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24 Traits and Qualities of Great Chess Players | Road to Becoming a Grandmaster

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

When we look at great chess players and Grandmasters, we get a sense of admiration for them. How did they become so excellent at chess? Were they born that way? Is there a chess gene that you don’t know about? Some chess players certainly have a predisposition towards becoming noteworthy, and it’s not because they have a unique chess gene.

Grandmasters and great chess players have many traits and qualities in common. Apart from having a passion for the game, they work incredibly hard at achieving their goals. Moreover, these master tacticians see the bigger picture, for their personal chess journey is also a strategic game.

Apart from passion, discipline, and strategic thinking, great chess players possess other traits and qualities that give them that winning edge. These qualities include cognitive, emotional, practical, and character traits. You can develop these traits yourself if you want to become a grandmaster or great chess player. It’s entirely possible if you want it badly enough.

These are 24 traits and qualities of great chess players:

1. Most Great Chess Players Are Intelligent

It is safe to say that most Grandmasters and great chess players are very smart and probably have high IQs. IQ measures a person’s problem-solving and reasoning abilities, not only their knowledge. To be great at chess, you need to develop these skills to outwit your opponent.

2. Great Chess Players Are Studious

A great chess player studies a lot. They will examine the tactics used by Grandmasters and the best ways to play the opening, middle, and end of a game. The game fascinates avid chess players, leading them to research more.

3. Great Chess Players Prepare Well

Becoming a Grandmaster means extensive preparation, as in tens of thousands of hours of practice. Preparation includes studying the game, playing against excellent players, and looking after your health, amongst other things.

4. They Are Good At Recognizing Patterns

Recognizing patterns is an element of human survival. Great chess players hone this skill as a strategy to identify a theme and out-think their opponent. They consider the moves and countermoves way ahead of time instead of making one move at a time.

5. Great Chess Players Engage Wholeheartedly In The Game

Being wholeheartedly engaged in a chess game means your attention and focus are undivided. You have a goal to achieve. A lack of focus on a chess player’s part can give their opponent a gap to strike with a killer move. So, great chess players completely zone into whatever they are doing – whether playing a game, reading a book on chess, or preparing for a tournament. 

6. Grandmasters Are Tactical Geniuses

Great chess players use different styles, but Grandmasters are tactical geniuses. Whether their style is aggressive, defensive, or positional, a Grandmaster uses their chosen strategy to annihilate an opponent.

7. Great Chess Players Think Before They Act

Great chess players rarely act on a whim when playing chess. A part of strategizing means thinking before you act, not the other way around. Thinking before acting means having the composure to consider all variables before executing a move.

8. Good Memory Is Essential In Becoming Great At Chess

An excellent asset in becoming a great chess player is a good memory. Remembering what you have learned about the game, strategies, and your opponent will help you succeed. Many Grandmasters are believed to have a prodigious or photographic memory when it comes to chess. However, that same prodigy might forget to buy bread when sent to the grocery store.

9. Great Chess Players Have The Willingness To Improve

Chess players who want to be great know there is always room to improve. Areas they might want to strengthen are their strategy, memory, preparation routine, patience, and risk-taking. Chess improvement is gradual; great chess players are usually willing and patient enough to walk this long journey.

10. Self-Criticism Helps Great Chess Players To Improve

Positive self-criticism is an excellent way to improve your chess game. Ideally, self-criticism should be constructive, assessing and refining yourself to achieve your goals. Self-critical questions chess players can ask themselves include, “What did I miss?” “Why did I make that mistake?” and “How did my opponent outwit me?”.

11. Great Chess Players Play A Harmonious Game

A well-played game of chess can be compared to a well-composed symphony, where the Grandmaster is the conductor who knows each detail. Seeing harmony in chess is like finding it in music and mathematics. Discovering the patterns, intricacies, and layers in chess can be beautiful to those who appreciate it.

12. They Have Loads Of Experience

Great chess players have a lot of firsthand experience playing against elite opposition. Experience is multi-dimensional – it spans time, depth, and scope. Many great chess players have played chess in various forms, including in person or digitally. Their experience helps them to learn new tactics and read people, amongst other things.

13. Great Chess Players Compete In Tough Tournaments

As iron sharpens iron, playing in tough chess tournaments can help a player improve. Good quality tournaments are a resource to refine skills and use your training. When playing against great chess players, you can learn from them how to improve your game. 

14. They Are Willing To Take Calculated Risks

Playing a strategic game of chess often means a bit of gambling and taking calculated risks. For example, great chess players might have to take a gamble if they are stuck for a move. Alternatively, they can bluff and surprise their opponent with an unexpected move to increase the pressure of the game.

15. Confidence Is Key To Becoming A Great Chess Player

Confidence plays an essential role in the ambition and success of a great chess player. With unwavering confidence, you can face the expected challenges while you keep your eyes on the goal of becoming great. Chess players with good self-confidence will “bounce back” after setbacks, but those with poor confidence will not handle a bad loss well.

16. Great Chess Players Are Passionate About Chess

As serious as Grandmasters are or appear, they play chess because they are passionate about it. It’s fun and brings them a great deal of happiness. They might find joy in one or many aspects of chess. Examples include competing in tournaments, enjoying the beauty of chess, the challenge it provides, or earning the title of a Grandmaster.

17. Avid Chess Players Are Patient

Patience is an excellent virtue in a game that can last for hours. Quit often, a classical chess game is three to four hours long, and the road to becoming a Grandmaster is much longer. As such, great chess players tend to view their chess journey in the greater scheme, which allows them to be patient with themselves.

18. They Are Adaptable

Great chess players are strategists, which means adapting to changes when things don’t go according to plan. Instead, great chess players will use curveballs to their advantage, which helps them to have that winning edge. They have the savvy to see the “bigger picture” and act accordingly.

19. Great Chess Players Have Perseverance

Perseverance in chess means being determined to reach your goal. The road to becoming a Grandmaster means persisting even when you lose a hundred or a thousand times. It’s that grit and perseverance that separates a good chess player from a Grandmaster.

20. They Have Stamina

To be a perseverant chess player, you need stamina. Great chess players have the stamina to play games and compete in tournaments continuously. Improving your stamina takes training and practice. To help you have the stamina to become a Grandmaster, you should look after your mind and body.

21. Great Chess Players Are Ambitious

Ambition in chess can refer to winning a particular game or becoming a Grandmaster, for instance. Great chess players are determined to make their big ambitions a reality. They will put in the effort needed to attain their goals.

22. Many Great Chess Players Have Strong Characters

Many great chess players have strong and ambitious characters. People with strong characters have more presence and are likely to face inevitable challenges in their stride. Examples of Grandmasters with very strong characters include Fischer, Korchnoi, and Kasparov.

23. They Have A Killer Instinct

Grandmasters and great chess players will do everything in their power to win. They’re playing a strategic battle on a board and will be ruthless to win it. Some great players might decide to draw if the game looks dry, but Grandmasters with that killer instinct will tire out their prey until they give in.

24. Great Chess Players Love The Game

Finally, most great chess players and Grandmasters love the game. They will dedicate much of their time to chess because they want to, not because they have to. Chess appeals to them, and they will live and breathe it as long as that passion for it exists.

In Closing

Grandmasters and great chess players have many common traits and qualities. These characteristics include cognitive, emotional, character, and practical aspects. However, Grandmasters are not necessarily born as chess prodigies. Instead, they develop and refine their traits through persistence and experience.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.