Why is your chess not improving? (My own analysis!)

There’s a couple of bad habits that can impede a player’s growth, such include playing too much blitz, lacking a system, being pressured by ratings, not analyzing own games, and studying without a trainer, all of which affects development.

Improvement in chess is what every player seeks in their days and days of training routine that can often be associated with fatigue and exhaustion. So many players have been competing for a long time only to plateau right after.

There are certain cases where a player just can’t improve, identifying why this is the case will allow a player to move to the next level. From my years of playing chess I have categorized the reasons why players usually don’t improve. I grouped the similar ones.

This article will be talking about the potential reasons why you are not improving. This will provide insights on what you should do next to improve.

From my year of playing chess here are the main reasons why some people can’t improve:

1.) Only focusing on one area

When your first getting started it is beneficial to learn a few things as deeply as possible since that would likely bring results.

There however is a point in time where it is actually necessary to learn new things, and you should know to identify when.

You don’t want to learn the same thing over and over again as this one limits the amount of knowledge you can attain.

Learning the endgame at the beginning is recommended, but once you get better maybe it’s time to learn some openings.

2.) Insufficient application of knowledge

This is another poison, spending countless of hours learning theoretical chess without actual application.

This is an issue most likely faced by a beginner than someone who has some experience with the game.

It can be tempting to keep studying and studying since it can be easier, but all is for naught without experience.

I recommend going through a controlled studying time and another playing time, just to ensure the application part.

3.) Taking online games too seriously

Playing online can have lots of dangers by posing certain conditions that are not available at over the board games.

The pressing of the clock, the pressure of looking at an opponent, not having a premove and the likes, online play is a completely different play.

Not to mention the cases of cheating which you may come across and leave you thinking that you’re not improving even if you actually are.

There are many ways to cheat in chess, read this other article to learn all of them.

4.) Not analyzing your games

I would admit that even I am guilty with this one, which is not learning from one’s own mistakes.

You may feel the urge of laziness after completing a game that prevents you from doing some analysis, which is a big mistake.

Committing the same mistake over and over again is not the path to improvement it can actually be the opposite

5.) Relying on engines when watching games

Observing games from top players is one way to polish your vision, using engines in this case however is very limiting.

The point of these practices is to bring you the feeling of actually playing the game and see you come up with your own variations.

If you keep getting engine assistance then you are keeping yourself from actually thinking ahead.

6.) Being pressured by the ratings

This is a big one, most beginners think that chess ratings indicate all of a player’s improvement.

This is not true, we’ve seen over and over again how lower-rated players beat higher rated ones and although it can be useful is not the ultimate decider of improvement.

Do not get pressured by ratings, it is a measure of performance not skill (the best player in the world can have a low rating with only a few rated games).

7.) Lack of a system

You won’t improve if you do not intend to improve at all, the lack of a system can prevent you from learning new things.

By system I mean a scheduled studying routine, lecture, or some individual parts of the game.

It’s just hard to improve in chess by only playing chess (although it can be possible).

8.) Improving without assistance

You can definitely learn chess by yourself, there is however a moment where you can ask that maybe you need some time with a coach or a trainer.

The coach should be slightly more experienced if not very experienced compared to you.

This is a professional that is constantly working with students that want to improve, they may have certain techniques that may help you.

9.) Misuse of chess trainers

This is an issue that you can encounter if you actually have a chess coach, which is not following the things they’ve set for you.

I know this sounds ridiculous but this really happens in chess education where the student just won’t do the work.

Remember that you are paying the trainer for guidance and not to give you some shortcut, everything that’s worth having requires some effort.

10.) Incompatible chess coaches

This is a related issue but not exactly the same, which is having a trainer that you are not comfortable with.

Whether it’s the behavior of the coach, the way they teach, or the set of experiences that they have, all will determine their compatibility with you.

Finding the right trainer to suit your demands is actually pretty crucial in ensuring your growth.

11.) You’re early in the process

Face it, you’re not going to be the next super grandmaster (most likely) such individuals have started very early in life to get where they are now.

Mastering chess is a lifetime of pursuit, do not expect humongous improvement very early in the process.

Just keep pushing, you may be in a situation where things seem stagnant but with proper conditioning should lead to something.

12.) Lying to yourself

If you are not improving then most likely you have an idea in the areas you’re lacking and choose to not take action anyway.

Do not lie to yourself, you know yourself more than anyone else since you are with you all the time.

Maybe it’s because you fiddle with the engine too much, choose to only watch not play, whatever it is, just self reflect for a moment since it might be useful.

13.) Lack of self-commitment

Achieving anything great in life takes a certain amount of self-commitment, the effort to be the best is hard.

If you are just crazy about something then you will improve in time, it doesn’t have to be mad crazy just sufficient to make progress.

Maybe it’s taking couple of hours a day to play even blitz games, or learn something new, ask yourself if you really want this then take action.

14.) Lack of confidence

You could do everything right, learn the openings, tactics, and strategy but still lose if you don’t believe in yourself.

It can be intimidating especially when facing a stronger opponent, which is actually pretty normal in every competition.

You need to trust the process that you’ve chosen for yourself and just go out there do your best and accept the result.

15.) Playing too much

Although I’ve said that you need a degree of self-commitment, you don’t want to go to other way and play too much.

There is a time to learn and polish some techniques, which you need to identify when.

Playing over and over again can give you some improvements yes, but is usually hardly sufficient to make significant ones.

16.) Not taking breaks

You are human being too, susceptible to mental fatigue and exhaustion which will punch your game.

There is scientific evidence that indicate “breaks” as necessary for the brain to properly handle difficult tasks.

And if you are forcing things without taking rest then you are not giving opportunity for your brain to function properly.

17.) Too much pilot games (blitz and bullet)

Blitz and bullets are what I consider to be pilot games, chess matches that can be played without much thinking.

This type of formats primarily runs on the instinct of the player rather than the mental processes which are only useful for conditioning not improvement.

Taking some time to play some longer time formats can get you out of such mentality (although you can play one or two every now and then).

18.) Embracing “fake progress” (winning over weaker players)

It can be tempting to just get results and see it, although some people approach this by playing against weaker players.

The problem with this is you don’t get to face serious competitions, and when you do, you will get toast.

So it’s a ”fake progress” since you’re winning but you are not actually improving since you are just at a level that is not suitable for you.

Final thoughts

Improving in chess is definitely a gruesome and time extensive process that requires some patience.

If you are in a position that you’re not seeing growth then this might be the problem which you should fix immediately.

Improving involves taking the effort to identify what you been doing wrong and change it, which I hope you’ll do.

Sleep well and play chess.