Domdaniel: <Avari Viraf> Greetings: I'm afraid I only just noticed that your forum was open. I've liked and appreciated your kibitzes and game comments for some time now.
I see, too, that you've had some feedback on the appropriate age for learning chess, and the possibility of improvement. If I was younger, I'd be heartened by your experience and comments. But I'm almost 52: at that age any increase in experience or positional understanding seems to be offset by a tendency to blunder, weaker powers of calculation, etc. Still, though, I think what you've said is important. Age helps, but is by no means the only factor.
At an absurdly young age, still in my 20s, I thought I was 'past it'. I'd learned to play chess relatively late, at 17 or so -- and then when I began to play competitively I shot up through the ratings quite quickly. Something like 1650 - 1870 - 1980 - 2000, in my first couple of years as a rated player.
This was in Ireland, which had no GMs or IMs at the time, in the 1970s & 80s. There was a small group of players (B.Kernan, the Delaney brothers, Philip Short, Paul Wallace) who would have reached at least IM strength in countries with a larger population or stronger chess tradition.
All had been playing for longer than I had, at least since their early teens. I had occasional wins against them, but most of the time they were able to beat me.
At the same time, my rating stopped climbing. The growth spurt hit a plateau at around 2000. I maintained this level for most of the 1980s, but couldn't consistently get higher.
Foolishly, I deduced that this was a fact of life. I thought my late start meant I had no hope of keeping up with my rivals, who all reached the 2250-2450 range. Around the year 1990, I gave up chess, and didn't play competitively again until 2006.
This was silly of me. Even if ratings were the main issue (they aren't) then, with some work, I could easily have reached 2200-2300. Several of my peers, also 'late' starters, did so.
More to the point, I deprived myself of 17 years of chess. When I made my comeback four years ago, I was assigned a rating of 1900. It went up a little, then fell to an unprecedented 1700, then rose again ... and I finally understood that it didn't matter.
In some ways, I know I'm a better player than before. And worse in other ways: slower to react, tactically careless, etc. But I think I now have a more mature understanding of chess and its deepest values. It's not really about winning a few games to acquire a better rating. It's about striving to paint your own *Mona Lisa*, as Gufeld said.
Thanks for the inspiration. May your brush never waver.