Can you Improve in Chess by Watching Other People Play?

Not all of us have the talent and interest when it comes to chess. That is at least my story. I struggled with chess as a child and have yet to improve as much as I had hoped.

This all changed when I discovered one of the famous youtubers that talks about chess games many years later, Agadmator.

My interest has skyrocketed; now I have watched games played by strong players and am actually being entertained by them.

This has continued for a long time until I finally played the game. This is when I learned something. This intermittent playing continued before I actually became serious about playing.

This is why I am writing this article; it corresponds to my story.

Can you really become stronger in chess just by watching other people play?

This is the topic for today, and I will be answering it. With all of that in mind, let’s get started.

Will your rating in chess increase if you only watch other people play?

The answer is, it depends. The more boring answer is that you probably won’t increase your rating, you have to play games in order to increase your rating, just watching other people play would not do it.

But I know that this is not the answer you are looking for, it really depends.

If you do any supplemental study that adds value to the chess games that you have watched, you will increase your rating. When you watch the games played between strong chess players, you will learn a lot about the competition.

Mechanics is important in any competitive game, but the mindset and the approach also matter in a competitive setting.

I think that if you watch other people play you will have an idea on the type of mindset that you should have in any game.

Likely that you will realize that you should play it safe. The most consistent chess players around you are those that take the safety first approach.

But you will really get an idea of the pressure of competition, and if you want to increase your rating then you will have to deal with a lot of pressure.

Of course you wouldn’t increase your rating by mindset only, you still need to learn the actual mechanics of chess.

Which is why I say that it depends, if you do any supplemental practice and study along with watching other chess players, then you will have a good result. 

This article that I have written before talks about rating improvement in detail.

What are the advantages of watching the games of strong chess players?

Strong chess players are those that are already in a position that you are striving to be. If you want to become stronger, you should analyze how these strong chess players approach the game.

Of course they probably have better mechanics than you, but you can still learn from their personal game.

You will see if they like playing quiet openings, or maybe they like aggressive lines that have a lot of complication.

As you watch more games and you are able to assimilate the same in your own games. You will learn which approaches work better than the others, and which play style you like the most yourself.

Being strong takes a lot of learning, and learning comes from making a lot of mistakes.

But why make mistakes when you can see how other people refine their mistakes?

It is like learning without having to experience it on your own.

Of course you still need to practice in order to really apply everything, but I believe that there are advantages in watching the games played between strong chess players.

Some might not find any benefit if they are not paying attention, but I believe that most will find something from watching these games. 

Can you become strong in chess without really looking at the games of other people?

Yes, you can become strong in chess even if you have never watched any games played between other people.

There are many ways to become strong in chess, you can become good even if you don’t analyze any other game other than yours.

I would say though that your rating growth will probably be slower, if you only play, your experience will become limited.

The way to counteract this is if you read chess books, which technically doesn’t count as watching other people play.

If you do this, you will probably become stronger than most chess players, reading chess books is probably one of the best ways to do it.

If you also take instructive lessons then you can become a really strong player, even stronger than those who just observe games. It really depends on how you make use of the other informative resources that can make you stronger.

Though if you only play without studying anything at all, you can still become strong, but it will probably take some time to reach that level. 

What are the things you can do to see improvement after watching how grandmasters play?

There are two things that I recommend you should do after watching the games played between strong players. First is to actually try all the ideas that you have seen from the games.

Maybe it is a line in the italian game, the berlin, anything, just try and see where it takes you.

It can also be a play style, maybe you prefer waiting before jumping in at any opportunity.

What is important is that you are applying what you have seen into real games and trying to modify them. Every individual is different, what works for them may only work for you if you modify it slightly.

Remember that theory is only useful if you can apply it, don’t let the information get stuck in your head, use it in real games.

The second advice that I give you is to study very specific things that you have seen from strong chess players. Maybe you have watched Magnus Carlsen and have been amazed on how he deals with rook and pawn endgames.

Maybe you should hit up the St. Louis chess club youtube channel and look up their free videos on these topics.

There are many more YouTube channels that can help you see improvement. Many of them are underrated, you can actually improve by just following their lessons.

This way you’re studying can become systematic, you don’t have to study every single thing, you just have to study the most important things.

This is great since you are using your judgement to assess which things are important, it is imperative that you use your own brain and not just blindly follow any advice you see on the internet.

Even this advice, take it with a grain of salt, use your brain and think if the advice makes sense. It will do wonders for you. 

Is there a time in chess where you have to watch the games played between strong chess players?

I say that there will always be a time to watch how other people do it. This will be in the moment of plateau, basically where you are struggling to see any progress.

Plateau within a competitive game is difficult, it is a stage where you are doing well but you can’t get to the next level. I think that watching how other people do it will give you an idea on the “secret sauce” that you have been missing.

It doesn’t matter if you are a complete beginner or an already skilled player, you will eventually see a plateau in your progress.

This is the time to analyze the games published by other people, just to brainstorm on what you need to do next.

It is just hard to come up with things all on your own, some already published game may do the work for you.

By analyzing many games you may realize what you are lacking, therefore allowing you to progress to the next level.

I think this is the time when you just have to sit and watch how other strong chess players (preferably grandmasters) do it. 

My personal experience . . .

During my childhood, I was really bad at chess. There is just something about it that makes me struggle learning the game. This is why I just quitted entirely only to pick it up again several years later.

The only reason I picked it up is because I watch youtubers analyze the games of strong grandmasters.

This continued for a while, until I was interested enough to actually play on my own. What happened is that I struggled a bit at first, but I am definitely better than I was several years ago.

Since I didn’t really study at the time I didn’t improve quickly, but I do so slowly with time.

What happens is that I look at the videos for entertainment, and play some classical/rapid games when I have the time. It wasn’t quick since I didn’t study, but eventually, I became an average chess player.

This was many years ago and I have studied a lot of chess since, but it is still interesting.

This is a big thing since I didn’t have any interest in chess in the first place, this just proves that you could at least see some improvement by analyzing the games of strong chess players. 


Watching the games of other people will definitely help in your improvement. However the progress that you can get from this is relative to the amount of supplemental study that you do on the side.

If you want to grow quickly, it is better to try all of the things that you have noticed from watching games. You should also study specific concepts that you have deemed important from watching games.

You will still learn something by only analyzing the games of strong players, but it is better if you do your own thing from the side.

You will be able to see into the mindset of the chess players, as well as their play style and approach.

Of course theories are only useful if you are able to use them, practice the ideas that you have learned for maximum result. That is all for this article, thank you for reading.