Top 8 Reasons Players Fail to Improve at Chess

What are the main obstacles that prevent the majority of adult players to make progress at chess and reach their goals? Let’s take a closer look:

Lack of Motivation:

Lack of motivation, is the biggest progress stopper at chess and life alike. Many adult players are simply not motivated enough to get better at chess. They want to improve their game, but they don’t want it bad enough that they are willing to give up something valuable for it.

How many adults are willing to give up their TV time, newspaper reading time, socializing time or in favor of chess? They have spent years to develop a habit to watch that TV-show every day at 7 pm. Trust me not many people can break that habit easily or even at all.

The only way to break an old habit is to replace it with a new one, for example to study chess at 7 pm (or any other time) for 1 hour, 3 weeks in a row. Commitment is a key to success.

Bad Memory:

Memory is not as crucial at amateur level chess, but if you want to achieve something more, then it may be a problem. Many adults have flaws in their memory which will make it difficult to remember certain things that are important for succeeding at chess.

Opening preparation, typical endgame positions and even pattern recognition are all heavily relying on good memorization skills.

Many adults cannot even remember an important phone number or a license plate of their own car. How are they expected to remember the game that was played in 2007 between Anand and Kramnik or a way to draw a certain rook and pawn endgame? You don’t need to have a Carlsen-like photographic memory to achieve the masters title, but it always helps to improve it a bit.

Inability to Calculate Variations:

This is another huge problem that many adult chess players are facing. It seems like they cannot visualize the position well enough that they can see what will happen further than 3 moves ahead.

How should you train the ability to calculate chess variations? Solving chess tactics without moving pieces on the board, practicing in finding candidate moves, calculating a certain line as far as possible and evaluating the final position are some the most common techniques in calculation training.

Another method you can try is to play a blindfold chess against a very weak opponent. The goal of this exercise is to train visualization and position memorization rather than look for tactics, etc.

 Absence of a Study Plan:

Most adult chess players have plenty of training materials. Often these materials are not what they need to study to take their chess to the next level. These training materials are like pieces of puzzle. In order to improve at chess you need to combine these pieces into the full picture, or rather a complete training routine. Quite often, when you have too many choices it is hard to make a decision.


Psychological Instability:

Psychological instability is something that many adult players have and it is something that can ruin their winning chances. How many times have you seen a player that after looking at the pairings table says something like “I’m playing against somebody 400 points higher, there is no way I will win this round”.

Well of course, you won’t win. Even before the game started you already pre-program yourself that the opponent is superior and you will lose simply based on the rating difference.

For players like that I always recommend not paying too much attention to the ratings. It may not be easy at first, but you need to be confident enough to play against anyone, without that fear of losing.

Low Chess Stamina:

Many adult chess players suffer from a low chess stamina. That means they can pay full attention to what’s going on in the game for first couple of hours, but later on towards the end of the game their attention gets distorted and they start losing focus. This is a very dangerous situation for a chess player. Just imagine you have been playing your best for 2 or 3 hours and then make an inaccuracy and lose the game.

Lack of Competiveness:

Oddly enough, lack of competitiveness is also one of the reasons why adult chess players have problems improving their game. Unlike younger players, they think that chess is “just a game” and that “winning is not that important”.

With this kind of attitude it is very hard to perform at your best and have motivation and drive to work hard and to win games.

 Inability to Handle Pressure

Surprisingly enough, many adult chess players cannot handle pressure as well as their younger counterparts. When they arebeing attacked they lose focus and collapse quickly. In order to succeed at chess, adult players need to pay specific attention to this problem.

This problem can be addressed by playing high pressure positions in practice games, when you’re a piece down or under serious attack. By surviving in practice games you will be able to survive when it matters as well.