Adult chess improvers are different from children in many ways and have different strength and weaknesses. Also, their life situation is very different (e.g. much time and little money vs. little time and much money).

However, this rarely seems to be considered by courses, chess improvement plans, books, and other materials. The readers are given a 'one size fits all' solution/advice. It works, but it could certainly be better or more efficient, if the situation and different strengths and weaknesses of the learner would be factored in.

Are there any resources with explicit guidance how to adapt training for children or adults, taking into account their strengths and weaknesses?

For example, teaching a strong child the Najdorf as their new main opening may be reasonable. It'll absorb the variations much more easily into its memory and get an intuitive 'feeling' for the Sicilian positions.

However, it is more difficult for adults to learn new things and memorising and understanding concrete Najdorf move orders would take a lot of effort.

Not to mention being able to understand and handle the resulting positions well.

In this case, their little time would be much better spent on practising other skills, learning a simpler opening instead with easy to remember moves, common structures and plans, even if it is an opening that a child would call 'boring'.

In my impression, adult improvers are more willing to learn something even if it is temporarily not exciting to work with, they tend to think more logically and abstractly. However, their brains are not that plastic anymore, and they probably will not develop the same level of pattern recognition, visualization and intuition.

Children pick up concepts more easily and 'on the go'. Their knowledge will be more implicit, whereas one needs to explain to an adult improver what a 'bad bishop' is in explicit terms.

Children want to play 'fun' chess, wild attacks, sacrifices, traps, while adults are often very materialistic and cautious.

  • I guess it very much depends on what level we want an adult to improve from. An absolute beginner vs a seasoned 2000 FIDE would mean very different improvement strategies.
    – user58697
    Aug 17, 2023 at 22:54

2 Answers 2


Are there any resources with explicit guidance how to adapt training for children or adults, taking into account their strengths and weaknesses?

Most people learn and do most of their improvement as children / teenagers and so there is a vast supply of material aimed at this younger age group. However, there is almost nothing for older adults despite this age group having much more money.

The one source I found for us greybeards and oldies is the book "Chess for Life" by GM Matthew Sadler and WIM Natasha Reagan, both of whom are well past the first flush of youth. The format of the book is a number of interviews with older players, varying in age between their 50s and their 80's, asking them how they have changed their game, their preparation and approach to competitive chess as they have aged.

Most of them are professional chess players who have played all their life but there is one exception, an amateur who stopped playing when he was 15 and only resumed playing in his late 40's after he had made his millions as a businessman and retired in his early 40's. Over the course of about 10 years Terry Chapman improved about 200 points to a rating of 2331 when he was 57.

The Terry Chapman interview is very interesting and highly instructive for us older players. Here are a couple of extracts.

Have you made deliberate changes to your game over the years?

TC: My strenghts and weaknesses are completely different from when I was a teenager. Then I rarely had any idea what I was supposed to be doing in a position, but I did it pretty well. I've always thought of myself as a non-attacking player. I'd rather win a pawn and then finish the game off in the endgame than mate my opponent. I've tried to at least enjoy attacking more and become more confident.

The information available enables one to have strong preparation and there are lots of resources to let you have a better strategic understanding. My general understanding of chess is much better than when I was 15.

What work did you do on chess when you were making your comeback?

TC: One thing to do was read some books and extend and update my knowledge of chess. My chess education was incomplete. There was lots about chess I didn't know. I didn't know dynamism from the back of a bus! I remember reading the second volume of Euwe and Kramer on the Middlegame from Wimbledon library when I was 13. Wonderful set of insights but unfortunately I never read the other volume! Watson's books, Jonathan Rowson's books are really good. Aagard's book on attacking was also very good. He analyses attacking as a technique. I could get my mind round that: if A, B and C then you attack.


With the COVID-19 pandemic, Queen's Gambit miniseries, and various news stories bringing the popularity of chess to what seems an all time high over the past few years, there has been an increase in resources for adults wishing to improve their skill at the game. I'm sure I'll miss some of these resources, but will mention a few here, in addition to the Chess for Life book mentioned in Brian Towers' answer.

The Perpetual Chess Podcast has had an adult improver series since before the pandemic. In those episodes, NM Ben Johnson interviews people who have made improvements in their chess games as adults, discussing how they increased their ratings. These folks are usually not top level players such as IM's or GM's, but instead players who have improved a few hundred points after achieving adulthood. In other episodes, he often asks his guests about their background and how their game developed. When interviewing top coaches, he often asks if they teach adults and what their techniques and recommendations are if they do.

Following along with the above, Johnson wrote a book specifically aimed at adult improvers which was released after this question was asked. Its title is Perpetual Chess Improvement. In the book, Johnson summarizes the advice he has heard from his guests that has been aimed at adults. Early in the book, the author presents four pillars of chess improvement that are (nearly) universally agreed on:

  • Play serious games
  • Review your games
  • Practice tactics
  • Find community that will help keep your interest and help you improve

Through the remaining chapters of the book Johnson takes topics one at a time and presents different - sometimes opposing - points of view as they were given by different people who appeared on the show. At the end of chapters, he provides his recommendations - although those recommendations may have a caveat, e.g. he suggests that beginners gain a basic understanding of opening principles so they can start a game without getting into trouble, but not go deep; however, if a particular person really loves openings and doesn't like studying other aspects of the game, then it is better for them to study openings than do something they detest. There's even a chapter on playing against children! I've read the first few chapters and think it's pretty good.

Daniel Lona, an adult chess improver himself, has a business called The Adult Chess Academy. I've not become a customer of this business, but I do listen to his Chess Experience podcast. I don't find it as good as Perpetual Chess, but do get something out of it most times I listen.

Chess Goals, is a business started by NM Matt Jensen. Jensen is a statistical analyst in his day job and used statistical means to put together plans for people looking to get better at chess. He also has several courses on his web site, mostly on openings.

The Chess Journeys podcast is hosted by an adult improver named Kevin Scull. He and his guests discuss their highs, plateaus, and "pits of despair" as they work to get better at the game and how they deal with those events. There doesn't seem to be a website dedicated to the podcast, but it is available via several podcast distributors.

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