Chess Improvement

It’s all in the mindset

By: Peter Wells , Barry Hymer


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Products specifications
Attribute nameAttribute value
Size234 x 156mm
PublishedOctober 2020

Written by Barry Hymer and Peter Wells, Chess Improvement: It’s all in the mindset is an engaging and instructive guide that sets out how the application of growth mindset principles can accelerate chess improvement.

With Tim Kett and insights from Michael Adams, David Howell, Harriet Hunt, Gawain Jones, Luke McShane, Matthew Sadler and Nigel Short.

Foreword by Henrik Carlsen, father of world champion Magnus Carlsen.

Twenty-first-century knowledge about skills development and expertise requires us to keep such mystical notions as fixed ‘talent’ in perspective, and to emphasise instead the dynamic and malleable nature of these concepts.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in chess, where many gifted players fall prey to plausible but self-defeating beliefs and practices – and thereby fail to achieve the levels their ‘natural’ abilities predicted. Happily, however, the reverse can be true too; through learned dispositions such as grit, risk-taking, strategic thinking and a capacity for sheer hard work, players of apparently modest abilities can achieve impressive results.

Blending theory, practice and the distinct but complementary skills of two authors – one an academic (and amateur chess player) and the other a highly regarded England Chess Olympiad coach (and grandmaster) – Chess Improvement is an invaluable resource for any aspirational chess player or coach/parent of a chess player.

Barry and Peter draw on interviews conducted with members of England’s medal-winning elite squad of players and provide a template for chess improvement rooted in the practical wisdom of experienced chess players and coaches.

They also include practical illustrative descriptions from the games and chess careers of both developing and leading players, and pull together themes and suggestions in a way which encourages readers to create their own trajectories for chess improvement.

Suitable for any chess player, or coach or parent of a chess player.

Picture for author Peter Wells

Peter Wells

Grandmaster Peter Wells has over 30 years’ professional experience in the chess world and has authored or co-authored nine well-received chess books. He has extensive coaching experience, having worked with the England Open and women’s teams at a total of 16 major events, and now works with the leading English juniors through the Chess Trust’s Accelerator Programme. As a player Peter has won three British Rapidplay titles and is part of a small group of English players to have progressed beyond the zonal stage of the World Championship cycle.

Picture for author Barry Hymer

Barry Hymer

Barry Hymer is Emeritus Professor of Psychology in Education at the University of Cumbria and Chief of Science for the leading online chess learning platform, Chessable. Barry has written 11 books and numerous papers on the subject of teaching and learning and he is one of the UK's foremost authorities on the educational applications of mindset theory.

Click here to read Barry Hymer's blog.


  1. Most chess books try to deliver what the author believes to be the target audience’s expectation. In the process, few compromises are likely to be made, especially when the author believes that certain aspects of what they feel necessary to be conveyed may not be palatable for their readers. But Chess Improvement stands apart in this aspect as it takes an intense, personal, self-critical look into various aspects of self-improvement in chess. The authors relay their experiences in their chess careers in combination with the recent perspective obtained from Carol Dweck’s Mindset.

    The first thought that came into my mind while reading Chess Improvement was that it is an honest book. The authors have aimed to relate their thinking processes to the concept of mindset and come up with theories that can explain why chess players do what they do. I was especially impressed by Peter Wells’ self-introspection on the issue of time-trouble, tracing its origins to a combination of perfectionism, fear of making mistakes, and lack of self-belief. Most readers who have played chess under chronic time-trouble habits will easily relate to this explanation.

    For most players, learning in chess is not an automatic outcome of their effort in preparation, and many can struggle with transferring their acquired chess skills into strong moves during an over-the-board game in a tournament. The ability to handle our fluctuating emotions, pressures during a tournament, swinging confidence as per the results of individual games, worrying about the rating – these are just a few of the challenges faced by most upcoming players. Knowing oneself under the prism of mindset can give a better understanding of the reasons for our behaviour and possible solutions to handling ourselves effectively.

    I would strongly recommend Chess Improvement for anyone who wants to understand himself or herself better and embark on their chess journey with clarity in their mind.

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