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This is essentially the same as my question https://psychology.stackexchange.com/questions/23207/could-being-given-unlimited-tries-to-correctly-answer-an-open-ended-question-be except that it's specifically about chess. I'm linking that question because I'm not sure if it would be self plagiarism if I didn't because this question appears to be a derivative work based on it. I have other stuff on my mind and am not myself interested in devoting a lot of attention to chess and grew to dislike chess because of the detrimental effects it appeared to be having on my brain by my standards and very rarely play actual chess games these days, but am asking this because I think it could be useful for other people.

I think that sometimes when somebody takes a chess lesson or reads a chess book, it can give them some help but if they don't play in tournaments, the lessons and books alone will not be enough to make them a grandmaster because they will not be able to figure out the underlying high level abstract concepts that are the underlying reason the books and the lessons say what they say. On the other hand some people, if they regularly play in tournaments with a 90 minute base time and 30 second increments, might begin to notice some predictable pattern to the way their game play affects the game play of their opponent in future matches. The pattern is pretty much this. Every opponent with the same rating will have essentially the same probabilistic distribution on their style of play from the outset because they're randomly paired with somebody of similar rating and don't already know that person's style of play, and the combination of information about how each of your games went; which colour you played as in each match; and the rating of each of your opponents and the rating you had before the match determines what your rating will be changed to after the match. Also what your rating is determines how they will pair you in your next tournament. With the predictable pattern in how your game play determines the game play of your future opponents, their rating, and your rating, the brain can adapt to have you realize that although you can't get a high rating right away, you can get it eventually and then you can adopt the creative thinking approach for slowly figuring out the solution to the problem of how to eventually get a really high rating.

Is there any research on whether playing in tournaments in general is a really great way to become really good at chess? If so, do you know if it's the case that most people who regularly play in tournaments end up really good at chess?

  • Don't think you have to worry about self-plagiarism on SE :) – Inertial Ignorance May 13 at 5:34
  • I think it's a necessary but not sufficient condition. Playing a lot comes first, but to become really good you also need more than that. – RemcoGerlich May 13 at 11:23
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They key word here is balance. You need to study, train and practice in the appropriate proportion you feel a significant improvement.

Many players have seen high improvements at the lower level by playing their first tournaments, but game analysis is probably the largest cause of that difference (it helps the player identify mistakes and avoid them in the future)

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Is there any research on whether playing in tournaments in general is a really great way to become really good at chess?

No, for the very obvious reason that the only way we find out that a player is good at chess is by their tournament performance over a period of time. A "player" who never plays any tournaments will never come to the chess world's attention as being any good.

If so, do you know if it's the case that most people who regularly play in tournaments end up really good at chess?

According to the rating system most players who play regularly in tournaments improve as indicated by their rising rating however, almost by definition of "really good at chess", few players end up being really good at chess. So, no, most people who regularly play in tournaments don't end up being really good at chess.

  • How do you people never become really good at chess as a result of playing in tournaments? Your answer just shows that there is a possible alternate explanation to the people known to be top performers all having played in tournaments. What justifiable reason is there to rule out the possibility that playing in tournaments can actually make people better at chess? – Timothy May 13 at 17:59
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    @Timothy No. You appear to be struggling to understand the significance of the word "most" in your question regarding how many people end up as really good players. Either that or you don't understand "really good". Very few players end up as "really good". The few players who do become "really good" do so in part by playing in lots of tournaments. Most of us never get much above average for obvious reasons. (Hint: 50% of any population is at or below average) – Brian Towers May 13 at 18:07
  • I understand I sometimes make mistakes because if I insisted on being so careful in what I say to not get it wrong, I could hardly ever say anything. I guess I didn't make it clear what I meant by really good. If I had made it clear that by really good, I meant level 1400 or higher and this answer still was exactly the same as it is, I'm not sure I would have been making a mistake in this situation. I'm still not absolutely sure it's not the case that most people let alone just a small fraction of people would get to that level if they started playing in tournaments in a chess club where every – Timothy May 14 at 1:36
  • week, there's a match that's part of a tournament. – Timothy May 14 at 1:37

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