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Learning Chess as an Adult: Overcoming Challenges


30 January 2024

Hey there, I'm Keeghan McGarry, and if you're reading this, you've probably found yourself in a similar boat - an adult with a passion for chess. Chess, often dubbed as the "game of kings," has an allure that transcends age. While many start their chess journey in childhood, it's never too late for adults to pick up this intellectually stimulating game. However, embarking on the path of chess as an adult presents its unique set of challenges. In this article, we'll delve into my personal experience as an adult chess learner, understand the hurdles I've faced, and explore effective strategies to overcome them. Whether you're a seasoned player seeking improvement or a complete novice, this guide is tailored to help you navigate the exciting realm of chess.

The Unique Journey of Adult Chess Learners

As an adult chess enthusiast, one of the advantages I've found is maturity. Unlike children, adults bring life experiences, critical thinking skills, and the ability to grasp complex concepts more quickly. Maturity can be a powerful asset in understanding the nuances of chess strategy and tactics, and we can draw on much deeper critical thinking and life experiences to help us in our training.

However! Let's face it... adult life is a juggling act. Between my full-time job, spending time with my girlfriend, and managing various chess-related projects like building this very site as a solo dev and founding a chess club, finding time for dedicated chess practice can be daunting. That's ultimately why I built - to create the tools and training methods I needed. Things that were backed my solid science, and time efficient, to get my chess to the level I wanted (National Master, if you were wondering).

Balancing chess aspirations with daily commitments is a real challenge. Unlike children, who may have more leisure time for chess, adults must allocate their resources wisely. Setting achievable goals and realistic expectations is paramount. While becoming a grandmaster overnight may be a stretch (or, really, a complete pipe dream), steady progress is well within reach.

Setting Realistic Expectations

Chess is renowned for its steep learning curve, a reality I've encountered first-hand. Understanding the multitude of openings, strategies, and tactics can feel overwhelming, and that's just at a surface level. Going properly deep into understanding, especially for adult beginners like myself, is nothing short of daunting. Setting realistic expectations is crucial to avoid frustration.

Success in chess varies from person to person. Some measure it in terms of rating points, while others find satisfaction in the joy of playing and improving. It's essential to determine what success means to you personally and embrace the unique journey that chess offers.

At, we understand the importance of enjoying the process. Our tools are designed to make training enjoyable and rewarding, ensuring that every move you make brings you closer to your goals.

Effective Learning Strategies

Structured learning plans have been instrumental in my chess improvement journey. As an adult learner, I've realized the value of organized training routines. I built with this explictly in mind - I wanted it to have all the tools I needed to help me structure my learning and practice effectively.

One common pitfall I've faced, along with many other adult learners, is an overemphasis on openings while neglecting tactics and endgames. Chessable, while a fantastic tool, is a huge culprit in the over saturation of opening knowledge. There a 900's with openings memorised to the 20th move! And then on move 21, they hang their Queen! You might think that is hyperbole, but go back and look at my old games - I was the 900, and I promise you it's true.

The saying "chess is 99% tactics" holds a lot of truth. Spending excessive time on openings may hinder overall progress. provides a balanced approach, offering both courses and tactics training, allowing me to focus on both openings and tactics, ensuring a well-rounded chess education.

Overcoming Psychological Barriers

Chess can be a humbling experience, especially when progress is slow. I've had my fair share of frustrating moments, and repeated mistakes that won't seem to stick - just ask my coach! But it's essential to acknowledge frustration and view it as a natural part of the learning process. Every challenge in chess is an opportunity for growth.

A shift in mindset has made a significant difference for me. Instead of viewing setbacks as failures, I've learned to see them as stepping stones toward improvement. Embracing the learning journey, enjoying the process, and remembering that every move I make brings me closer to my goals have been transformative.


In conclusion, learning chess as an adult may present unique challenges, but it is a rewarding journey that offers intellectual stimulation and personal growth. Embrace your maturity and the benefits it brings, set realistic expectations, adopt effective learning strategies, and overcome psychological barriers to unlock your full chess potential.

Ready to Elevate Your Chess Game?

Take the first step towards becoming a stronger chess player. Explore our comprehensive chess training tools, improve your skills, and unlock your full chess potential. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced player, has the resources to help you succeed. Don't miss out on the opportunity to level up your game.