Friday, December 12, 2014

I think its rough being LOW RATED…

In a massive search for similar minds in the Blogosphere of chess; I am struck by the webs of dusty and inactive blogs.  A Great deal of people who have enthusiastically blogged in pursuit of higher ratings seem to have left their efforts; while there games, there thoughts and strivings remained preserved; like ancient creatures in amber....

With allowances to the possibility that these people have merely blogged elsewhere and the idea that a new generation of chess improvers isn’t as taken on chess bloggers as the “Knights errant”-  I wonder if in face some of these people have been daunted and even beaten by the feeling that they could NOT achieve they chess improvement they sought. 
And yet we must emphatically ask, what is exactly WRONG with being at the chess level we are at, or at least satisfied with a small rise?   Lots of chess greats linger on competitively.  We don’t think bad of Nunn and he’s increasingly large library as an accomplished author even though its been years, decades since he was the great English Grandmaster sensation and what of , old names like Karpov and Shirov that still play a few great games in the occasional tournament, though both have long ago stopped improving. 

So in FACT, Is it really the lack of Chess improvement that is SO embarrassing?
I remember finding Facebook’s chess app about 6 months ago.  At the time I had a stable score at, and playing like rated opponents I rarely encountered comment.  But Facebook of course was a different animal, and as I often do on blitz games I feel into an early losing streak.  Of course, facebook reads initial losses rather harshly and my number dropped well into the three digit numbers.

Facing another opponent who went for a bizarre and crazy opening I was out of my element; and not doing so well.  But he had shown some weakness too and I felt like in each succeeding game, I felt like it was inevitable to play someone that was pretty tactically weak.  I suppose this is, at least, as good of an excuse as any other too explain the mistake.

 One of the attack the guard problems, with his queen dangling in a jangle of uncoordinated pieces.   But I was wrong!  As it happens, I’d only seen about half of the solution and my opponent , I think, didn’t even see my attempted combination.  No doubt he pigeon-holed me as a very low rated indeed.

boy are you dumb” he writes.  I resign. :(
So here’s the Point.  I think its real rough being ‘low rated’.  Maybe we shouldn’t care.  Maybe we should just arbitrarily make up higher numbers to make us feel better (actually not far from my answer to the dilemma).  But the fact is , perhaps, short of 1500 we really feel pretty dumb and untalented.  There is the daydream- that a major amount of interest ‘entitles’ us to something decent –say 1500 (a number of your choice).

I don’t think it’s a good daydream.  For one the Question of the number is Significant.  No doubt, some feel like that number OUGHT to be ‘expert’ 2000.  and maybe others yearn for master.  But the reality out there in blogoland and in the tournaments I see- is that quite a few people aren’t rising hardly at all.  Or at least if they rise, they only do so briefly.   Fact is more often than not, you going to play lots of games and lots of tournaments with little added number to your game

Am I , by my own feelings and others,  “too dumb” to be ‘good’ at chess?
 So desperate to gain the points! So, That you can rid yourself of the insecurities.

  You have to wonder when you see 10 blogs, 7 of which were class players and all of them inactive, and 2 of the 3 that are left are expert strength.   Of course, so goes the logic.  These guys ought to blog since they are clearly good chess.
But I’m sneakily suspicious, that the 2 guys left have in fact just saw through the game entirely.  I mean that, they have learned to enjoy where they are at.  They could pick bigger numbers too!   But they Blog despite the fact that they are playing against competitors that beat them too.

 I think they  are on an exploration of the mind and they avoid big insecurities about their chess.  And anyway, chess is hard enough- I think getting over the whole insecurity thing is part of the cure, of actually accomplishing the rarely achieved chess improvement.

I also wonder, a lot, whether the high rating, in fact reinforces involvement in chess;  With a high rating you become a commodity of sorts; someone who has insight into this difficult game called chess;  mild accomplishment gives one the opportunity to teach- which reinforces your role as a learner which deepens you whole interest in the subject.  but to be obsessed AND low rated.  That's devotion!


  1. I am peering through the amber... i wrote up a lengthy response but being encased here with a tablet, erased it.
    I'll resubmit tomorrow if i can recall what i wrote.

  2. Since I am one of those "ancient creatures in amber" I thought I'd speak out a little. A tear traverses my face like being stuck in a closed position where I want to develop my bishop but I have to sacrifice another piece in order to do so. Life has a way of getting in the way of my chess ambitions.

    Temposchlucker had a nice tally of Knights errants results here:
    It shows that indeed it is possible to improve through tactical training. But what it also shows is that depending on how low rated you are, you tend to position yourself to gain the most. So PLEASE endeavor to improve your tactics... however you choose as it will do more for your rating than learning a new opening repertoire. Trust me.
    I went from a 1300 rated player to a peak of 1800 employing tactical training over the course of 4+ intense years. I went nuts, almost exclusive with it. I was on fire... but the rest of my life suffered. I had to take a break. I fooled myself when I peaked at 1800 that 2000 was really in reach. I studied harder. Did the 7 circles of hell SEVEN times even and started to develop my own set of problems from my own games. It was a brutal pace. I practiced, I blogged once a week, went to a club once a week and did tournaments. It almost cost me my marriage and alienated me from my family. I was so focused on improvement that it was a do or die mentality and ever otehr aspect of my life suffered. But ...that's me... everyone is different and must find their own path. I was using chess as a cover for some other fundamental issues that needed to be address. And eventually I figured it out.
    What I want to say though, is at the craziest time during the peak, no matter what I could do, no ammount of training was showing improvement. I didn't want to blog about meritocracy for results and worse, my rating started to back slide. I was devastated and needed to come up for air. ( or therapy).
    The quest of being comfortable when you suck at this game is tough. But I've since learned the powers of meditation and relaxing into the pain. Being at ease with the way things are may not be the mantra for a competitive warior, but I sure sleep better not worrying about the next rating supplement or, worse, what are my LOYAL FANS going to think? LOL... I guess they think I am some ancient relic stuck in amber now.
    I'll be back, mark my words, chess runs deep in these veins. I am learning to make piece with my path first, enjoying the journey more than the finish line.

    Thanks for giving me something read to spark a little something while I sit here encased in amber. Next time, would you mind bringing a chisel? I seem a little stuck.

    Your very truly,


  3. ...and another thing...

    What I am most interested in these days is the ability to retain chess skills after a period of inactivity and how that varies with stronger players.

    For instance, pit me against someone rated 200 points stronger than me who alos has not played for a couple years. I would still have my butt handed to me. Why?
    What skills and positional nuances are retained in hsi long term memory that are long evaporated from my working memory? How to build that into a long term memory? If I ever figure that out...i'll be sure to let you all know.

  4. Blunderprone, Excellent! thanks for visiting my blog.

    I think I would have been interested in joining the 'knights errant' had I been interested in chess improvement a few years back. I myself have done quite a few tactical puzzles and have done Polgar's book alittle more than 3 times.... but I feel really humble when I here of how serious some of you guys got. AoxomoxoA mentions solving 4000 puzzles, and you sound like you did many thousands yourself.

    Anyway, I had no idea you accomplished so much. Perhaps you should've blogged a post saying; life has been getting in the way and I'm not climbing like I was- but Look what I did! Getting to 1800 is really GOOD.

    for myself, I haven't yet seen much improvement in the metrics that I have (at least yet).. But I have constaints of my own. Putting all life aside isn't in the cards. The point is to find joy and motivation in lesser efforts.

    as I hint about in the blog itself, my ELO MIGHT just be the last to change. Living in a rural location pretty far away from the main chess tournament; it isn't going to be find time to regularly do tournaments. In short, if my study efforts dwarf the tournaments, maybe I really WILL be a great patzer.

    well like I said happy visiting. dust off the blog, I'll add you to the roll! there's nothing like fresh posts. lots of guys are doing it....

  5. Chess improvement is a bit like picking up girls. When you stop obsessing about it but still adopt a couple of no-nonsense attitudes, things start going your way...

    And, I firmly believe you don't need to marry a VS model to be happy. You should cherish what your significant other offers you, like you love a nice combination on the board, or maybe that's the opposite ?!

    But half-joking aside, sports psychologists have known for a long time that you should always focus on process rather than outcomes to get results. Desired outcomes are only here in the back of your mind to fuel the daily processes if need be. But the focus should be on the daily process : press that bench, run these 5 miles, breathe deeply, don't drink coca-cola, solve 10 tactics to the best of your ability.

    Then trust yourself and enjoy the trip :-)

  6. Oh, and no way a realtively modest rating means you're dumb or anything like that. Would you assume someone is dumb because he doesn't speak Russian for example ?

    Maybe you don't have the deep motivation, maybe you don't have the opportunities to improve fast, maybe you didn't put in the work, maybe you don't have enough talent for the game to improve very fast, but if you're playing chess, there's no way you're dumb : dumb people have other activities.

    The problem is that the chess rating scale isn't sexy (and it's even worse in the USA because of the way kids' ratings are calculated). 2000 looks like the first sexy point of call, but it's obviously very hard to achieve if you haven't started training your chess fairly early in your life. It's like languages : you just pick them faster at 6 than at 36. Just the way it is.

    So 1500-1600 isn't sexy, but that's actually stronger than 99% of casual players. You're a 1 in 100 guys, except chess isn't tennis and casual players rarely go to play during the week-end. If they were, you would be in the top.

    People playing in clubs are mostly competitive and have experience. They are already the 1% of chess. Then the 2000/masters are the top of this top. Not easy objective.

    I want to hit 'expert'. Sounds good, but what does it take to achieve a Uni Bachelor degree in a foreign language (because that's more or less what it amounts to). Without even good teachers to help you, and let's not speak about available time...

    Enjoy your chess. Enjoy your victories ! If you want to improve, take a good coach and make some effort, but you need the spark, the desire to play to the best of your abilities, else it just doesn't happen : ego on the table just paralyzes you.

    You need "flow" to play chess (Mihály Csíkszentmihályi) and to derive pleasure from it, rather than rating inhibitions. Your chess rating isn't the measure if your value or intellect as a person and will never be. Just how good you happen to be at the game.

    Now did you enjoy this game at the club last week ? Was it feeling good ? That's the only thing that really matters :-)

  7. Welcome to the chess improvement community!

    I first played a bunch of junky blitz-type games on the Yahoo chess app, but those kinds of general public type places (including now Facebook it seems) are notorious troll grounds. I'm lousy at fast time controls and don't learn much, plus dealing with a**holes is not something I need to do in my free time.

    Hope you find a good venue for playing ( is one of the places that has slow time control games) and enjoy the ride, wherever it takes you.

  8. I think it is good to have goals or a general goal but as mentioned above by someone else a sense of detachment from the goal is important! It is true for music (my profession) and sports and chess! Especially important for a hobby as a hobby is supposed to bring us joy and fun and escape while we improve at something just for the sake of improving.

    It is 7 years exactly since I began pursuing chess as a serious hobby! I am better. It has happened slowly! But more importantly I LOVE the game! I LOVE studying the game!

    And I have become really good at knowing when to let Chess take over my free time for a while and knowing when to put chess way down on the list.

    And by doing this it is always there. Never approached a burn out. Because my main goal has ALWAYS been to enjoy the game!

    (but don't get me wrong...I want to get to 2000 as well. :) I am just not in a hurry!)

  9. i really want to thank you guys for visiting. I am really enjoying blogging this. I have been working the lonely fight against my bad habits since the summer.

    I really enjoyed the comment about how this all plays in the club and brought it up at my club meeting last night (we have a very small club).

    of the two other guys, one feels in a similar place to me- would like to be a lot stronger (ELO wise), but is just like if all we want to do Is WIN and brag about it; what fun would the game be?

    another is like - whats ELO? chess trappings has no claim onto this guy. he totally plays for fun and strongly feels he wouldn't play a tournament cause the competition part of it would get in the game of just playing the peices and looking for/ creating interesting chess puzzles.

    ... I have a good Club. we are all great patzers over there. BTW I do play at, and I think blitz play everyone is a little dominated by the will to win quickly- and without deep thought. openings, cheap traps; all the stuff an impatient chess player might be very interested in. ... so I'm not sure its fair to brand facebooks chess app as particarlurly trollish.

    I really think , in the end, its something of an irony. If your VERY obsessed about gaining ELO your much less likely to actually gain it!

    1. All of the large-scale blitz game communities are rather trollish, was my point. Your experience with some folks on Facebook is therefore expected (sadly).
      If you play 45 45 games, pretty much guarantee no trolls.
      I play in the Slow Chess League there, which being organized is another layer of troll protection.

  10. ... not Of course thats there's anything wrong with playing bitz its just that IMHO- there are much better ways to improve. LOL.

  11. Blitz will improve your chess only in two cases : either if you're young (U20) and your brain can pick up patterns fast simply by going through them, or if you're already very strong (ie. titled), so you can sort out what happened even in a 5' game.