman.com/shop/pc/Reaching-the-Top-77p3905.htm

  • #6
    Reb wrote:

    I did it but I had smaller goals from the start and didnt really think about becoming a master until I actually beat a few in tournament games . I played my first tourney in 73 at age 20 and lost every game . I first broke 2200 in 1984 , it took me 11 years . My first goal was to be better than one of our club players who was very arrogant and used to beat me mercilessly and then gloat about it , he was only B class in strength but I was just starting . I recall my next goal was to be an A class player . As an A class player I started playing against experts and masters and began to beat some of them . At this point I set 2 goals : to break 2200 and become Ga state champion . I broke 2200 in 84 and then became state champion in 87 .  Set reasonable goals  and then set new ones as you achieve them . 

     

    I think Reb's approach is solid.  Set mini-goals, work hard to reach them, then move up the ladder to the next mini-goal.

     

    Well done, Reb!!

  • #7
    Thanks, interesting points and list of books. I guess following on from what Mick said the question could be rephrased to "is studying chess for 3 to 4 hours a day for 5-10 years an achievable goal?" For most people the answer is no but there will be a few people that are prepared to make the sacrifices. Personally I'd be happy reaching class A and consider that a sufficient challenge. Attempting to become a master is entirely dependent on a persons rate of improvement. If it takes 10 years to go from low class B to class A then it is very unlikely. However younger players under 25 may consider it achievable if they are already class A. Rev is right about setting reasonable goals and these must differ from person to person depending on age and time commitments. Overall looking too far ahead is probably not wise.
  • #8

    edguitarock wrote:

    Thanks, interesting points and list of books. I guess following on from what Mick said the question could be rephrased to "is studying chess for 3 to 4 hours a day for 5-10 years an achievable goal?" For most people the answer is no but there will be a few people that are prepared to make the sacrifices. Personally I'd be happy reaching class A and consider that a sufficient challenge. Attempting to become a master is entirely dependent on a persons rate of improvement. If it takes 10 years to go from low class B to class A then it is very unlikely. However younger players under 25 may consider it achievable if they are already class A. Rev is right about setting reasonable goals and these must differ from person to person depending on age and time commitments. Overall looking too far ahead is probably not wise.

    If it takes someone 10 years to go from B to A, while the person is spending time studying and playing regularly, they are studying the wrong material. It is not unreasonable to improve ~100 points per year (until 2200) simply by working on your weakest areas until they become strengths, reevaluate, and repeat. In fact, if de la Maza's experience shows us anything, it is that you can reach 2000 simply by practicing tactics until you are blue in the face.
  • #9

    Short-term goals are the best thing to improve, not only to get a title, but to improve objectively in chess. Little by little, homie. wink.png

  • #10
    BobbyTalparov wrote:

    ... if de la Maza's experience shows us anything, it is that you can reach 2000 simply by practicing tactics until you are blue in the face.

    http://www.chess.com/article/view/the-michael-de-la-maza-story

    Apparently, he had "studied openings, endgames, and other 'chess knowledge' information."

  • #11
    What De Le Maza did was very impressive but it is undermined by the fact that he quit playing altogether after winning a tournament. If he was confident in his ability and his 2000+ grade he would have carried on playing and winning stuff and maybe become a master which would have given his book and methods real credibility but he gave up! Despite doing endless tactics he didn't become a master. That said, I agree with his premise that doing loads of tactics is very important.
  • #12

    edguitarock wrote:

    What De Le Maza did was very impressive but it is undermined by the fact that he quit playing altogether after winning a tournament. If he was confident in his ability and his 2000+ grade he would have carried on playing and winning stuff and maybe become a master which would have given his book and methods real credibility but he gave up! Despite doing endless tactics he didn't become a master. That said, I agree with his premise that doing loads of tactics is very important.

    The point was not to follow his example (he was unemployed for 2 years and did nothing but tactics for hours a day), but that it is possible to become a strong class A by studying tactics almost exclusively (and @kindaspongey, if you read the whole story you would see that he started studying openings and strategy and did not improve. It was not until after he was told his weakness was tactics - as it is with virtually every player below 2000 - that he dedicated his time to studying them). He quit playing because he knew the study needed to get to Master would be more than what he has done (he would have to go deeper into strategy, openings, and endgames), and he no longer wanted to put that much time into it.
  • #13

    Yes.

  • #14
    BobbyTalparov wrote:

    ... The point was ... that it is possible to become a strong class A by studying tactics almost exclusively (and @kindaspongey, ... [de la Maza] started studying openings and strategy and did not improve. It was not until after he was told his weakness was tactics - as it is with virtually every player below 2000 - that he dedicated his time to studying them). ...

    That does indeed indicate that he needed to work on tactics, but I do not see how it shows "that you can reach 2000 simply by practicing tactics until you are blue in the face." Apparently, he had "studied openings, endgames, and other 'chess knowledge' information."

    http://www.chess.com/article/view/the-michael-de-la-maza-story

  • #15

    kindaspongey wrote:

    BobbyTalparov wrote:

    The point was ... that it is possible to become a strong class A by studying tactics almost exclusively (and @kindaspongey, ... [De Le Maza] started studying openings and strategy and did not improve. It was not until after he was told his weakness was tactics - as it is with virtually every player below 2000 - that he dedicated his time to studying them). ...

    That does indeed indicate that he needed to work on tactics, but I do not see how it shows "that you can reach 2000 simply by practicing tactics until you are blue in the face." Apparently, he had "studied openings, endgames, and other 'chess knowledge' information."

    http://www.chess.com/article/view/the-michael-de-la-maza-story

    Read beyond the first paragraph and/or read his book. You are stopping halfway through the first paragraph of the story and wondering why you are not seeing the whole picture.
  • #16
    BobbyTalparov wrote:

    ... You are stopping halfway through the first paragraph of the story ...

    That is incorrect. http://www.chess.com/article/view/the-michael-de-la-maza-story

  • #17

    kindaspongey wrote:

    BobbyTalparov wrote:

    ... You are stopping halfway through the first paragraph of the story ...

    That is incorrect.

    Obviously not. If you read the very next sentence after what you quoted, you will see a very enlightening piece of information.
  • #18
    Tactics do massively help. I suppose De Le Maza demonstrated that for people with a lot of time and enthusiasm class A is achievable.
  • #19
    BobbyTalparov wrote:

    ... If you read the very next sentence after what you quoted, you will see a very enlightening piece of information.

    There is this sentence: "Like many adults, he assumed that he needed to augment his natural skills and intelligence by compiling chess knowledge: he studied openings, endgames, and other 'chess knowledge' information."

    The very next sentence is: "Despite all that accumulation of knowledge, he was getting nowhere."

    Again, that (along with the subsequent stuff) does indeed indicate that de la Maza needed to work on tactics, but I do not see how it shows "that you can reach 2000 simply by practicing tactics until you are blue in the face."

    http://www.chess.com/article/view/the-michael-de-la-maza-story

  • #20
    Reb wrote:

    I did it but I had smaller goals from the start and didnt really think about becoming a master until I actually beat a few in tournament games . I played my first tourney in 73 at age 20 and lost every game . I first broke 2200 in 1984 , it took me 11 years . My first goal was to be better than one of our club players who was very arrogant and used to beat me mercilessly and then gloat about it , he was only B class in strength but I was just starting . I recall my next goal was to be an A class player . As an A class player I started playing against experts and masters and began to beat some of them . At this point I set 2 goals : to break 2200 and become Ga state champion . I broke 2200 in 84 and then became state champion in 87 .  Set reasonable goals  and then set new ones as you achieve them . 


    Great advice! Set small achievable goals in front of you and achieve them. I have been playing for 5 years now I feel like I'm hitting a brick wall.  I have recently joined a chess club and I'm learning again. Playing OTB is a whole different game. I am just starting to enter competitions now. My next goal is to win a local competition and then when my rating goes up win one at the higher level.  It's too far ahead to say can I become a Master. Maybe it's too far ahead for the OP to view it like that. But step by step, goal by goal maybe it's possible.......... 

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