Chess: What it Really Takes
Just as I was preparing to reproduce the article in full linked here from chessVibes, under 'What do we think of chess skill?', as I was typing this, first trying to find the source link to the referenced article below, found another similar but distinctly seperate article that chessBase JUST published, so must reproduce only the summary from chessVibes here, so that I can instead follow up with more content from the second article :
'What are the effects of amount of practice, coaching and age of starting chess on chess skill? And how do we chess players view such notions as skill and talent? Dr Robert Howard of the University of New South Wales in Australia carried out a survey and its preliminary results answer a few of these questions.
'On June 15 we invited you to take part in a survey on chess skill by Dr Robert Howard of the University of New South Wales in Australia. Howard’s study of chess skill looks at effects of amount of practice, coaching and age of starting chess on chess skill and at chess players’ views about chess skill. The study involves a short online survey and is for anyone who has, or who ever has had, a FIDE rating. (Participating is still possible; if you’re interested and you have an FIDE rating, please click here.)
Double Click Image to Enlarge
'We have now received the preliminary results:
'Preliminary Results of FIDE Chess Survey
'Thanks to everyone who took part in this survey. Here are the preliminary results. The sample consist of 581 players to date, with five grandmasters, 25 international masters, 67 FIDE masters, two woman’s grandmasters, two woman’s international masters, and two woman’s FIDE masters. The results are only preliminary, however.
'Players learned the moves at a median age of eight years old (masters about two years younger). The median age of starting serious play and taking part in the first rated tournament is 14, 12 for masters. Most players have had coaching. Players average around five or six hours of chess study a week, but the range is huge (0 to 60 hours). Number of hours of study of chess material is a factor in expertise level but only a relatively minor one.
'Most players firmly believe in natural talent for chess and most believe that top ten players have some special traits, that few really can reach that level. However, many believe that a lot of study and practice can take a player a long way. Some believe that almost everyone can get to FIDE master with enough practice and study.
'Views on what natural talent for chess consists of vary, but some common ideas are good spatial ability, high IQ, good memory, creativity, high motivation, a strong will to win, control over emotions, and psychological hardiness.
'Eventual grandmasters take a median 390 FIDE-rated games from rating list entry to gain the title. Most players do not play anywhere near enough rated games in their careers to have a realistic chance of becoming a grandmaster. About two thirds of those who do play over 900games actually succeed in becoming a grandmaster. However, those who play over 740 games without becoming a grandmaster on average seem to strike an impassable barrier at around 2400 level.
'Analysis of rating data of players who played over 900 FIDE-rated games show that eventual top ten players indeed are identifiable from list entry. They get on the rating list much younger on average, get the grandmaster title much younger and much faster, and rise in theratings much faster than other grandmasters.
'Most believe that playing rated games and studying are equally important in developing skill.
'Read the full article here [highly recommended, dk].
'For any queries, please contact Dr Robert Howard, University of New South Wales.
'Not very surprising results, although I’d like to mention a few that struck me.1) “Number of hours of study of chess material is a factor in expertise level but only a relatively minor one.” This sort of confirms my impression that playing many (tournament) games is the best way to improve your chess. But not everybody agrees: “Most believe that playing rated games and studying are equally important in developing skill.”2) “Some believe that almost everyone can get to FIDE master with enough practice and study.” I was one of those, and I was speaking of a purely theoretical situation where you pick a random person in the street and put him in some kind of villa where he receives 8 hours of excellent training every day for a few years, and plays against many strong players. As long as this person likes chess, I think he(/she!) should be able to reach about 2200, 2300 FIDE'.
Were these riches not enough, chessBase just published a monster article every bit as good:
'Mind Games: Who is Doing the Playing? [link, title left, dk]
10.12.2008 – Discoveries on consciousness have inspired Norwegian philosopher Rune Vik-Hansen to forge a new view on development of chess skills. Challenging the current pedagogical climate, which claims that talent is insignificant and exposure to material a magic formula, he clarifies why blunders in chess are caused by a lack of interplay between consciousness and mind. Treatise with summary.
'Born out of recent findings from the field of consciousness and mind, the article explains that chess playing is based upon a fine interplay between a mind subconsciously triggering moves, and a well disciplined consciousness knowing what to keep and what to discard. The highly popular opinion that chess playing is done solely by a conscious self is challenged.
'Disputing the concept of “conscious memory”, it is shown that that one cannot remember material by acts of volition, and that development of chess skills cannot be explained by concepts revolving around consciousness.The article takes to task the current pedagogical claims that talent is of no significance and that exposure to chess material will bring the aspiring player equally far, and also the prevalent understanding that passion for, taking an interest in and believing in what you do are important components in improvement, chess or otherwise. On the contrary, the text demonstrates the significance of innate ability, and that passion and interest merely can direct our attention towards certain fields of study, but that acquiring skills involves different mental processes than these.Avoiding blunders being a major component in development of chess skills, they are here explained as caused by a flawed interplay between consciousness and mind, based upon the distinction between seeing and perceiving. A possible solution to the problem is suggested.
'A closer look is taken at the highly popular concept in chess lingua, “pattern recognition”. By pinpointing functional as well as conceptual problems, it is shown that the concept does not meaningfully lend itself to explain chess playing. Specific idiosyncrasies between patterns and structures are scrutinized to show that the conceptual problems run deeper than mere semantics. The fundamental difference is argued by looking at how these two relate to each other, and how they are expressed in chess discourse and chess literature. Since no formal definition of “pattern” in chess exists, it is impossible effectively to meaningfully communicate “pattern recognition” as a workable concept to explain the development of chess skills. To then explain chess playing and support the claim that the idea of “pattern recognition” is highly problematic, “exformation” is introduced as a new concept to chess discourse, thinking and communication.
'Upon closure, chess playing is compared with judgment in the field of morality, trying to explain that just as in morality, chess players constantly encounter and have to deal with situations (positions) never before encountered.Finally, it is offered why many present methods of study will not seriously improve or develop chess skills. In context of the undertaken analysis, Kotov’s method is suggested for chess improvement, and it is explained why it works.
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Hope you all enjoy! Warmest, dk
 I sent this to BDK and, to his great credit, already was aware of the article. Nice going!