Hey there, I’m Grandmaster Noël Studer, the Author of this Blog.
I became the youngest ever Swiss Grandmaster at the age of 20 years and 6 months on April 17th, 2017. I have played Chess professionally for 6 years and am now ready to share all my knowledge with all of my readers.
I have started this Blog, NextLevelChess, on March 23rd 2021 with a simple goal in mind: to share all my knowledge connected to Chess with as many Chess Lovers as possible.
In only a matter of months, this Blog has found a big and wide audience of Chess Lovers all around the world.
This allowed me to take a leap of faith and make the Blog my full-time occupation after my retirement from professional Chess in August 2021.
Starting from 2022 I will offer Video-Courses and more in-depth resources to help you take your Chess to the Next Level.
The free articles and Newsletter will remain the cornerstone of my Blog.
I do hope that many of the strategies and tips will not only help you in your Chess but also in your corporate and private Life.
Chess is not only a fantastic game & Sport but also a great source of improvement for everyday Life.
I hope the following sentences will give you a better feeling of where I come from, what my values are, and why I decided to pursue Blogging as my full-time occupation.
Quick Chronicle Of Events
- 18.10.1996: Born in Bern, Switzerland
- May 2005: Played first rated Chess game
- 2008: Qualification for both Swiss & European Championship Under 12-years-old
- 2012: Finally first Swiss Champion Title (also first Podium!), double Champion U16 & U18
- 2013: First International Medal; Vice-European-Team Champion U18; Gold Medal on Board 2
- 2014: IM Title; 5th Place in U18 World Championship (best Swiss Result since 1971!)
- 2015: Finishing High-School & Starting Professional Chess Career
- 2016: First Elite Swiss Champion Title
- 2017: GM Title, Youngest Swiss GM Ever aged 20-years & 6 months
- 2018: Second Time Representing Switzerland at the Chess Olympiad
- 2019: Biggest Win of My Career: Victory against GM Harikrishna Pentala (2741, #19 in the World)
- 2020: Winning International Open in Cattolica (Italy) with 8/9 (Performance 2766)
- 2021: Starting NextLevelChess Blog in March, retiring from competitive Chess in August
Early Childhood With Many Interests
Born on October 18th, 1996 in Bern (Switzerland), I have been a very active Baby & Child.
Early on I showed some signs of stubbornness and will to go my own way. My parents told me that early on I refused to eat baby food, as I saw my older brother Yannick eat “normal” food already.
On other occasions I would insist to walk every step of the road by myself: As my father picked me up to speed up because I was tired or slowed the whole family down, I would protest (they say I was very good at this…) until he brought me back to the point he picked me up so I could walk all the way by myself.
Chess wasn’t the first Hobby I picked up as a Child. I started to play Football (Soccer for my American readers) in a Club way before I even knew the rules of Chess. My parents also organized Piano lessons for me, and I tried myself in Judo, a modern Japanese Martial art.
No matter what I did, my competitive spirit was obvious to anybody watching.
Be it a Table-Tennis game at home, Jogging with my brother, or playing a game (Risk was a big contender for family crisis…) I always tried to make a competition out of everything. Also because of that, being a professional Athlete was something that appealed to me early on.
I have been (and continue to be) a huge fan of FC Bayern Munich since the first moments I can remember. I have also always cheered on the German National Football team, which particularly in Switzerland is not a very fashionable choice. Players like Oliver Kahn & Michael Ballack, who were not always known for being super nice, caught my interest.
I remember feeling very desperate in 2004 when Germany did not manage to get out of the group stage and England (my second favorite team, besides Switzerland obviously, who did not manage to qualify for the event altogether) lost the Quarter Final against Portugal.
Me in my early Football days. Early on I was goalkeeping, but I also tried my luck as a defender and midfield player. I simply never scored, so I was useless as a striker.
I was fascinated by horses early on, maybe that made me like the game of Chess?
Surprising Everyone, Including Myself
In that same year, I started playing Chess in a Club. After a few months of training and smaller rapid tournaments, I played my first rated event in late 2005. You might think starting to play tournaments aged 9 is early. But I was way behind some of my future competitors! The two leading Swiss Players in my age group already played their first European Championship aged 9 & 10.
Internationally you will find even more crazy numbers. The record for the youngest Grandmaster is an astonishing 12 years, 4months, and 25 days.
Back to my own path. In 2006 I only played few tournaments with modest success. My first Chess success came in 2007/2008, when I qualified for the Swiss U12 Championship. I got a respectable 5th place finish. It took 4 more years until I finally managed a podium finish in a national Championship. In 2012 I won the first two of a dozen Swiss Championship titles. In the image below you see me after my last Swiss Champion Title in the Elite group in 2019.
The 5th place in 2008 enabled me to participate in my first European Youth Championship.
From 2008 until 2015 I took part in 7 European & 7 World Youth Championships. Additionally I played one U16 Olympiad (Team) and one U18 Team European Championship.
Even though this might sound like an impressive resumé, no-one really believed in a Chess carreer of Noël Studer. Not my Coaches and neither my parents or even myself! I remember that I used to make a LOT of fun of Swiss Players that said they wanted to be a Grandmaster.
The Swiss Chess tradition is basically non-existent and Chess Player is not really looked at as a profession.
In the first few years I never even remotely had a chance to compete for a podium finish. I usually placed in the second half of roughly 100 participants. But I never gave up and steadily improved. This reduced the gap to the Top international players further.
In 2013 I was part of a historic Silver-Medal U18 Team, the first international Team Medal for Switzerland. I also scored the Gold medal on the second Board, ahead of a young boy you might have heard of by now… Jan Krzysztof Duda, 2021 World Cup Winner!
It was my 5th place in the U18 World Championship that really gave me the feeling that I can compete internationally.
In the last round, I played the leader and big favorite and rejected a draw offer early on. The draw would have all but sealed the first World Championship Medal for a Swiss player since 1971, but I wanted more. With a win, the World Championship title was still possible. Having that once-in-a-lifetime chance, I went for it all… and lost quickly!
This remains my most painful Chess memory, especially because I missed out on bronze just because of a silly 2.5 Buchholz points… Still, I would still go for it all and not play it safe by accepting a draw. It is a good example to showcase my fighting spirit & will to win.
This Top finish encouraged me to start a career as a professional Chess player in 2015. After finishing my High-School, I had some convincing to do because my parents were not really fond of a son that plays chess professionally. So I started out by taking a gap-year to focus on Chess.
I then added a second one “just to get the GM title”. At some point in this second year my parents understood that I have absolutely no plans of going to University. They kept on supporting me, but never gave up their dream of a son with a University degree instead of some Chess titles…
It isn’t surprising that their first question after learning that I will retire from competitive Chess was: “So what will you study now”?
Professional Chess Player
In my 6 years as a professional Player I have learned more than I could possibly write down here. Sticking to Numbers & Chess Terms, I went from being a mediocre IM at 2420, to being the youngest Grandmaster and Swiss #1 at 2582.
I’ve won some international Tournaments, beaten some Top Players (my win against #19 of the World Harikrishna stands out) and collected many National titles. But honestly, the achievements on the board are only a nice side effect for me.
It was a damn good life school to strive for more but not getting anything for free. Not only did I learn a lot about improving in Chess (and anything at all, really).
I searched (and found) Sponsors, held talks in front of several hundred people and got the Chance to work with some incredibly talented people that supported me on my way:
Sport Psychologists, Nutritionists, Olympic Champions of other Sports & Physiotherapists to just name a few.
The biggest take-away from that time is something that drives me today:
Every Person has a much higher potential than we can even imagine.
This applies to Chess, but also other aspects of Life. With the right mindset, work ethic, support from other people & some luck we can reach things we would not even phantom to dream about.
The more I started to think about this, the more I suddenly felt that playing Chess was maybe not the right occupation for me anymore. I felt that while Playing Chess I would just be another GM. But when talking about the way to improve as a Chess Player, I felt and still feel that I have something special to give.
Winning an important game is nice, but helping someone else crack a mental barrier and see them improve is just another level of joy for me. With that in mind, I slowly shifted my focus from improving myself to helping improve others. If you want to know the details of my retirement, then just check out this article.
Even though it was tough to stop a seemingly “unfinished” career, I never looked back once I made that tough decision public. Sharing my thoughts on Chess improvement & general life advice on this Blog has given me so much. And I’m committed to keep it going.
You might see me occasionally play an Online Blitz game or sit down at the Board for fun. But I don’t see myself coming back to playing Chess competitively. While I do not think playing Chess professionally is bad, teaching just fits my personality much better.
As many insights can be applied to Chess & life, I can see myself helping people outside of Chess with mental performance issues. For now though, I will stick to our beloved game of Chess. Even though I certainly hope that my advice will not only improve your rating, but also your general well-being.
Private Life & Values
Last but not least, here are some paragraphs about me as a Person, not a Chess Player. My beliefs, values and surroundings certainly influence my writing, so it would be wrong to leave them out.
I’m living in Switzerland, close to Bern with my amazing Girlfriend Alessia.
She is a Chess Player as well and is streaming 5 days a week. As we are both working Online, we are very flexible and thus we spend some of the Cold Winter on the Canary Islands. As a matter of fact, I’m writing these lines from sunny Corralejo, Fuerteventura.
She is by no doubt the most positive influence in my life. I’ve grown enormously as a Person in the more than 5 years we’ve been together.
We’ve met on the most horrible tournament for both of us (U20 World Championship 2016). It is a great reminder that there are things that are SO much more important than “success”, be it on or away from the Chess Board.
..Even though I think human connections are super important, I’m not the most sociable person. Especially events with many strangers are a Challenge to me.
I prefer very few deep connections with Friends & family over dozens (or hundreds) of Friendships that lack depth.
So if I have to choose between a big party and reading a book on my comfortable couch, I’m choosing the latter 99 of 100 times.
It is certainly fair to describe myself as an Introvert. That also explains my conscious choice to start a Chess Blog and not a YouTube or Twitch Channel. Occasionally I will appear on Alessia Twitch Channel. But more often than not, I prefer to stay behind the scenes.
I certainly do NOT miss the Press talks & interviews that come with being a professional Chess Player. Only about half a year after retiring I agreed to give 1 short interview in Swiss press.
A part of my social anxiety certainly still stems from a difficult period in my Childhood. I had a hard time to connect with other Childs and was heavily bullied from age 9-13.
I sometimes even avoid simple things as asking directions or where a certain article is in the supermarket. Something inside myself still puts that on similar danger level as confronting a hungry Lion…
Most of my interest for human psychology & decision making comes from a very egoistic point of view: I realize that many of my fears are not really rational. Working on myself & recognising many points that can be improved is the main starting point for most of my writing.
More than anything else, sharing my experiences has helped me understand that we all fight battles we believe to be fighting alone. But we’re not that different from each other. What helped me might help someone else. That is why I’m writing these lines & anything at all.
Be Nice! This is the easiest way to describe the core of my values.
Being Nice means treating others like you want to be treated. It means doing what is RIGHT, not what helps you most. It means creating & selling products that you are convinced will help the buyer.
Being Nice means respecting other opinions, genders, religions & ideas. It means being aware of the fact that we are all in this together.
Being Nice leaves no space for War, Bullying, Insults, Racism & Fraud.
Certainly I’m not claiming to be doing everything right. I’ve done many stupid things and continue to make daily mistakes. But I’m committed to being a nice Person that adds something positive to my direct & indirect surroundings.
When I see someone not being nice, I can get pretty upset. That might explain my strong viewpoint on Match-Fixing (pre-arranged draws) and selling the “magic wonder pills courses” in the Chess World.
No matter what amount of money & fame you can reach by not being nice, I strongly believe that it will be the wrong choice 100% of the time. Not only is it possible to be successful while being nice. It seems to be the only way to be truly happy with yourself as well!
Nothing is worse than not being able to honestly look into the mirror and saying “I’m a positive influence to those around me”. A private Jet & lots of “fans” won’t compensate the lack of self-respect that comes with not being nice.
This might be a rather naive look on Life. But I must say: it works for me. And I have yet to meet a truly happy asshole .
Let’s Be Nice Together
Wow, you’ve made it until the end. Reading this whole monologue without rage-quitting or getting angry at my idealism probably means we’d be great friends. I’d love to hear from you. Tell me your story & let me know how I can help you. After all, I’ve started writing this blog exactly for people like you (and I have no social anxiety sitting behind a screen)!
Just email me at email@example.com and you’ll hear back from me. Promised. Being nice includes also replying to all my readers.
If in one way or another I can be a small positive influence in your (Chess) Life, then these lines were a great success. I wish you all the best on your Chess journey. May you find joy in playing & improving this incredibly beautiful game.
Noël Studer, Author of NextLevelChess