I believe that most chess players who have mastered their skill over the years will tell you that they have sucked at some point. There might be exceptions, but I believe that they are few.
Throughout the years I realized a lot of things as I gained more experience playing the game. I will share those things with you now, I think it will be helpful depending on your situation.
As a chess player here is what I know:
People think that they suck at chess when in reality, it is usually because they are only starting to learn. A lot of players don’t realize how long it takes to get good at chess, it is not something you can master in a couple of months. Some may actually be bad at chess, but it is rare.
You might think that you suck playing the game when it is actually a natural process involved in learning, the problem may not be with you. This is to stop you from overthinking about these things and just move forward.
These things are those that I have learned as someone who has a lot of knowledge about chess, it can be of value to you.
People suck at chess because they are just starting to learn
You might think that you suck at chess because you keep comparing yourself against other people who have already studied the game in detail. It is normal to lose if you are just starting.
Most people that you are going to play against (especially online) are those that have been competing for years, it is normal to be inferior to them.
Chess is a game that naturally rewards those who have put in the work, there is not a lot of margin for luck and occasional losses that beginners can acquire.
This means that if you are just starting you will not win a lot of games. I think this underestimation of the competition stems from the other games that we play in the modern world.
Companies prefer making their games as easy to play as possible since nobody enjoys playing a game that can only be completed by a select group of people (there are exceptions but there’s not a lot of them). The game has to be marketable.
Chess is a game that has existed for hundreds of years, there is no commercial intent for making the game for what it is. This means that it is harder to master.
In my experience and from what I have observed with other people, it is perfectly normal to struggle in the beginning especially if you are playing against stronger opponents.
Do not be discouraged since this is also a conundrum that I have faced when I am just starting (being bad at the game). I am pretty skilled now, which can be evidence that it may just be a part of the natural learning curve.
People suck at chess because they are learning improperly
Some people think that they are bad at chess because they keep studying things that are not suited for their level. Beginners for example should never learn openings before any other phase that they can study on.
I have mentioned theoretical openings first since this is the biggest mistake that a beginner usually commits when learning about chess, they get caught up too much with memorization.
They learn about the main line of the Ruy Lopez when they don’t even know how to checkmate with a king and a rook, there is a level to this.
You can’t go learn the high level 100 stuff if you can’t even accomplish the level 10 tasks, learning in chess should follow a natural step-by-step process. You can’t find a shortcut with this game.
This not only applies to openings, maybe you’re only focusing on blitz for all of your games and refuse to play in any other time format. This also qualifies as learning improperly.
Maybe you don’t suck at chess naturally but are just not learning the right way and end up becoming the worst version of yourself. I suggest re-evaluating your learning methods and try again.
People suck at chess because they never do a formal study
The reason why you might suck at chess is that you never study anything and just keep on playing, it is hard to improve without doing a formal study.
Now this is something that I am also guilty of, I’ve never done any formal study for a long period of time. I just figured that I am only doing this for fun and it’s not really worth my time to do any serious study.
And I still think this way, but I still do look up a particular concept here and there that I probably won’t learn with experience. I don’t spend my whole day just studying but maybe some 15 minutes or so.
Maybe this is the reason why you think you suck at chess, because you’ve never done any serious study that could actually improve your game.
Playing continuously can only get you so far, at some point you need to sit down and just listen to the professionals while taking notes. This might be the missing formula that will improve your game a lot.
People suck at chess because they usually play when they are stressed
Playing when you are stressed/tired is never a good idea, some people think that they are naturally bad at the game when they are just not in a good condition to perform.
Competing in chess is just the same as competing in any other sport/game, you need a certain level of conditioning in order for you to do well.
I know that chess doesn’t involve running or lifting heavy objects that could make one physically tired, but it is mentally tolling to deal with. It is also quite boring in many cases.
When people play horribly they are usually stressed/exhausted from their other pursuits in life, they could not think properly for the actual game.
But we need to put food on the table and roof above our heads right? So how are we supposed to enjoy playing chess when all of us are naturally under a barrage of constant stress every day?
I see that if you are in a losing streak, you are probably so stressed that it already affects your game (or maybe you are just that bad). If you are tired and you are winning anyway then it is okay to continue.
Maybe you don’t suck at chess, maybe you are just exhausted during the time when you naturally play.
People suck at chess because they haven’t played it in a long time
Another reason why you might suck at chess is that you haven’t played it for a long time, it is actually quite normal if this is the case with you. Chess needs practice as with any other skill-related game.
In order to maintain your top form you need to be constantly familiarizing yourself with different concepts since chess is so complicated, this can only be done by playing every day.
You don’t have to play every minute of every day, you just need to make sure that you dedicate some minutes of it to playing in order for your game to not fall off.
I can relate to this since I am busy managing this blog and pushing out content in order to get a lot of traffic, but this also means that I have less time to play the actual game.
I would agree that I am not at the top of my form right now, and I probably need a lot of readjusting in order to achieve it once again. This may also apply to you.
Perhaps you don’t really suck at chess but only need some re-training since you haven’t been playing for a long time.
People suck at chess because they haven’t put in enough work
The reason why you might be bad at chess is that you just didn’t put in enough work in order to be good. Realistically, chess is not something that you can master right off the bat.
Maybe you are someone who isn’t necessarily a beginner and has been playing for some time but is not really getting to the level that you are expecting.
When somebody tells me this, it is usually because they have an unrealistic expectation on how fast they are going to become better, in most cases it would be really slow.
I would say that even if you have been playing casually for a year, it is perfectly normal to be some 1500 rated on lichess or maybe lower (unless you are a chess maniac and all you ever do is study).
But the thing with chess is there is a high level to improvement, there is so much room to be better in most cases. You may not suck at chess and are just following the normal learning curve.
A lot of experienced players criticize people who have been playing for a long time and not really making a lot of progress, but we have to understand that not everyone has time to dedicate to this game.
Some are only really interested casually just like I am, and if you fall in this category then it is perfectly normal to have a slow pace of improvement. You don’t suck, you just haven’t put in enough work.
When we are just starting to learn chess we usually realize that the game is harder than it looks, the road to improvement is difficult. This article is meant to be a pat on the back for you.
You may blame your natural talent on the lack of improvement that you are experiencing, but I am here to tell you that it is normal in most cases.
I am sure that there are exceptions, but generally, people don’t study chess in their basement every day while only trying to improve. Be easy on yourself since your path might actually be right, sleep well and play chess.