In my chess career, usually I haven’t traveled too far out of the local area to play in tournaments, maybe at most 25 mi (40 km). While living in Waco, 95% of rated games were against central Texans and 70% against Wacoans, and Miami opponents have been 100% in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area.
While living here, I’ve felt like my understanding of the game has improved, but my results have been worse. This may well indicate some kind of delusion. On the other hand, reviewing overall results incidates this may not be the case:
Texas (5 years ago): Even against class B’s.
Miami (current): Have not achieved even score against B’s.
Texas (current): Destroyed an A player who pwned me 5 years ago, was up the exchange against another (but blundered).
Granted, this is based on one player’s small sample size, but I’m wondering what other players’ experiences have been. It’s not merely that Miami has stronger players, but a 1200 in Miami seems equal to a 1400 in Waco (and maybe Houston, but I haven’t played enough games to be sure).
Players like GM Julio Becerra and IM Blas Lugo live in Miami, who undoubtedly raise the level of chess here. In Waco, the resident expert was, well, an Expert who occasionally sandbagged into A territory to get into the U2000 section of some out-of-area tournaments. That difference has to count for something.