The (Long) Road to Chess Mastery

According to experts it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any field. So the following is my attempt to gauge my chess progress based on the 10,000 hour rule.


  • 10,000 hours of practice = expert
  • A chess expert is a player with a 2000 USCF rating.
  • Your starting chess rating is approximately 1000 USCF.
  • Halfway through your training or 5,000 hours of practice later you should be rated approximately 1500.
  • Average chess level in ELO is about 1400.
  • I have been playing chess for approximately 6 years.
  • I spend an average of 2 hours per day on chess which comes out to 730 hours of chess practice per year.
  • 6 years * 730 hours / year = 4,380 hours of study so far, so I am 43% on my road to chess mastery.
  • I still need 5,620 hours to become an expert.
  • At the current rate of 2 hours, I will reach a 2000 USCF rating in approximately 7.7 years.
  • Since I have completed 44% of the 10,000 hours my rating should be at around 1440* ( I am currently FICS standard 1684 – 250 (USCF adjustment) =  1434 USCF equivalent)
  • If I increase my study time to 3 hours per day, I will decrease the time required to reach 200 from 7.7 to 5.1 years.
  • Increasing study time to 4 hours / day I will reach 2000 in 3.8 more years.
  • Increasing study time to 5 hours / day I will reach 2000 in 3 years (huge drop off and not worth it).

It seems that the optimal number of hours to spend on practicing / studying chess per day is 3 hours.

* I figured 1440 by multiplying 1000 * 44% (which is the total gain required from 1000 – 2000).

chessbuzz has written 55 articles

3 thoughts on “The (Long) Road to Chess Mastery

  1. Hello Manny

    I would like to make some corrects (my notes).

    1) A chess expert is a player with a 2000 USCF rating. It is in USA, but in Europe (and overall) an EXPERT is a master (FM, IM) or higher (GM or World Champion). We should not compare an expert (2000-2100) player with real EXPERT (2400-2500 player).

    2) 10.000 hours figure comes from an estimation made by some scientists. You can google “deliberate practice” and you can read about that much deeper (I warn you – it is very interesting but brutal topic).

    3) My friend started training chess really systematically and after just ONE year he progressed from 1330 to 1650 (in FICS server). He is very motivated and even desperatedly wants to become 1800-2000 player. It is not easy, because he is mostly playing much stronger players than him. I played him 100 games (at 15 or 30 mins) and he made 5 wins and 5 draws! (I am 1900-1930 player).

    4) If you have made decision that you are having a plan and realize it day by day… you can get from 1650 to 1800 in just ONE year. It is difficult but possible.

    5) Your calculations are really nice, but I would like to know:
    a) how many hours did you spend to practice and theory
    b) how strong opponents were you playing
    c) have you had any plan (of realizing some chess goal)
    d) how many (and how difficult) tactic excercises have you done

    The most important:
    “It seems that the optimal number of hours to spend on practicing / studying chess per day is 3 hours.”
    YES, You are right – normal (I mean – not professional) chess players should not spend more that 2,5 to 4 hours a day on chess (no matter if practicing or studying). Much more important is to work effectively than working (on chess) long hours. You should check “deliberate practice” – especially this one:
    (it is GREAT interview together with a transcript). You will see what I mean :).

    Nice articles! Congratulations of writing many quite interesting posts! Good job! Well done!

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