Friday, August 14, 2015

Failing Pychololgy; FEELINGS!


Everyone has them!   I’m going to say right that are no WRONG feelings in chess (*). 

Any, issues to the extent that we encourage them.  

Feelings can after all prompt us to play really good chess.  And if there’s tricky feelings (we’re making a list….) there’s a few other feelings that are rarely bad to have

Determination , optimism, meticulousness, carefulness.

The point is control our feelings- work on mastering our thoughts and allow our “inner” grandmaster to emerge.

Nervous and stress.    So we’re facting an opponent perhaps in a first tournament, or perhaps in a time control we have bad experiences with (ME: BLITZ!), and the first challenge is powerful.  We’re NOT relaxed, we’re not calm, we’re Nervous!  FIGHT and FLIGHT are kicking in.  analysis becomes shallow- decisions become quick and un-thoughtful. Everything gets Rushed!  Creative, counter-play becomes invisible.
it’s a Poor state of mind for anyone wanting to excel as game of wit, and careful cunning.

Solution- this is about putting the brakes to your mind.  Look for a way to break your mood- for me personally in an OTB event- I find really talking with people helps.  It gets me out of state of just thinking how much I want to win this OVER and over again.  Online- I find that music is good antidote.  I know I want to WIN.  But I a little distraction tempers my mind from racing.  

I would also say that it is very important to immerse yourself in the chess- never mind the Event!  This is echoed by all kinds of tournament winners.  Many of them talk about coming to just play good chess- and not thinking about ranking- who’s ahead, etc.

Slow starts.  I credit this to a youtube video.  It was one of the suggestions I really agree with and one that I’ve been putting in place.  (and it seems to be helping!).

Solution: Don’t just jump into a game- ‘cold’!  it takes your mind a few minutes to warm up.  Don’t wear yourself out- but a few minutes doing tactical puzzles, an important endgame and looking over your repertoire is a very good idea!  If I am busy doing other things and hope right into a game- I can making very silly ridiculous opening moves within seconds.  My mind simply hasn’t switched to “chess”…

Over Confidence!.   Having some kind of concrete, long-term, “static advantages” has all kinds of advantages in chess.  The ability to easily seize (and Keep) the initiative,  the ability to sacrifice to eliminate counter-play, and room for little inaccuracy in calculation or attack.  Pychologically its also Pleasant to play a game ahead a piece.

On the other hand,  a lot of times when we start winning- we stop looking so very deeply.  We go with the flow and make natural choices rather than looking for the strongest move.  This is particularly true in terms of defence where we might be inattentive to our opponent move.  The point is If we’re Ahead- our opponent is behind, and if he hasn’t tipped his king—he’s still desperately looking (and hoping) for his own break.   He’s most likely to be truly ingenious now- there’s no material surplus to protect- or easy endgame to look for. Pychologically, he’s pushed to be his very best because its utterly clear what will happen if he fails!

I’ve lost all kinds of games ahead in pieces and won not an insignificant amount of games, utterly lost.  And its nearly always these feeling—the happy blind state of the guy ahead and the desperate, creative state of the losing player.

Solution: Awareness is the solution of the problem!  That and of course experience, practice, and going over games after their done.   Look for it! highlight it! and otherwise beat it into your ahead.   IF you ahead YOU must crush any possible chances for the opponent to win and if you behind you must be creative and determined to seize any inattentiveness. 

Intimidation and Pessimism. Now lets talk Overconfidence’s unhappy opposite.  If its bad to be blinded by warm , lazy overconfidence.  We can just easily spiral into really negative feelings too.  One could divide these two emotions by whether they are centered on the opponent; but truthfully there is no point.   If we’re overwhelmed with an inflated opinion of our opponent or depressed by an assessment of the position- you’re in the same boat.  We’re not trying! 

  HAVE courage, only rarely is our position that awful!  And even then our very human opponent may blunder and give us a half chance to get back in the fight.

If we can’t create that courage and feel determined to play the best chess we can- one ought to just resign! and save yourself the agony.  There is not point to play if you can’t fight; with ALL of your creativity or ingenuity for either a win or a draw…

Solution:   Experience, I think is the massive answer to this is Experience

This is a big topic for the future for me.   While I have a lot of experience crushing casual players OTB.   I’ve been only been seriously competing online for perhaps 8-9 months.   I feel as if , as I’ve gone over all the puzzles and worked on my weaknesses in chess- I am gradually working towards playing more formidable opponents.    I know full well that intimidation is something to work on.  And I think that when I get badly behind in chess and fight for a win… I am working through the psychology of trying to beat expert level opposition. 

I can also look at my experience from the point of view of those that have played me.  In fact, quite a few people have been RELUCTANT to play me.  I’m quite sure they think that there is no point in playing someone good at chess.  If they only knew that way the game sometimes turns on people.  Even playing much weaker players- there’s always the chance of a loss.   No human if flawless. 

Expression  It is late. I need to wrap up.  I want to end on perhaps the most cryptic feeling in my list.  but I think it is the most significant….

Chess is an interesting hobby.  At one point it is a game- and to that end- there is but a ceaseless set of decisions made.  But as a game—there is little expression of luck.  Moreoever there is an unusual amount of art in it.   In fact, because it is an expression of our thoughts sometimes it feels more like writing a story or playing a musical instrument that a card game.

Perhaps this is the root cause then of the effect.   We don’t just play moves, when we play chess – we express ideas.  And when we express ideas don’t we normally express something LOULDY and boldly when we feel that a given move is right and smart?  Aren’t we usually a timid and uncertain?

SOLUTION:   In truth.  Chess doesn’t care about HOW we move our pieces- and dramatically changing the time we spend on each move is dangerous.  We must be consistent and scrutinize , accurately, the results of seizing an Opportunity.  Does our fork allow a debilitating check?  Even seizing pieces can be dangerous.  At the end  of a long chess game… grabbing the last pieces can give the opponent a stalemate- Giving away the victory you deserved!   Not all threats are to be taken seriously.  And sometimes hanging a piece plain works- the piece is poisoned!

I’m very convinced that there is a huge deal of strength is creating a routine.  A quiet consistent paced approach to chess.  Creating a habitual approach to playing the game is worth losing a few games to time. Attitude here is king.  Be resolved to win by carefully playing each move.     I’m not a fan of big lists Either- we need to work on altering our attitude to seek a strong, rigorous, methodical thought process. 

This is one of those of “I’ll know it when I see it”.  at times my thought process is better.  My gaze is enlightened- I’m seeing the opponent chances – I’m accurately weighing my own opportunities better.  Analysis becomes more complete.  The game is more predictable.  These are moments of happy confirmation- that my efforts to strengthen my thought process are working.

I don’t always seek comments but in this case- I would appreciate it.   What feelings have caused real issues in chess?  Have you been working on- or conquered a feeling or attitude that has really elevated your game?

About how much of your chess strength would you say – is based upon your mastery of your feelings (or put it another way- suppose you suffered from confidence issues, how much weaker would that make you)?  .. and how much of it is based upon your skills?


  1. * I say that there are not WRONG feelings in chess.

    but I KNOW in an instant that I am wrong. of course there are "WRONG" feelings! HATRED and ANGER for example.

    there is no cause for hatred in a game. I play the peices AND so should you. and the opponent is not an ENEMY. He is opposition- a thoughtful, clever human being who is to be respected- and who's thoughtful defense, we show our ability to create artitistic winning attack. In the same way, he's attacks are a chance to show our determined defense.

    the list, though is more about feelings that are Good to have in the right measure. Feelings we need to master. we need them, but we don't want them to overcome our sense of reason and logic. BTW, this whole blog came from thoughts about FIGHT or FLIGHT, and how those feelings can be hurt our games. but Chess is ALL about fight or flight! we just have to do it smarter and better....

  2. 1) What feelings have caused real issues in chess?
    Self-confidence, proper and strong motivation, the desire to do my best, excitement about creating and immersing into something amazing, etc.

    2) Have you been working on- or conquered a feeling or attitude that has really elevated your game?
    Yes, I have been trying to achieve so called "proper chess attitude". It is the approach based on having fun, enjoying what you are doing and avoiding the fear of losing, making blunder, etc. In addition - I love the approach that express in in a form of condition: If I am going to die I will do my best.

    3) Suppose you suffered from confidence issues, how much weaker would that make you)?
    It depends on the specific situation and an opponent. Most often it is about 50-100 rating points (on average). However when I am having psychological blocks (like I am hating myself because of my weakness I cannot deal with) - my chess strenght can decreas even about 400-500 rating points!

    4) About how much of your chess strength would you say – is based upon your mastery of your feelings and how much of it is based upon your skills?
    It is hard to say, but I can estimate that my skills are 70%, my emotions 5%, and my attitude is worth (at least) 25%. There is one exception - when I feel hatred and/or I am mad of fury (on myself or the things I cannot deal with). At such case my emotions may even have about 70-80% of influence to the game quality (and as a result - the final score).

    Let me know if such general answer is valuable to you. Thanks for an interesting topic! :)

  3. thank you. Wow! I am impressed by the your estimate of how much strength you might lose if you are really mad or feeling hatred.... impressed but perhaps not surprised. I've noticed at times that for example when I make a humiliating mistake- I can just play horribly. in fact, I would say this is the only reason I would lose to a casual player these days...

    (I've played against several casual players in the last month).

    Proper chess attitude. I like it! I like it A lot. in the spirit of the blog and worth striving for in my games... thank you. I know such topics are general; but I think its simply an essential part of ones chess training.

  4. Getting distracted by emotions during a tournament is almost always bad, which is why I greatly appreciate it when tournament organization is well done and there are no outside issues with pairings, delays, etc. Sometimes you can't avoid it, though, if you have an immature or thoughtless opponent. One guy I played kept checking his previous game references (he had a notebook rather than just a scoresheet) throughout the first part of our game and got hostile and offended when I asked him to stop (and a TD had to come over to tell him it was against the rules). That disrupted the rest of the experience (I still drew him, but it wasn't fun).

    In individual games, I think it's most important to try and remain objective about the board, as that's (in the absence of obnoxious opponents) the main source of emotion - overconfidence when winning, depression when losing. It's good to internally celebrate a victory - after it's actually achieved, not before, when as you point out your opponent is still in the game. Likewise, I've noticed a consistent inability by the loser to spot a crucial tactic or opportunity after the trend has been going against them for a while.

    I'd say my skills contribute 75% of the result, attitude 25%. My mental/physical state at the time of play also determines how far up to my potential I can play, so I'd count that separately as a sort of "ceiling" for performance.