Thursday, February 11, 2010


Remember Yogi's comment: "It ain't over 'til it's over?" Some people forget that when they play chess (or watch baseball or football).

Yesterday I received an email while an internet game was in progress. It was from a friend so I read it then instead of waiting until later.

He described how he had sacked, or was down, two pieces and playing one of the 5 most fantastic games of his life, and that he was winning! He was pumped. The game notation was in PGN and he sent what he had to me, at that point of the game.

Before I got a chance to look at it (later) I got another message saying to "forget it." He had lost because of an intervening "pawn move." I asked him how he thought the winner of the contest would have felt about it had their roles been reversed. Funny, he gave me the right answers.

That wasn't all. Earlier in the day a chess shopper stopped by to pick up a couple items: a book and a DVD. He went on to describe his disastrous play at an out of town tournament from the past Saturday of the weekend. Invariably it was punctuated with stuff like: "I was up a Knight and a pawn, and I messed up just one time and I lost." And there were other versions of that in 2 other games. IT ONLY TAKES ONE MOVE while your opponent just keeps "plodding" along.

In all cases both tellers of tales were enthusiastic, but in neither cases were they realistic. There was some serious putting the cart before the horse.

My breakthrough in the psychology of the moment came just now: there were stories, already in their head, about how life was a little bit unfair (don't all of us already know that?). They were a better player than X (because I know I have it won), but he was "lucky." If that's the case, learn how to be LUCKY.

Since I don't believe in luck and wrote about that in my the Chess Assassin's Business Manual, I believe there will be a tough row to hoe in the Lucky Department.

When my chess showed serious improvement there were at least two factors in force:
1) Don't play fast, there's no reason to not use all your allotted time;
2) I stopped being so "aggressive" in the opening. I had felt I wouldn't win if I didn't have the initiative.

It worked. As to the initiative, hmmm.... Now sometimes my opponent grabs the initiative with a vengeance and HE loses; poor piece placement or no development.

The other day a customer told me he asked a player rated over 2000 "What is the best way to improve as a relatively new player?" I couldn't believe the answer from the expert. I'm sure he hadn't taken his own advice. He replied, "Learn opening theory!" Buzzer goes off.... wrongo. It's shoot-from-the-hip answers like this which make you take even longer to improve.

Here was my answer. "Get most or all of your pieces out to decent squares. Castle safely." This is methodical and may not be to everyone's liking but I had seen my own son win tons of games like this when he was starting out. When I asked him what was HIS secret he said, "I develop my pieces." He hadn't time to learn much opening theory and yet the guys who knew the Urusov Gambit, etc. had real problems on their hands. Success then breeds more success, studying opening and endgame theory, tactics, etc.

There is a LOT of bad verbal advice going on out there (especially at tournaments). And while you are at it, get your own "bad advice" out of your head.

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