Over 500 Points in 5 Months After Abandoning a Popular Belief

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Over 500 Points in 5 Months After Abandoning a Popular Belief

Many chess improvers love to hold onto this belief. Our hero discovered why it’s dangerous, changed the approach, and raised 500 rating points!

Success Story | 4 min read
Over 500 Points in 5 Months After Abandoning a Popular Belief

“I started playing over-the-board tournaments in June 2023. But I didn’t have much success,” says the 15-year-old Neo Toppinen, who lives in Helsinki, Finland.

“I won some games. But, those were mostly because my opponents blundered, not because I played well.”

“I also thought I was underrated.
So I used to be overconfident and underestimated my opponents.”

As GM Ivan Sokolov shared in his interview, many chess improvers embrace this belief.

Ivan Sokolov's quote on underrated chess players

Discovering GM Avetik’s golden method and ChessMood

“In October 2023, I read ChessMood’s articles and found that they are the only useful ones on chess out there.”

“One of the first pieces I read was about the golden method for increasing rating.”

“In Finland, we have many four-round events, so I started playing four rapid games per session using the method. Soon, my win rate improved significantly.”

Raising over 500 online points in 5 months

“My rating on chess.com increased from around 1050 to over 1550 after I joined ChessMood.”

Neo’s online rating chart after raising 500 points.

At the same time, our student’s local rating went from 1376 (in October 2023) to a high of 1589, a gain of over 200 points.

Neo's local rating growth
The dark red line shows Neo’s over-the-board rating growth

While playing a fixed number of games proved beneficial, the transformation began after switching to a new training approach and mindset!

Adding the chess improvement formula

In December 2023, Neo upgraded to the Yearly ChessMood Pro membership, which included a bonus one-on-one call with a Grandmaster.

“GM Gabuzyan shared a personalized training plan with me. 
I dedicate 4 hours daily to chess—half studying, and half playing and analyzing.”

The chess improvement formula

Why Neo dropped the “underrated” tag

“I was good at guessing the puzzle solutions. So my tactic rating was high.”
Inflated numbers often fuel the underrated belief.

“But I was less good at finding the chess tactics in real games.”

“Also, when you think you're underrated, you essentially expect your opponents at your rating to be bad players.”

Realizing this belief wasn’t helping in the game or training, Neo dropped it.

The shift in tactics training

“In the Tactic Ninja, you solve puzzles where the answer intuitively looks good but actually doesn’t work. This helped a lot because I had a problem with guessing the answer and not calculating.”

“Also, the three-step method for finding tactics in real games was very helpful. I developed my tactical sense and started to notice tactical opportunities in my live games.”

Tactic Ninja course cover
Our most popular and most loved course, the Tactic Ninja

Dominating stronger players using ChessMood resources

In the below position from an over-the-board tournament, our student (White) is down a pawn in an endgame against a higher-rated opponent.

An endgame position from Neo's game
Does White have any winning chances?

Neo applied the lessons from one blog and turned the game around.

“I read the endgame roadmap article, which summarizes how to play in the final phase of the game. That one article is the reason I'm better at playing endgames than most players at my level here in Finland.”

Endgame Roadmap 
The endgame roadmap

In the same tournament, Neo faced an opponent who played the Petroff.

“I was a bit unsure about playing the Cochrane Gambit (4.Nf7), which the WhiteMood repertoire recommends, against a stronger opponent. 
But I trusted my preparation.”

Petroff Cochrane Gambit with 4.Nf7

As suggested in the WhiteMood openings, 4.Nf7 isn't the best move, but below the 2,000 level, it’s super practical and dangerous. 
For advanced players, we recommend 4.Nf3 Ne4 5.Nc3 against the Petroff.

“My opponent’s face dropped in disbelief when I sacrificed my Knight.
By move 8, I had a winning position!

“Since then, we’ve become training partners😄”

The game changer

“My biggest transformation after joining ChessMood is I have way better openings, attacks, defenses, and strategies!”

“I stopped thinking I'm underrated. I actually practiced.
And that raised my rating.”


Rapid Fire

If you could switch lives with one chess player (current or past), who would that be and why?

Garry Kasparov.

Because he has played some really brilliant games that I would love to play!

Your favorite ChessMood course.

Tactic Ninja

How do you get into the right mood?

I think about some of the nice games that I've played.

What’s a life lesson you’ve learned from chess?

Hard work pays off.

What’s the one habit that has helped you improve your chess the most?

Doing tactic puzzles on my phone whenever I can. 

I do them every day as part of my training, like when I’m waiting for a bus or during a school break.

For someone stuck at 1000 on chess.com Rapid, what advice would you give?

Join ChessMood😄

The one thing about chess that brings a smile to your face.

When I find a sacrifice and it actually works😊

The nicest thing someone has said to you in a chess tournament.

“You have a very good positional understanding for a young player.”

Who has been your biggest supporter on this journey?

My parents.

Also, my great uncle, who’s the brother of my grandfather.

He's the only one in our family tree who actually plays chess. I meet him every week and we play. It’s a lot of fun!

If goddess Caissa could give you a chess superpower, what would you prefer it to be? Which chess superpower you’d like to have?

To always know if there's a tactic.


You can share your congratulatory messages with Neo under this forum thread.

Originally published Apr 26, 2024

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