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I posted a popular question a couple of days ago, and it brought up another topic that is worthy of a question.

For reference, I've been playing 6–7 weeks, and my chess.com rating is a laughable ~300. I am the whipping boy of the chess club, am nowhere near winning a game against even the other beginners, and actually don't get any advice on how to fix my current blundering and hanging piece issues (general board vision). After some thought about it, they're patient, but not helpful, despite all having 30–50 years experience.

For instance, I asked the 2,100 player for direct advice after being an opponent in a simul. I was only told, "You're improving" – this despite getting forked by a pawn in the first few moves, and missing a knight fork that caused me to resign. These mistakes sink me immediately.

I try to dedicate two or three hours a day. You can see from the linked question the type of effort I put in. However, you can see from this move (14. ...Ng6??) in a current daily game that my efforts are fruitless at the minute as I completely missed the obvious and clear 15. Bd2:

Chess board after 14. ..Ng6??

In short, my confidence is incredibly low, and I'm being discouraged from putting in the work if I can't improve. I'm desperate to win games of chess because I'm working hard to try and improve, and don't want to give up. However, I want to be competitive and equal to the rest now, while feeling like the work I'm doing is paying off. I'll reiterate – I'm desperate to do much better than I am and want to be a winning chess player.

My question:

  • How can I keep my confidence intact after constant losing and repetition of the same silly and basic mistakes I'm always making?

Losing feels awful, isn't fun, and doesn't come with any feedback (although what feedback I can get other than a magic bullet I don't know). I'm trying my hardest and best to improve.

My fanciful long-term goal is to be a 2,000 rated player someday. A mid-term goal is to be 1,600–1,800 to get on the league team. A short-term goal is to get to 1,300 fast to at least be able to beat the lowest rated player. The reality is that I'm 40 years old, 300 rated on chess.com, and not learning from my blunders and stupid mistakes. Indeed, giving up seems like the worthwhile improvement!

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  • how about 1 move beginner level puzzles? hanging piece puzzles? i dont know where to find them though
    – cmgchess
    May 17, 2023 at 15:33
  • I do those. Mate in one puzzle are too simple for me. Hanging piece puzzles are okay, but the main problem is that I’ll move then realise I’ve missed something. Anyway, the issue I’m asking about here is how to get more confidence when nothing can show me I’m good at chess. I’m now scared of making moves or even playing because my choices are often wrong, and my chess club can’t help me.
    – tomdot
    May 17, 2023 at 15:54

4 Answers 4

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2100 is a National Master by the way. Less 0.1% of chess players are that or above. If you are a beginner, expect to be demolished by a National Master. It will be rare if you can even get up on the game score in any game. Maybe make that your goal. I would suggest playing on chess.com though, so you play against players youre rating. Once it figures out have good you are, you should win (and still lose) a bunch. Then, I would suggest using Game Review. Look at your blunders. Figure out why you made those mistakes and try to avoid them. This will be a long process. In addition to improving your chess, this will improve your confidence as you see that you no longer make those same mistakes. I went from a chess.com 100 to now 700 this way, although I spend nowhere near how much time you do. The key is to try avoid making the same mistakes. Then you will get better playing wise and confidence wise.

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  • Thanks for the advice, but I do these things already. I only get one game review a day, but it sometimes gives me weird suggestions, I find. I still lose the majority of the time at 300–400 ratings. It's not good enough. I want to get to four-figure ratings. The player I talk about isn't titled, but yes, he is very good. This is why I expected more feedback and advice.
    – tomdot
    May 17, 2023 at 10:56
  • you wont get four figure ratings for a while, sorry to disappoint you. fixing your problems wont necessarily get you there. but youll certainly improve a lot. I am pretty sure you get 2 game reviews per day, and if you really want more get premium. the weird suggestions are generally correct but you or me wouldnt understand until much igher levels. ignore that. just focus on blunders. if you eliminate blunders, you will get much better. the difference between a 300 and a 1000 is that a 300 makes 3-4 blunders per game and an 1000 makes 0.5 blunder per game. that is nearly the onlu differnce. May 17, 2023 at 11:00
  • Why isn’t four-figure ratings, even 1,000, not achievable in a short time frame? It seems like plenty of people do this, especially online.
    – tomdot
    May 17, 2023 at 11:05
  • Yes but not quickly from 300 @tomdot. espically since you say you have trouble improving May 17, 2023 at 12:02
  • play on lichess for unlimited game review with the engine. or pay up for chess.com premium
    – qwr
    May 17, 2023 at 17:37
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While losing may not be fun, it's not the case at all it comes with no feedback. In fact, I welcome losses as they teach you more than wins at what you can improve. One of my favorite chess activities as a beginner (~1000 on chess.com, ~1300 Lichess) is to open up my game in Lichess's very helpful Analysis Board and play through all the possibilities that could've been played. Of course it can be demotivating having all your blunders laid out in front of you, but at beginner level not making blunders is the fastest way to improve. Even after reviewing a few games you will come back with valuable personalized tips if you understand how to work with an engine. An example tutorial is How To Analyze Your Chess Games With A Computer (Chess Engine) To Learn From Your Mistakes! by Chess Vibes.

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  • I don’t mind looking at blunders, and analysing. I do that anyway. I suppose it’s more two factors: my chess taste is killer but I can’t back it up or see improvement; also, when I play OTB, I’m beaten in short order and don’t get anything back other than, “Good game”.
    – tomdot
    May 18, 2023 at 18:39
  • 1
    If you play OTB opponents much stronger than you of course you will lose and not learn efficiently. You will learn the most playing people your level or slightly above which is why online chess is so convenient.
    – qwr
    May 19, 2023 at 2:53
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I was originally planning to make this as a comment, but then it became a bit longer than planned, and maybe not as coherent as I would've liked.

Realistically, going from ~300 to 1300 rating as an adult should be considered as a long-term goal and is an achievement in and of itself. Improving by 1000 rating points in a short amount of time is more or less only seen in children due to their abnormal ability to learn anything. Maybe you can find an adult who is really good at Shogi (the Japanese version of chess) who would be able to quickly get to a rating of 1300 in regular chess as well, but such a massive rating increase in a short amount of time is extremely rare.

I can give you a personal story: my father has been playing chess in a club since his 20's and has known how to play since he was a child. He's in his 60's now. His peak rating was about 1800 Elo. Never really close to 2000. That's a milestone that most people don't reach in their lifetime.

Although seemingly unrelated to the question at hand, how long do you think it would take you to become fluent in a foreign language that you have no previous familiarity with? How far do you think you would be able to come in a month? Would you be able to hold a basic conversation with a native speaker? Would you be able to read a children's book written in that language?

Using this as a loose analogue for chess improvement, what language milestone would correspond to going from being a complete beginner to being able to score wins against other other players on a consistent basis? I think it can be helpful to make these comparisons so we don't get overwhelmed by disappointment. Learning chess is certainly no easier than learning a new language, so we should not expect massive progress in a short amount of time.

The reason why I wanted to write this answer in this way is because it's a well-known phenomenon for people in any kind of discipline to to have a crisis of confidence causing them to just become completely incapable of succeeding despite knowing that they should be doing better. This happens in chess as well, and many people get so used to losing at one point or another that they kind of forget how to actually win. It all becomes a negative spiral that gets increasingly difficult to escape with time: every time you lose, it only reinforces the idea in your mind that you can't win.

I remember GM Alex Yermolinsky giving some advice on this specific topic in some stream I watched a couple of years ago. His advice was simple: fake it 'til you make it! Look yourself in the mirror every day and proclaim with confidence that you're the best chess player in the world, no matter how true it is. Make an effort to tell yourself that you are in fact capable of winning, and do it often. Especially after losing a game. And in case you win, you tell yourself "See? I was right all along, I AM the best chess player in the world!"

I wish you the best of luck with your chess going forward. Hopefully you'll start seeing some rewards for your efforts.

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  • Although I know the connection between chess (or any discipline) and learning a language, I’ve never heard it put quite that way before. Something to think about! I’d love to be able to get on the league team, as that appeals to me. However, given that everyone is 1,600–2,200, I wonder if I’ll ever get that chance. You suggest it’s not that hopeful, especially when there are a number of younger and better players who are developing more rapidly.
    – tomdot
    May 18, 2023 at 18:37
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    @tomdot Yeah, getting on a league team of players that strong is not a realistic goal for now, although the future is far from set in stone. Right now the goal should be getting some wins under your belt before anything else really, ratings be damned. Basically it's very hard to tell what chances you have to eventually get on the team down the line at this point in time. You may get to that level eventually if you keep at it, or you may find your peak to be lower than that, impossible to know for sure.
    – Scounged
    May 18, 2023 at 23:38
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A perhaps strange advice (I'll explain it in a bit) is to play some (not constantly!) antichess games. You can easily play them online. Don't worry if you lose, because that is not the point. It will improve your overall sight of the board, improve the coordination of your pieces and you'll learn to see all the loose pieces. Flipping that mindset is less difficult than you might think.

A second piece of advice: what's better? Losing your game on time or blundering your nice game with (too) quick play? Don't be afraid to lose on time control. Actually, playing slower might help you win using the clock. Your invested thinking time produces better moves which forces your opponent to think longer.
Under the motto: "Don't see a good move? Think. See a good move? Think more."
E.g. check mate is better than grabbing a queen.
I actually improved 100 elo by 'sitting on my hands', I did it to prevent myself from directly playing what came up in my mind.

Also, try to avoid (over)analysing your game. Surely, analyse your game. But do it without a computer first, perhaps your OTB opponent is even open to some analysis afterwards? You don't need a 3000 elo strong machine to tell mistakes that you can figure out yourselve. Re-evaluate your thought process: what where you thinking? Where you planning a mighty mate-in-four, but forgot the backrank mate threat of your opponent?

And finally, focus on your opponent's threats and plans first, prevent those and then focus on your own plan. And surely, an experienced player will have threats of three, four moves deep that you might not see, but you're not aiming to beat that kind of player.
Yet.

PS. Don't mistake elo for your actual chess level! Before you know it, you're afraid to play, because you might lose 'some elo'. Chess is real, elo is but a virtual number!

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  • Additionally on analysing games: stop analysing when a decisive blunder happens. If you e.g. blunder a Q on move 14, further analysis is worthless. Even if your opponent blundered a Q as well on move 23.
    – IT M
    Jul 20, 2023 at 12:23

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