When I've asked some lower ranked players why they don't play in tournaments I generally get TWO responses:
1. "I am tired of throwing my money away with no chance to win any!"
2. "I am waiting until I get better so I won't embarrass myself."
In general this information has been conveyed to me privately so I believe it has value and is truthful--as they see it.
My responses are based on real world experience and examples. I've been "in the field" for several decades! (1) People throw their money away on all kinds of stuff that are far more expensive than a chess tournament--getting a newer car, a bigger screen TV, buying an iPad when their computer is working just fine, etc. I don't have a problem with that at all, but it is disguising the real pain of losing money by going to chess tournaments.
(2) It is difficult for some who lose and who are not rewarded! They do forget their successes, often in a heart beat. Not that anyone wants to lose, but, everyone does lose. If you don't, you are playing in a pretty small pool of players and, not often! I knew ONE player who, "at the right time" entered a tournament and scored 3.5 out of 5! What no one else knew was that he and I played at lunch almost every day! How many of you get a chance to do that?
I have developed a Questionnaire... the Chess Butler's Questionnaire. The whole idea is to find out the truth before we look at a solution. You may have noticed over the years that when something "negative" happens I do not name names. If someone does something positive I am more than willing to shout it from the rooftops. (See my book "The Chess Assassin's Business Manual" for proof of this.)
When I put out this kind of Questionnaire I NEVER want a person to tell me what they "think" I want to hear; that means zero to me. If I am worth my salt as an instructor/evaluator my goal is for you to develop a "kick ass" attitude (very few opponents roll over and play dead these days). If I were a Boot Camp Sergeant when the time was over, you would be kicking ass and wouldn't care about whose names you were taking!
Tired of B.S.?
People rely TOO MUCH on a "rating" to measure THEIR value. Do you know that basically, in English-speaking countries I am one of the very few chess vendors who has a rating over 1800? (Many are in the 1200-1400 range!) The only reason I mention it is because for some reason it seems to put "trust" in my customers. In reality it shouldn't mean Jack IF one is only dispensing a product. On the other hand, if you hear of someone with a rating of 1200 dispensing advice on the King's Indian or the latest opening jolt... then their appraisal of a book or DVD is going to mean zippity-do-dah. Oddly, I have heard that kind of talk and their "friends" will listen with rapt attention! Sometimes it is because they talk a good story without really knowing what they are saying (because they have repeated it from something they've read). This is called B.S.
On the other hand, players from 1400-1800 are much harder to "educate" because they believe they can only learn from a Master, if anyone. My question then is, "So how much have you learned from a Master (any master) so far?" Usually, it is not much because what they NEED to learn is only PARTLY about chess!
In other words, the "art of getting better" is also about: psychology, self-discipline, motivation, and following the advice of someone who really does know MORE about what they are dispensing than you do. You may be looking for a secret recipe or sauce and not see it when it is offered! Most don't.
Years ago, I had one person tell me ONE thing about my game which allowed me to raise my rating level 200 points. Later, another person told me ONE more thing, which allowed another 200 point increase. It really works and it wasn't about moves (so much)--it was about "correcting" what you are doing "wrong" and KNOWING more about yourself and what causes you to do what you do. Other things which caused another 100-150 point gain were LEARNED because of the Journey I was on. I believe, with a TUTOR for me, I could gain another 100-200 points and I know which areas I am really deficient in. But running this business is MORE than a full-time job and at my age, while I am willing to improve, the time is just not there. The IMPROVEMENTS I am talking about, for you, are more developmental than TIME oriented. That is, "Can you listen to advice and take it?" If not, you'll stay pretty much where you are.
A Few Examples
For example I know one person, right now, who has some tactical gifts. But other things he does prevents their practical application and success. I know another person who was risk-averse. His rating has since already shot up 100-200 points! Why? Because when he heard the same thing from TWO different sources, one a Master, the other ME, he realized, "There must be something to this... Bob Long doesn't even know this other guy!"
A friend recently told me she had the "gift of discernment." True, she does but it was more about others than herself! We often think we know ourselves better than anyone else, but sometimes those "personal facts" don't match up with the "outside facts." All of us see ourselves differently than those who seem to "know" us (all other things being equal).
If you are rated 800-1200 (USCF) and would like to be above 1400 as your first step, and are willing to send me $25 so I can send the questionnaire to you, that's a first start. The questionnaire, from a psychological viewpoint, is probably worth $150-200, but I am introducing it at $25 just to see if there are any people out there willing to step out on even a small limb. If, after the questionnaire and, my comments are deemed WORTHY to you (or a friend, acquaintance, etc... maybe school kids too)... then we can explore further how to GET further. But first things first. When prioritizing, there IS always a first step.
The Higher Rated
Like I said, the 1400 to 1800 crowd is more difficult to deal with because their ego issues are often off the chart (I had one tell me he thought he had a chance at becoming a Grandmaster! I told him he had to get past me first. As Reuben Fine once wrote, "Some are used to beating players weaker than they are, it's a natural human tendency.") Expectations can be unrealistic but when they ARE realistic, what are you willing to do NEXT to go further? Most people improve at chess like others improve at golf! Not at all!
You and I
Let's avoid the topic of HARD WORK at this moment as that scares people away (unfortunately). Let's just see if we can spot a few things to make some quick changes. Many of you I know through mail or email, a few in person. Hence our relationship, while possibly close in terms of customer/business, it is not so personal that you wouldn't mind me helping you. If you think I have to have a PhD in psychology to help you then you have more issues than you realize. There never has been even ONE world chess champion who has had a degree in psychology (most had no PhDs in anything)... thank God, he might've been unbearable.
If you are willing to risk twenty-five bucks for an evaluation, I will give you one. All I need is your honest answers and a willingness to really improve. The questionnaire is over several pages and will be kept confidential. It will be sent via PDF.
By the way, I love hearing YOUR story, your personal achievements (chess and otherwise) and there will be a place in the questionnaire for this information from you. If you are OUTSIDE of the 800-1200 zone and still want to take this questionnaire, be my guest. You will probably still learn something valuable. I do every time I task myself to do something like this.
Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org