How To Become A Grandmaster

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Yes, you can learn how to become a chess grandmaster!

The game of chess is challenging in and of itself. You can, of course, choose to turn becoming a grandmaster into an even bigger challenge than learning chess already is.

This how-to guide isn’t about adding to the challenge. The goal is to become a grandmaster while enjoying the journey.

Here are two things you would do well to keep in mind and post visible reminders.

Your task will be easier if you place an emphasis on how you are feeling and your attitude towards your chess training.

Becoming a chess grandmaster is a challenge but one you can meet while having fun.

Merely keeping yourself aware of your desire to achieve this state is enough. The rest will unfold organically if you allow it.

Divide your focus 80% internally and 20% externally. You must always remember to:

  1. Treat small things as big things and big things as small things.
  2. Focus on the actual results.

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The Start of Your Journey to Becoming a Grandmaster Begins

Now it’s fair to say you aren’t going to start off approaching your chess journey from the 80/20 perspective right away.

Remember, it’s a big thing and you now know to treat big things as little things so there’s no panic.

Simply remind yourself of the 80/20 perspective as you go about your middlegame or other chess training. Check with yourself as you go along and feel free to extend this to other areas of life.

yoga is good for both physical and mental health. Both are key to becoming a grandmaster.
Yoga is good for both physical and mental fitness. Both are key to becoming a grandmaster.

The more you practice the sooner you get closer to the goal.

Merely keeping yourself aware of your desire to achieve this state is enough. The rest will unfold organically if you allow it.

And if anybody asks you can simply tell them it’s part of your chess training to improve your observation skills.

Chess will always be a part of your life no matter how big a part it becomes. Life must always be bigger than chess but it needn’t be in opposition to your desire to become a grandmaster.

What To Apply At The Board As You Work To Become A Grandmaster

There’s no denying if you want to become a chess grandmaster you will need to know more than the average player. This means putting in extra studying.

Allow your results to dictate when it’s time to work harder on a particular area of the game.

What you need to do is allow yourself to learn a little more with each step of the way. You aren’t a grandmaster now so you don’t need to know the endgame as well as a grandmaster.

Enough to win at your current level is a good base to build upon. One or two steps ahead of the current competition are enough.

Allow your results to dictate when it’s time to work harder on a particular area of the game.

A Substantial Investment Of Time Is Required

Everybody is unique so the guidelines offered here must be taken as suggestions. If you want a training program specifically tailored to your needs then it’s best to find a coach.

The coach you select doesn’t have to be a grandmaster. A titled player will have an idea of the time they invested to reach their current level.

Choose one or two of the past chess greats who played in a similar style to you and study their games.

This will prove a good starting point and between the two of you, any further adjustments should be quite doable. A good coach is a valuable aid in ensuring you get the most out of your time allowance.

Here are some guidelines to help get you started. This is for a 6-hour training day and if you can put in 7-hours use this hour to analyze your own games or those of top GMs who play your opening choices.

A Sample Daily Grandmaster Training Schedule

Your minimum time investment needs to be 4 hours daily give or take an hour. If you have the luxury to make it more aim for 6 or 7 hours a day for 6 days of the week.

  • Spend at least 1-hour doing tactics training daily. Make a note of how many puzzles you solve in this time so you track your progress.
  • Choose one or two of the past chess greats who played in a similar style to you and study their games. See what openings they played as these will aid you in selecting your own repertoire and learning how to play the typical middlegame positions. Invest 1 hour daily for game study.
  • Depending on your expertise level in the three phases of the game try to spend an hour working on improving in the middlegame and either the opening or endgame. Make the middlegame your main focus and alternate between the other two. This will account for 2 hours daily.

And, as the GingerGM says: “You can’t just be a tactical player. You can’t just be a positional player. You need to improve your whole game”.

Adjust Your Training Schedule As Needed

Remember to be flexible and let your results guide you on how to spend your time. Keep in mind there will never be an end to the tactics training or analyzing your games.

How much time you invest in the opening, middlegame, and endgame depends a lot on your current strengths and weaknesses.

Until your rating gets beyond 2000 Elo, openings needn’t be your priority. Play an opening that gives you an equal position or a small advantage and work on outplaying your opponent.

The truth is if you want to become a grandmaster you will need to be good enough to outplay lower-rated opponents from an equal position.

Analyzing Your Games Is A Must To Become A Grandmaster

One of the best tools to help you is analyzing your games. You might remember how close you came to losing the game in the ending or that you struggled to form a plan in the middlegame.

These are cues about where to focus your training. The more you can learn from analyzing your game the faster you will progress.

Make notes of not only the reason why you lost but what strategic or positional themes were present in the game. Did you fail to gain control of the open file or do you think you never took full advantage of his weak pawn structure?

See how a grandmaster analyzes his own games:

GM Damian Lemos goes over a game he played right after he got his Grandmaster title

The idea is not to become too self-critical. Accept you will always have more to learn and enjoy how your unique journey unfolds.

Be certain to make a note of how you felt at certain times in the game. When did you feel bad? Why?

Write short notes on your score sheet. Did you feel pressured because of time trouble?

The way you felt in certain positions will reveal a lot about what areas of the game need improving. Maybe you felt frustrated because you felt you should attack but couldn’t calculate the variations.

Become A Specialist In One Opening

Some believe you must not become predictable in your style of play. They suggest you have three or four openings to surprise your opponents.

Branching out doesn’t mean a complete change of opening. Similar yet different openings work well.

Start with one opening but have a similar opening as a backup. For example, you might study the Trompowsky and combine it with the Torre Attack in case your opponent doesn’t play 1…Nf6.

Building up a rock-solid understanding of your opening will give you the confidence to face any opponent with it no matter how well-prepared. Viktor Korchnoi did very well as a French Defense specialist.

When you are playing a higher-rated opponent feeling well-prepared in the opening will reduce the stress of such encounters. On your way to becoming a grandmaster, you will need to beat higher-rated players.

The results you get will determine when a change in the opening is needed. If you find yourself struggling to win with the Torre against stronger players consider a small shift.

Changing from the Torre to the Colle wouldn’t be a big shift. You could also consider moving from 1.d4 to 1.c4.

That way there will be enough similar themes to allow you to use what you have learned. By the time you are strong enough to consider becoming a grandmaster, you will know which opening move suits you best.

Off The Board

Before you approach the chessboard it’s necessary to root out the devil which could hinder your progress by attending to the details of your life.

Many may see chess as a game but if you are serious about becoming a grandmaster you need to treat chess as a serious part of your life.

This means treating it as you would any other career path. Dress and groom yourself as if you were an entrepreneur meeting an important client.

Being comfortable and looking good will help you feel more confident.

Physical Fitness Is A Necessity To Become A Grandmaster

Competitive chess, a necessity to becoming a grandmaster, is best seen as a sport. This will help you understand the importance of being physically fit.

The danger of seeing it as a game is you could view it as nothing more than a hobby.

You don’t need to spend hours in the gym or hire a personal trainer but you can if it makes you feel better. What you want is a balanced fitness regimen.

Walking is a great form of exercise because it will get you away from your study or playing area. Calisthenics or a short resistance band workout will take care of the strength training.

Guy working out in a gym. You don't have to go to a gym to be fit enough to become a grandmaster but some strength training is a must.
You don’t have to go to a gym to be fit enough to become a grandmaster but some strength training is a must.

Apart from helping you cope better with stress exercise can help you release stress. Taking a long walk through a beautiful city can get your mind off the stupid mistake you made on move 42.

A walk through a beautiful city can help you arrive at the tournament venue in a good frame of mind.

Who would you rather see sitting down at the board? A stressed-out, tense opponent, or one who is relaxed and smiling?

Mental Fitness

Becoming a chess grandmaster means making chess inseparable from your life so you need a way to cope with stress and deal with disappointments.

Don’t expect that sitting at the chessboard is enough to make you shed other concerns. Shed them or set them aside before you sit down.

Invest time and, if necessary, a little money in learning how to strengthen your powers of concentration and how to reduce stress. Seek professional help if you need it.

Whether you use chess concepts to help you through life or choose a philosophy based on how easily it relates to chess is not important. What is important is its effectiveness in making you feel better.

Be Aware Of Your Stress Levels

Like with your opening repertoire choose a method of stress-relief because of its proven, beneficial results in your life. The right choice for you is one that moves you closer to your goals.

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Spending some quiet time in nature can help tremendously to lower stress

Accept that like with your opening repertoire you might not hit upon the best approach the first time. Test the method for a week or two unless you can tell right away it isn’t for you.

We would all love to live an idyllic life where nothing happens to disturb our equilibrium and we can concentrate on chess. This is very unlikely to be true for you or anybody else.

Remove the devils from the details by giving yourself the tools you need to cope with the inevitable shocks of life. They will prove invaluable in helping you cope with setbacks in your game too.

Especially the blunder on move 42. The one that keeps coming back to haunt you.

Small Steps Lead To Exponential Gains

Choose mental exercises you enjoy that sharpen your mind because this will make you feel good. 

Improving your ability to concentrate and learning stress-reduction methods improves your life which directly impacts your chess results.

Become aware of how you feel during your training before giving attention to the results. Did you feel good after your tactics training? How did you feel after working with a coach for an hour?

Nobody can play a good game while feeling bad.

Remember The Importance Of Good Nutrition

The right food can be especially helpful along the way and make mastering your new skills easier. Both at and away from the chessboard.

The impact of food on our physical body is what we are most used to noticing.

Walnuts along with olives and hemp seeds can give your brain a nutritional boost and improve your mental performance.
Walnuts, olives and hemp seeds are good snack foods to carry on you to help give your brain a nutritional boost.

However, it’s possible to greatly enhance your mental performance by ensuring your brain gets the nutrients it needs.

A lot of the foods which enhance your powers of concentration and focus are easily carried with you and enjoyed as a snack. Walnuts, olives, and hemp seeds are good to carry on you throughout your day.

Participation then perfection. Be accepting of how well-prepared you are at this moment and set the intention to deal with stress and setbacks just a little better tomorrow.

You expect to make incremental gains in your chess progress as you become a grandmaster. Allow yourself the same approach to strengthening your mental and physical skills.

In Conclusion

One of the keys to succeeding at chess is learning to let go and set chess aside. You can do this mentally or physically.

Perhaps, you will use a walk to tell your body and mind the chess training or game is over. Maybe a phone call to a friend who doesn’t play chess will help you make the break.

Making this switch seems like a small thing so you know to treat it as a big deal.

Becoming a grandmaster is inevitable if you treat this big thing as a small thing and trust the process.

A good and comprehensive course to start you journey to chess mastery is Accelerate your Chess, by GM Simon Williams.

We are talking of 15 hours of lessons packed with good advice and practical knowledge you can apply to your game right away.

Get Accelerate your Chess with 50% off now

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