The public must come to see that chess is a violent sport.
Chess is mental torture.”
After a string of uninterrupted study days*. I find myself, a little run-down and less engaged this week. Sometimes I wonder about What it is with chess- what about the game leads to such fatigue and exhaustion?. Is that I face the board all full of emotions and wishes and concerns??
BlunderProne has penned the very excellent Blog Entitled “The Psychological Game; Confidence Index”… and focused on some of the factors that affected the way he played tournament chess. But I think this excellent subject is broader than that! And I would go so far as to say as the psychological game just might be the definitive factor in your performance and the fact that your game can implode into a tsunami of feeling; is part of the “mental torture” Garry is talking about.
The best players, though, dedicate themselves to being Resilient. Resilence comes from being prepared. And while experience is perhaps the best teacher, it doesn’t hurt to examine your inclinations and failings some. (to this end, is my blog dedicated). So what Are some of the major reasons that performance can decreased so drastically, or to put it in George’s lingo- what kinds of factors can affect performance factor?? I want both examine the feelings, the causes and how to improve in this matter.
THE REFUTED ATTACK:
You get into your game and carefully strain and look for a break. Something little happens and you find yourself with initiative; in charge of your destiny- and looking for a weakness on the board. Your spirits soar and you optimistically charge into his position; then all the sudden the unexpected occurs! You thought you had a road to checkmate and suddenly the pizzazz in you game in gone. It is YOU that is defending. There’s nothing worse than a sudden change of fate- and if it has come about from some kind of miscalculation in your tactics, the effect is even worse!
The fact is that they kinds of events always create layers of strong emotion; anger (at myself), frustration (am I just Not seeing), disbelief (always once when it leads you to deepen your weaknesses), and fear (perhaps I’m not improving). Moreover my limited experience at tournaments suggest that this only intensifies in a tournament; its easier to shake off a miscalculation among friends than a important, serious tournament round.
I might go so far as to say, that for me, this is the biggest and most common psychological issue in the whole game! It is also somewhat hard to address; with constant practice of carefully chosen (if not composed) problems, only deepening the issue. But there is yet, ways to combat it and I really think this is the very point of increasing your opposition. Someone harder (but not utterly beyond you), isn’t going to go down without a fight. Also good is the PC; One thought I liked and have dabbled with is to set it up in a definitive Piece-winning tactic. In many positions the PC will scramble to save itself from a deepening disadvantage; and in a complex situation you might have to be pretty careful not to start losing just as you grab your piece.
But the beginning of the cure is surely awareness and an appreciation of the game; I heard this somewhere, ‘if You think your playing brilliantly you almost certainly are, or soon will be missing something’
I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO?
this is another big one for me! Sometimes in chess the position becomes quite balanced; and as the tension mounts everything starts feeling like their stuck to the assigned tasks and roles. Sometimes the position can be quite simple or it can be mind numbingly complex. Sometimes it more of a fear and other times it just becomes too complex, and all seems to calculate back into a big fat standstill. Uncertainty! It can sap the will the win, and it can make it very hard to go forward.
The old standbye was to attack a piece, and I see that old habit in my play all the time… but unfortunately, “attack a piece” is pretty poor strategic play; and if it works on the weak- the strong will merely remanuever the piece to a better place.
Lets just say the error tends to create a pretty bad emotion; stupor and stubborness. When this happens I always picture some of the great Civil war battles; cocky, arrogant General in the “Army of the Potomic” with overwhelming numbers sending his troops clambering up into rocky terrain as the entrenched army mercilessly guns down their opponents; Material doesn’t always matter and the realities of the position can demand a change of approach. We need to learn to mentally flex with changing realities. And not march into a no-win bloodbath, with pieces falling over left and right. (L poor things LOL.)
I’m very convinced this Specific issue is at the core of why we need coaches and/or good annotations. Having a plan is a foundation to positional chess and is worth a GREAT deal of strength. That is its not the only factor in your chess strength, but a wise and careful plan that utilizes your opponents weaknesses almost always give you the advantage if you have the tactical wit to see it. In other games; you might just grind your opponent down to a win.
MISMANAGING TIME; A PROBLEM in EVERY FORM OF CHESS
I think its interesting, that recently between my friendly OTB chess games and with my now constant routine of turn-based chess that ‘time control’ doesn’t have much influence in my game right now. And yet, even without a clock ticking down to defeat, still time is STILL a heavy responsibility.
That is, one can Always keep on spinning the variations in ones head; and/or scrutinize over the opponent or ones own pieces. But when Have I arrived at a good conclusion, when has my analysis become redundant; (even worse when Have I done , so MUCH analysis that I’m losing the whole thread of the game! and might forget important stuff).
Even in a game with an indefinite time control still there is the prudence of playing a careful opening fast, and the importance of being methodical in a real tense battle. And here the emotional element becomes quite relevant here as well! I still tend to play out big moves fast, as if the suddenness of it makes it better! And I tend to play far too slow when uncertain. The reaction aside, the emotion, impatience is an awful one for chess. And indecisiveness, can easily lead back into the stupor.
In fact, I would submit, that Time and mastering it better is important in All forms of chess- and I find myself keeping better and better notes about how much time I’m taking. I’ve talked to the most regular opponent in my chess club; I intend to follow up; by bringing a clock and using it!
In conclusion; the mental game is HUGE in chess! To be as good of a chess player as we can one must MASTER ones emotion, not letting them derail a careful, objective and forceful plan to win the game.
To do so will really demand a lot of attention, patience and determination - But the rewards of becoming more serious, determined and careful is to increase in chess strength and gain joy knowing I have really struggled to master a truly ardous game!