Can You Improve Too Much?

A question that’s never asked is whether you can improve too much, probably because most people have trouble improving at all. Actually it’s quite an interesting and relevant one as players who get over 2200, especially titled players, have difficulty finding suitable opposition. This is quite natural because players with this sort of rating tend to be quite rare. But it can be disappointing to spend a lifetime honing your skills, only to discover that you have trouble using them.

Travelling to international tournaments is the solution of course, but life can get in the way of such things. Internet chess is imperfect at best, though many end up taking this route. As for playing ‘down’ in local events, it’s not really satisfactory at all. You develop bad habits by playing weaker opposition, the playing conditions tend to be poor and people can even become resentful and hostile if you dare to play for a rival team!

I think this is why many Grandmasters have simple stopped playing; they loved the time they were globetrotting professionals too much to settle for being amateurs again. Actually this is how I feel myself, though I may be playing in some local events with my son as he develops his game.

So what’s the optimal level you should aim for for chess to remain an enjoyable hobby? Well probably around 2200, which is not too high for club chess whilst allowing you the possibility of international tournaments and playing against titled professionals. Probably it’s still OK to be a bit higher than that, maybe even somewhere in the 2300s. But after that you’re no longer in the amateur ranks even if chess is still a hobby for you.

How can you stop improving and just maintain this sort of level? Well probably it’s best not to study too much and take some time off the game if you feel chess strength surging within you. In the worst case you can adopt some dubious openings, for example the Latvian Gambit against 1.e4 and the Grob as White. Though this might take the fun out of the game if you’ve reached a level in which the pieces and pawns become one with your psyche and dubious play becomes an offence to the soul!

Nigel Davies

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.