In this study, the longitudinal relation between deliberate practice and performance in chess was examined using a linear mixed models analysis. The practice activities and performance ratings of young elite chess players, who were either in, or had dropped out of the Dutch national chess training, were analysed since they had started playing chess seriously. The results revealed that deliberate practice (i.e. serious chess study alone and serious chess play) strongly contributed to chess performance. The influence of deliberate practice was not only observable in current performance, but also over chess players' careers. Moreover, although the drop-outs' chess ratings developed more slowly over time, both the persistent and drop-out chess players benefited to the same extent from investments in deliberate practice. Finally, the effect of gender on chess performance proved to be much smaller than the effect of deliberate practice. This study provides longitudinal support for the monotonic benefits assumption of deliberate practice, by showing that over chess players' careers, deliberate practice has a significant effect on performance, and to the same extent for chess players of different ultimate performance levels. The results of this study are not in line with critique raised against the deliberate practice theory that the factors deliberate practice and talent could be confounded. © 2008 The British Psychological Society.