Realistically, is it ever possible to train oneself from an average skill level to achieve a professional standard of play?
I'm confident people can theorise and practice and raise their ratings by several hundred or so, but it seems some people have a natural flare for chess which cannot be replicated by study alone.
Is it ever possible to rival the phenomenal skill of inherent talent with simple self discipline and determined study? Does anyone know of examples?
I guess first it depends on your definition of "professional".
For example, it has been stated many places that any person of average intellect/talent can, through intense study, reach master level. e.g. FM/NM. To some, FM level is "professional" level and you could, theoretically, make a living (although probably not a great one) at this level.
If you mean GM level, not so sure. Lazlo Polgar claims to have "created" GM level players from average kids (Susan/Judit/Sofia(IM, not GM)) through his experiment of home schooling and intense chess study from an early age. Whether or not it was his training regimen from an early age or talent in the Polgar sisters that created GM level players is unclear, though.
Another example I've heard of is Gata Kamsky. I've read that his father subjected him to isolation and intense study sessions from an early age. But again, it is not clear how much hard work alone contributed to his results and how much "talent" contributed.
Unfortunately, talent is a very subjective concept and hard to quantify very accurately. There haven't been many experiments in this area -- to get a handle on the nature vs. nurture debate in chess, you would need to test a large pool of kids with no prior study of chess for various factors that might show strong predictors of "talent" -- whatever those may be, e.g. spatial thinking, memory, etc. -- and then subject both a group of "talented" kids and "non-talented" kids (those without the indicators) to the same intense training regimen over many years.
I don't think there would be many volunteers for such tests, however. :-)
The 3 Polgar sisters seem to indicate that proper training makes all the difference in the world, I believe their dad was a professional teacher (not a pro chessplayer) who began training them at an early age.
A now commonly(?) accepted rule of thumb is most people can become masters in chess if they can devote 10,000 hours of serious study to the game, which is obviously way easier to begin doing as a young child. (There are 8760 hrs in a year BTW)
That said, some of us have a natural flair for the game and most of us don't - like me for instance, my current rating is based on 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration (ie natural ability) as the old saying goes.
talentfactor * efficient training time = skill
For the mathematical people here this is just a short representation the connection doesn't necessarily have to be linear. Other factors which are not mentioned are simplified to in some way influence one of those factors.
Yes some people learn faster, but noone can become gm by talent alone.
That's how the old masters did it... there were no (or very very few) books. They played and studied games and became very strong. So yes it's realistic to "ever" do it, but it's not realistic for the average person obviously.
This is an interesting idea (which I agree with). I say interesting because it's hard to know how much a person works at something... In my classwork I often review things in my head when I have some free time... like before I fall asleep or when I'm driving to class, or walking to lunch. It can be a list of memorized things, or stepping through homework problems or the outline of a chapter. You'd never know I was "studying" and I wonder how often chess "prodigies" or professionals are working on chess in their heads.
So my short answer is it's true some people progress faster than can be accounted for by hard work alone, but the work aspect can't be underestimated.
Sure, that's easy. But when the person with phenomenal talent also employs self discipline and determined study, they'll go beyond what an average person can achieve.
As an example? The world is full of talented/intelligent/whatever people who never really tried and are mediocre... there are very very few people who were determined and (given the opportunity) gave it their all that didn't achieve some measure of success.
IMO a chess master (~2300 FIDE) is achievable by almost everyone (this would be a professional player)... however average people hardly ever reach 2300 FIDE because they either don't have 12 hours of free time every day, or they're not willing to get 6 hours of sleep every night for years making time for chess study.
I don't agree entirely. I think most anyone can reach GM level if chess is all they do for an extended period of time, have the right people talking to them, training them, and there's no other distracting factors. what isn't assured is just anyone reaching super-gm level, 2700 FIDE. I think those people actually do have particularly high spatial/visual analytical abilities. it's just like anything else really. take a population of people, there will be some people who are really really good at this, others will be really really good at that ad infinitum. there exist multiple types of intelligence, contrary to popular belief. most everyone's brain sort of has a different specialty as it were. probably .05% of population (which I completely guessing, probably wrong, would be half a million of 7 billion or something) has it all, that really isn't very many people. being a super grandmaster at chess means you have incredible spatial/visual analytical abilities, "talent" in this case is just another word for this.
Capablanca vs Alekhine
There are 13728 titled players in the FIDE database
also I would just like to add, things aren't as simple as "some people just didn't try or apply themselves and thus are mediocre" there are a plethora of factors that would contribute to whether or not someone acheives a certain level of success in any given endeavor they undertake. people don't live in some bubble isolated from all the psychotic criminal BS that goes on, well I guess some people do, but the majority, yeah no, not really. there are some people who have to dodge bullets on a daily basis. other people who are raped. others still have real abusive effed up parents, family and friends. all these things could immensely effect a person's level of acheivement in any given field, sport, whatever...
just a reality check. sorry if it's a downer.
A now commonly(?) accepted rule of thumb is most people can become masters in chess if they can devote 10,000 hours of serious study to the game...
Commonly accepted perhaps...but silly nonetheless.
others still have real abusive effed up parents, family and friends. all these things could immensely effect a person's level of acheivement in any given field, sport, whatever...
If you look at people's histories, a lot of times these things seem to act as goads toward achievement...
How would you ever know exactly whether that has been done or not? I'm afraid it's all a matter of labels.
actually, sorry for another reality check. but no this isn't true. very rare in fact. it just seems to be that way, because these type of stories that make everyone feel all "fuzzy" inside are plastered on all the MSM newspapers when it this does happen. making it appear as if it's good horribly abuse people! right! ok! everyone go rape someone! usually if someone is subjected to incredibly harsh circumstancesl, abuse, heinous crimes perptrated against them, it takes an immense toll and prevents them from being what they could be, most often completely destroyes lives. again sorry. reality check time. who's next?
Oh, don't give me a reality check, omer! Listen to the biographies of people who've made it to the top. Lots of them have come from all sorts of compromised circumstances. Get yer head out of that mall vacuum and try breathing some real air for a change!
Well, since not evreyone who has been playing and studying chess has reached master strength or higher, there must definitely be a limit to one's abilities regardless of training. Maybe talent is that possible level one can achieve if working enough about it. But you can never know how good you can become while you're still improving
It's more about being able to effectively use what you have learnt rather than gaining additional knowledge. In such a sense, there should be some features in the way you think, in your personality, etc. that are independent on chess yet influence your chess performance. I believe that concentration, the ability to think in perspective, to vizualize and imagine, to remember in short and long term, to manage your time, etc, even physical features such as well-working circulatory and nervous systems (after all, a 2 hour chess game is very exhausting physically too) and others, can add about 200-300 rating points to your performance no matter of your chess skills. Also, if you have the kind of mind that can think abstractly and adapt to various situations, you'll also benefit. I think personality plays a huge role in chess, and maybe it's what makes the difference.
Think about how much the ammount of objective chess knowledge really is - it's hardly more than the average knowledge required to perform equally well at another profession or activity; and people tend to perform differently at different activities other than chess too. That's why I think studying can improve your chess, but so can chess-studying-independent features (chess talent, if we name them so); and while the first seems to be a matter of time to achieve, the latter are rather a matter of your general personality, lifestyle, experience and so on, and to an extent predetermined or at least not so influenced by training.
In other words, you have some potential, and you have to work with it. Neither of them can substitute the other. To become a strong chess player, you need both; and the best chess players are those that have the best combinations of potential and development.
Yet some great players had great potential and excellent development, say, Capablanca; others - vice versa, for example Botvinnik. So there's much space for maneuvering, even at the highest levels.
I sure hope Conflagration_Planet doesn't get a whiff of this thread...
hmm I'll just pass the message on.
You're a cruel cruel man, kco.
but it will be fun though.