How do you become one of the world’s top chess players?

How Do You Become One of the World’s Top Chess Players?

How Do You Become One of the World’s Top Chess Players?

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Nov. 10 2015 7:18 AM

How Do You Become One of the World’s Top Chess Players?

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Judit Polgár in 2008.

Courtesy ofStefan64/Wikimedia Commons

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Answer by John Fernandez, 2133 FIDE:

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According to the World Chess Federation (FIDE), I'm ranked No. 34,299 in the world, so I'm probably not the best person in the world to answer this, but let me tell you about the Polgár sisters: Zsofia, Zsuzsa, and Judit Polgár.

Their father, László Polgár, had the theory that all children have the capacity to become geniuses in any chosen field, so long as their education starts before age 3 and they begin to specialize at age 6. So he home-schooled and performed this experiment on his three daughters with the game of chess. Here is how it turned out:

Zsofia Polgár peaked at 2505 FIDE and was the weakest of the three, but had one of the most amazing performances in chess history when she went 8.5/9 in Rome at the age of 14 with an insane performance rating of 2735.

Zsuzsa Polgár was the first woman to qualify for the men’s World Championship in 1986, was the women’s World Champion, and peaked at 2577 FIDE. She was really the Jackie Robinson for women's chess in the sense that she broke down a lot of barriers. My favorite anecdote about her was when FIDE decided to grant 100 bonus Elo rating points to all active female players except her, just to make sure she wasn't No. 1 on the January 1987 FIDE ratings list (basically penalizing her for playing against men).

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Judit Polgár was the best of the bunch and the strongest female chess player of all time. She never competed for the women's World Championship (she'd have slaughtered everyone, her sisters included). She peaked at No. 8 in the world and 2735 FIDE. Her accomplishments are too many to list here. 

My guess is that Judit had some really good talent, but it's hard to believe that all three were. They all broke 2500 FIDE, though only one made the top 20. All became chess professionals.

So yeah, you can follow the Polgár method (but frankly, the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, and most other role models for start early), and maybe you'll get someone who is top 20. The big constraint? Age. No one in the top 20 currently or from now on will have started the game after the age of 10, if not sooner. So if you're asking this question on Quora now, you're probably too old. Sorry.