Can anyone learn chess? (You can do it too!)

Chess is primarily a mental game. It doesn’t matter what is your age, skin color, race, country of origin, gender, culture, or even disability as long as you are willing to incorporate the knowledge in materials. Anyone can learn chess if they are willing to put in the work.

There is this stereotype that you have to belong to a specific group of people in order to learn chess, that some background is optimal for this pursuit. While this might be true in some of the cases, this article is why you shouldn’t worry about it.

Chess.com You Can Join Free Learn a...
Chess.com You Can Join Free Learn and Play Chess Online

Because believe it or not, everyone can learn chess no matter their individual characteristic/uniqueness. I certainly believe that anyone can learn chess.

This is good news for anyone who is trying to get good at this game, if there isn’t any inherent barrier preventing you from excelling then you are likely to enjoy the learning process and succeed with your goal.

With all of that in mind, let’s begin.

Chess is not only for intelligent people

I will start off with the most common stereotype, which is that you need to be a naturally intelligent person in order to learn chess well. But this is not true.

If you think that learning chess is for smart people only then you couldn’t be further from the truth, intelligence does play a role in learning but not in the way you think.

When we try to learn something not just with chess, our natural abilities to learn new things will be kicked into play. Intelligent people will naturally get the points faster but not necessarily better.

A lot of people who are branded as intelligent are those who have excelled in academics, but this is not the only type of intelligence. Academics and learning chess is actually quite different.

Yes, there is a lot of memorization and theory involved in chess but it focuses more on the application. Especially as a beginner, those who are used to an academic-like approach (to learning) will still not get better until they get on the board and play.

At the end of the day chess is just like learning any other skill out there, there are some who understand ideas faster but most do not.

Do not worry if you don’t consider yourself as a smart individual, yes, you will learn slowly, but once you catch up the playing field will be leveled. At that point it will depend on the work that you have invested (learning).

Young individuals can learn chess

There are some who hesitate teaching their kids the fundamentals of chess thinking that they are too young to understand such complications. This is again, not true.

If you are trying to teach someone who is young how to play chess, it is actually the best age to do it. Most players who achieve a lot of accolades started very young.

I would even say that every professional that you see at the top has at least started just below the age of ten, which is a very young age.

It is actually the opposite, someone who is young is more likely to understand the ideas better as it is easier to incorporate the knowledge while the brain is still developing.

When somebody has grown, they are more likely to think of other things but forget some things that they have learned in the past. When a kid focuses on one subject they are likely to excel since the attention is not scattered.

How about the opposite? Could old people start to learn chess?

Old individuals can still learn chess

Now a lot of people are wondering about this. If a person is already old and their mental capacity is already deteriorating, can they still learn chess and be good at it?

The answer to this is actually simple, if your goal is only to learn chess and be very skilled (around 2000 elo) then it is a very realistic goal. If you are trying to be a professional though you will find it difficult. 

However most people are not really playing chess to pursue it professionally. I for example am very young but treat playing chess competitively as a hobby (not as a career).

If your goal is only to learn chess and be decently good, you can do that as long as you are not suffering from a terminal disease that prevents you from performing mental-related tasks.

No matter how old you are right now there is nothing stopping you from learning chess. It might be too late to pursue it professionally, but you can definitely be very good even in old age.

And around 2000 elo is not even that bad, it will make you better than at least 50% of people who play chess.

The country of origin doesn’t matter in learning chess

No matter where you come from it is certainly possible to learn chess. It can be more difficult than some places but in the realms of possibility, it is still reasonable.

Whichever place your origin is, you can definitely be good at chess if you put in the work. Russia, U.S., and India are the powerhouses of chess, but a lot of strong players have come from other countries.

Just by the fact that top players have risen from all around the world (even though the peak players only originate in specific countries) tells that you can at least get to a level where you are very good no matter where you are.

It will be more difficult in some places where chess tournaments might not be the norm, or limited unlike with other countries. 

The availability of internet connection is a factor too, there are so many available chess materials online that couldn’t be accessed if there is no internet connection.

But if you stick through and dedicate yourself to even just a few materials as well as continually play, then I believe you will learn it eventually even if you are very slow at it. 

I mean there are a lot of chess hustlers around the world who became very good by just playing, if they can do it you can do it too! If you want to read an article about how strong chess hustlers really are, you can read my other article about it (will open in a new tab)

Skin color is not a factor in learning chess

Skin color has been pretty divisive in some aspects of human interaction, mastering this game however is not dependent on your skin color rather if you could actually convert what you have learned.

Your skin color doesn’t matter in chess, you get what you work for. A lot of strong grandmasters have different skin colors and it doesn’t really matter for getting good at this game.

This is something that doesn’t resonate as well with me since I am from the Philippines (we don’t really care about skin color since we have a diversity of those) but this is definitely a problem in places with history like the United States.

Do not worry though, even if you are white, black, light-skinned, or whatever skin color you may have, it doesn’t matter. You can still learn chess as long as you are dedicated and will continue to push on those early days of confusion.

Males are welcomed in chess

I want to talk about gender next. If you are a guy for example, are there any limitations that hold you back from learning chess? There actually isn’t any.

If you are a male then it actually makes you more compatible with chess. Around 80% of people who play chess professionally are males/guys.

There are female professionals too, but the majority of the population is composed of males. In fact, the top 20 chess players in the world at the time of this writing and will likely be in the future is likely to be a guy.

Even lower-rated/middle-rated competitions are majorly dominated by males rather than females, so being a male is not really something you should worry about.

That leads us to the next question though, can females learn chess?

Females are welcome to chess

If you are a female then you are obviously welcomed as well, the gender really doesn’t matter since chess is a mental activity. In fact, females even have a separate grandmaster title if they choose to go that route. 

The reason why some female titans are separated from male titles is to lower the bar, this serves to incentivize females in continuing pursuit of chess (professionally) rather than dropping it off.

This is because the chess population is majorly made out of males, the community doesn’t want to lose more females. 

If you don’t want to participate in these separated female titles/events then you could even choose to compete against males directly at your own discretion.

Judith Polgar, Hou Yifan, etc. are strong grandmasters that have proven their rights on professional grounds. Just by the fact that there are females who have reached the peak means that you can learn chess as a girl too.

There has not been a female chess champion before but for good reasons (not because females are just bad as a gender). If you want to understand what I am talking about you can read my other article about that (will open in a new tab).

Any gender is welcome in chess

There has not been a popular professional who has claimed to be not their biological sex, but this is that because of a barrier that prevents other genders from excelling.

Again, the majority of the chess population is dominated by males. Even biological females which constitute a large chunk of the world population are still not likely to be chess players, imagine other genders.

Plus, most people who claim to be of the other gender are only starting to come out with the modern voice for acceptance. There might be someone out there with potential but has not come out of their hiding.

If you are a member of any other gender out there though besides male and female, you can still choose to play in tournaments, and it doesn’t really hinder your ability to learn the game.

You can definitely learn chess no matter what your gender is as long as you will put in the work that is needed.

You can learn chess even if you have a job

Some people who have a job (they are busy) think that there is no way to learn chess with the limited time that they have. Though I agree that you might not be good as fast you will still learn it.

If you just search on youtube for example on how the pieces move and go to a free platform such as chess.com, you already have the training that you need.

You will not learn as quickly as those who have taken the time to study free materials on youtube, but with consistent play after work for example when you are just chilling you will learn eventually.

If you have a job you might not learn the game as fast or as well as other people out there, but you will definitely be good with consistent practice.

Disabled individuals can play chess

This is something that I wrote an article about recently, which is that disabled people can actually learn chess! It is incredible.

This will of course depend on the nature of the disability, but blind people can even play competitively based on what I have researched. If you want to read that, this is the article that I’m talking about (will open in a new tab).

Disabled individuals do play chess. There are professional chess players out there that are disabled. You can learn how to play chess even if you are handicapped by your disability.

Lack of hearing, sight, or limbs can still possibly allow you to learn chess if you put in the work. As long as you are not terminally ill with a mental disease that tampers with brain function then I think you are just fine.

In fact, chess is one of the biggest opportunities that you can use to show the world that you can still achieve great things even with a handicap. Chess still welcomes you!

Final thoughts

Inclusion definitely is a big deal in chess, it doesn’t discriminate against who can learn as long as the learner is a normal thinking person. No matter what your specific characteristics are, there’s still a room for learning.

You can trust me on this one, I’ve seen a lot of people with major differences learn and succeed in this game. If they can do it, you can do it too.

I think it comes down to limiting beliefs, some of you are thinking that there is naturally something wrong with you that prevents you from learning the game.

Most of the time it is imaginary. That is my message to you so start learning now! Sleep well and play chess.

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