Last week I asked a young compatriot what goals he set for his career. A 17-year-old FM told me “the IM title would be nice, maybe 2450”. Then he said with a scared expression “maybe also the GM title, but I don’t know if this is realistic”.
This article is dedicated to you and all the people that let outside influences determine their self-confidence. Believe in yourself!
Go Your Own Way
I started playing chess tournaments when I was 9. The leading players in Switzerland were already playing European Championships when I first learned how a chess clock is working. When I was 12 I got my first FIDE rating (1912). By then Karjakin was already a Grandmaster!
I did not win a Swiss Youth Championship medal until I was 16. I was never the highest-rated player in my age category in Switzerland. Nobody ever talked of me. While other competitors started to lose focus, drop out of chess or slow down their progress, I continued on my way.
In 2014 I got the IM title (aged 18) and ranked 5th in the U18 World Championships. Still people told me not to follow chess as a professional career. Both my private and the national Coach tried to talk me out of taking 2 years fully focused on chess after my high school.
“Living as a chess professional in Switzerland is impossible,” they said. “Anyway, you are lucky if you even get the GM title”.
For 6 years I am living as a chess professional. I still hold the record for the Youngest GM in Switzerland. Currently, I am the highest-ranked Swiss Chess Player after Milov, who is not really active anymore. I have great Sponsors and Foundations that support me on my way. Nothing of that seemed possible to all the people trying to “advise” me (whose advice you should follow you can find out here). And people continue to talk me down. It does and will never stop.
What you have to understand is the following:
Whenever somebody says “you will never reach this” he does not say anything about you. What he really says is “I will never reach this”.
Be Honest About Your Ambitions
For a long time, I kept my ambitions hidden. In interviews, I said, “anyway it is impossible to reach the World Top as a Swiss player, so I just try to improve myself”. What bullshit!
I started saying what others would expect me to say! Because I was afraid of laughter if I express my true ambitions. But by expressing lower ambitions to others, I impacted my self-confidence.
I remember the first time I was totally honest when asked the question of what my ambitions are. At the opening ceremony of the 2019 Swiss Championship, I expressed my goal to be European Champion and to reach a rating of 2700+.
I heard slight chuckling in the room. Weird gazes that all said the same “you are a dreamer, you will never ever reach this”. Even though I did not reach it yet, I gave the best answer possible: I won the Swiss Championship unbeaten with 7.5/9. My performance: 2700+.
Yes You Can
Yes, dear Noah, the GM title is realistic. But I would not put it as a goal. It seems too easy. Why not 2600? Maybe 2700? Or taking the record for the youngest GM in Switzerland away from me? I mean there is a 50’000 CHF bounty on it. And for anybody else reading this. You are capable of so much more than you think. Do not let your dreams get impacted by negative people around you.
Believe in yourself.
Set yourself big goals. Goals that scare you. Goals that could change your life. And then sit down and do the work. I believe in you!