I recently played in a one day G30 event with friends. Despite
my deliberate practice honing chess skills with my opening repertoire,
positions that may arise and tactics; when you’re off your mark, you will have
poor results. After a draw and three
goose-eggs , I decided to cut my losses and not play in the last two rounds.
The organizer for this mini event summed it up this way.
“ I look at chess skills in 6 factors, openings, middle games,
endgames, positional, tactics and performance. It’s that last one, even if you
are up on all the other 5, if you are playing as if someone keeps poking you
with a tack, then your performance will suffer. “ -MK
I had some time to reflect on this. In my last post (http://www.chess.com/blog/Blunderprone/recent-game-where-i-used-the-advanced-d-pawn-chain--as-black
I drew a game that had I played it correctly earlier I could have won, the end
position was a loss for black but I was happy to come out of it with a draw. Part of the issue is getting used to a faster
time control, which I wanted to do and why I agreed to play in this event. With my schedule getting into a once a month
event G30 event gives me 6 serious
enough games to see my progress in my studies and keep the rust off. So that’s my motivation.
Psych element 1:
Worrying about ratings:
Depending on the event, if I come in at the bottom of the
roster, I have nothing to lose in the first round and I find my performance is
improved. When I play in an event where
I am in the middle or top, the first round can be a little more stressful for
me in a swiss pairing event. This is
especially true when paired with a lower rated player ( going for it). In the
round robin event of the G30, we were evenly paired in ratings. Notice how I am taking about ratings? I should just play the board, never mind about
my opponent’s rating and how many points are on the line, right? In practice, I
find this is not easy to do. I’ve tried many tricks like deliberately not look
at the rating when the pairings are posted. But regardless of my efforts I fall
into the rating trap.
The first Psychological element I bump up against is worrying about rating points ( one of
the reasons I like playing “up”). I
usually give myself a few minutes of mediation before each round to keep this
element in check but playing in a quick event or some venues don’t allow for me
to go to a contemplative space to clear my head. I’m not using this as an excuse, I am just
making myself aware of how important that “Inner Game” is in terms of
So, that first round in my head went kind of like this:
(on looking at the pairings) – “I see my opponent is only a
few rating points higher than me, I could win this. “
( opening phase) – “ He’s playing an off beat variant of my
Caro-Kann Defense, if I can get to a middle game, I’ll bet I can out play him.”
(Middle game)- “ Cool, I’ve got that advanced –pawn chain, I
know what to do and now, look! I can get double advanced passers”
(End game) – “Crap, he’s now got pawn majorities on both
sides, my king can’t keep them back. How’d I let this game slip away? ( spiral
begins) Thank GOD he offered me a draw
under time pressure.”
Psych Element 2: Out
of comfort zone
In round 2, I was paired with someone with a lower rating
who played a Benko Gambit, my least prepared opening preparation. Already my head was in a deficit mode about
trying to outperform my opponent but I just was out of my element. I had cursory knowledge of this gambit line
and decided not to take that second pawn. Then odd things happened. Being out
of my comfort zone, I found I had to rely more on my calculation skills which are not that great
even with “normal time” chess matches. In a G30, I found myself going “ Let’s
see, I need to get e4 in play but he’s already got that square protected, maybe
I should just take the pawn on b5 with my knight.. awe hell, Nxb5 (hits clock).
“ The game kind of went along those
lines so that by move 28 I dropped a piece:
Aside from needing to understand this gambit more and become
more comfortable with the position ( it’s on my list), I need to figure out a
way to “recover” from a disappointment such as this. My spirit was crushed. Didn’t Bobby Fischer
say something about enjoying that moment when he crushed his opponent’s spirit?
Psych Element 3: The
When I play in a tournament, and have a first round win, the
next couple rounds I play more to my chess skills and less to my psychological
deficits. I call this the confidence
index. After 2 disappointing rounds, I
entered round three again looking at my opponent’s rating and AGAIN with an odd
variant from my Caro-Kann (out of my comfort zone). Here’s the odd part, Round one versus Round
three, I reached the same exact position on my move 3. The first round, I was brave and bold and
went for 3…d4 to try something new and mix it up. It may not be correct, but it took my
opponent out of the book and gave me a middle game position I at least knew
what to do with. I had MORE CONFIDENCE.
On round three, 3...d4 was NOT EVEN considered! I was already playing with a mental deficit
that had me looking at the higher rated player, out of my comfort zone, I wasn’t
willing to take risks or even think of them! After the game, I was amazed at
how that blind spot came up and I just went for “rote” moves ( dxe4, bf5 etc) because
I was looking for familiarity. I wanted “comfort food” moves to just get
through this game. I was mated on move 13.
Here’s this aberration:
The confidence index is a strong one and could sum up all
these elements. When you are out of your element you lack confidence. When you
worry about ratings, you lack confidence.
In my last game, I was OK in the opening stages despite the QGA not
being my strongest preparation. But I
found my calculations, and ability to shift gears into an open position
dropping my confidence and I lost rather quickly. Hanging pieces is an indication for me that
these psychological elements had taken over my actual playing ability. It was
as if I was being poked with a tack.
- Yes, I need
- I need to figure out how to just play the game
and develop more self awareness of when these psychological elements start to
come up. If I am conscious of them, I
have meditative techniques that I can use to regulate them.
- I have some work to do with my game: 2 Knights
C-K solution, Benko Gambit, understand
Open pawn structures ( open center, open Queen’s wing).