Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Psychology in Chess

The Psychology of Chess

Napoleon Hill, well-known author of various personal achievement books like "
Think and Grow Rich!", expounds on some very clear psychological ideas that can be related to chess training in meaningful ways. This article attempts to make some useful correlations between personal achievement and the progression one makes in chess training and performance.

Definiteness of Purpose
Definiteness of Purpose is the starting point of all achievement. A lack of definiteness of purpose is the stumbling block for about 98% of all people who do not achieve their goals for the simple reason that the never clearly define their goals and start towards them.
What does that mean in the context of chess performance and chess training? Performance in modern chess is depicted in the useful ELO rating scale as somewhat a rough indicator. It is, if you will, the 'money' of chess. If, for instance, you are determined, motivated, and obsessed with reaching a rating of 2000 but are currently sitting at 1600, you have given yourself a definiteness of purpose. you have defined your goal - USCF 2000 rating. Keep your eye on the prize!

At this point, assuming you are a 1600 player, we will want to write down a six-step method of achieving your goal of a rating of 2000:

First - Fix in your mind the exact Rating you wish to achieve. Be definite. "I want to be over 1700." is not definite. " I will be rated 2000." is definite.

Second - Determine exactly what it is you intend to give in return for that goal. "I will train 2 hours a day to achieve my goal."

Third - Determine a definite date by which you intend to achieve this goal. "I will achieve a rating of 2000 by End of Year, 2009."

Fourth - Create a definite plan for carrying out your goal, and begin at once, ready or not. Put your plan into action. "I will do chess-related studies for 2 hours a day to include tactical exercises and endgames. I will play every day and review my losses to address the deficiencies in my play. I will play in at least one rated standard time control event per month."

Fifth - Write out a clear and concise statement of the rating you wish to achieve, name the time limit for it's acquisition, state what you intend to give in return, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to gain that rating.

Sixth - Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night and once after arising in the morning. As you read, see and feel and believe yourself already in possession of that rating! This is important as you are giving yourself reinforcement and impressing your brain with the idea, which will lead to autosuggestion.

With regards to training, a definiteness of purpose may be to perform concentrated studies each day for 2 hours (or, for that matter, any timeframe so long as you stick to it). Our useful GCTS (Generic Chess Training Schedule) paradigm, used in conjunction with a strong psychological approach outlined above, will lead you to improved play and the achievment of milestones and long-term goals such as rating increases and a better understanding of chess.

Here is an example of an action plan statement (section Five) for a 1600 rated player with a goal set at 2000 within 2 years. I have placed the step number to indicate which part of the action plan this portion refers to:

[1-the goal]: "I will be rated 2000."
[2-what you'll give]: "I will train 2 hours a day to achieve my goal."
[3-the date]: "I will achieve a rating of 2000 by End of Year, 2009."
[4-The plan]: "I will do chess-related studies for 2 hours a day to include tactical exercises and endgames. I will play every day and review my losses to address the deficiencies in my opening, middlegame, tactical and endgame play. I will play in at least one (or more) rated standard time control events per month (online or OTB)."

Now it would pay to do a detailed look at what it is you are stating here. You are essentially saying that in about 23 months from today, February 2008, ending in December 2009, that your goal is to increase your rating by 400 points. This might seem insurmountable to some, but let's break it down into smaller pieces, called milestones or short-term goals.


Would it make it more reasonable to say that you could bring your current rating of 1600 up to, say, 1618, by the end of February? And by the end of March 2008 to 1635? Those monthly milestones seem very reachable to you now, don't they? Having some experience in this method, I'd say that if you stuck to your plan for 1 month you'd see a dramatic improvement in your tactical abilities, resulting in improved play, and hence, an increase in rating. As you progress and improve, your confidence will build, and your ability to have faith and believe in your plan will take shape.
It's important to have a clear, concise vision of what you are trying to achieve as well as the steps you have to walk to achieve your goals.


No mountain climber ever got to the top of Everest sipping coffee with a sherpa at base camp just thinking about it.

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