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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Failed Attempt at Becoming a GM

      Back in 2010 a British player named Will Taylor, a 21-year old student, began chronicling his attempts to become a Grandmaster.  Mr. Taylor, at the beginning of his journey, a 21-year old British student rated ‘Class A’ with an ECF grade of 152 which equates to a FIDE rating of roughly 1900. He had a £200 bet at 25:1 that he could achieve his goal.  Unfortunately Mr. Taylor has abandoned his quest for the GM title and lost the bet. Link

      A couple of years ago I published a link to Rose’s RantsI stated that I believed Rose’s articles are worth reading by any aspiring player. Tom Rose was an English player rated over 2000 who set out at a late age to obtain the master title. He failed but his posts on his attempt offered a lot of valuable insight on improving. 
      Likewise, I think Mr. Taylor’s posts, while they may not make you a GM or even a master, are valuable to the aspiring player because he does present some study methods and writes about his successes and failures and the Blog makes interesting reading.
      A couple of things stand out.  First, he was at the ripe old age of 21 and had a life outside of chess.  Second, in the two years he was blogging he went from 1900 to just a little over 2000 which is not a great improvement.  In the end, Mr. Taylor wrote, “In other words, if you try to improve your chess whilst working full-time, learning the shakuhachi, and playing golf four times a week, you won’t get very far.”  Tom Rose reached similar conclusions.
      There was a forum debate awhile back about whether it was possible for one to vastly improve their chess ability as an adult.  My opinion, mostly shot down by the majority of posters, was that it is not possible for most adult players to reach Master, let alone an international title.  I don’t know of anybody who actually did it though a guy name Rolf Wetzell described in his book, Chess Master at Any Age, how he did it after age 50.  I don’t know Wetzell’s starting rating or how long it took him, but he was an exception.
      Somewhere around puberty seems to be the cut off for learning to do anything really well.  A kid who moves to a foreign country at 8 or 9 years old will eventually speak the new language without a trace of accent but someone who learns it when they are 18 will always have an accent. Generally speaking, of course. I'm sure there are many examples of people that are exceptions to the rule.
      I am not trying to discourage attempts to improve because, as GM Maurice Ashley once observed, getting to your goal is most of the fun.  If nothing else, the attempts these two players made just shows you how hard it is to reach 2200 and even though a master might not compare very well to a GM, a 2200 rating is something to crow about so the next time you meet one, shake his hand and congratulate him on his accomplishment.


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