The Top 10 Pains, Fears and Frustrations of Chess (and how to deal with them)

Playing chess can be stressful, cruel and leave your soul in an emotional train wreck.

I have had friends quit playing because they couldn’t handle losing, have seen grown adults crying and throwing temper tantrums, and seen playing who got so worked up I thought they were going to have a nervous breakdown.

I know I personally have lost sleep, felt shame, embarrassment, anger, pain and humiliation in the chess world.  Chess can be a cruel mistress!

Today I want to talk about the top 10 emotionally painful things about chess, and how you can deal with them, so that you

  • experience less pain,
  • experience more pleasure,
  • win more games, and
  • have more fun.

1. Losing to a “weaker” opponent.

This is a tough one that unfortunately happens to everyone at some point.  I have lost to players much “weaker” than me, and also have been on the other side of the coin, where I beat someone much “stronger” than me.  People like to think that chess is a game with no luck, but to me there is luck.  Did you catch that opponent when he played the most brilliant game of his life?  Did you play the opening that he just spent the last 6 month studying for 10 hours a day?  Just know that this happens to everyone at some point.

2. Losing a really long game

Nothing is worse than sitting at a chess board for 6 hours, only to lose at the end.  If you are playing correspondence, the game could take weeks, months or years.  Time is the one resource that we can never get back, and it is truly precious. When you are sitting at the board for a long time like this it can be mentally grueling.  It is just you against your opponent, and you have no one to blame except yourself if you lose, which can compound the emotional pain.  If you are playing in a typical weekend Swiss, you may then have to play a second game in the evening, which is even harder, since you spent so much energy on the first game.

3. Losing a “winning” position

There is a famous chess quote “nothing is harder to win than a won game”.  There is some truth to this, but I have also heard variations like “nothing is harder to win than a lost game”, which actually make more sense.  Winning games where you have an advantage is what separates the “men from the boys” in the chess world.  Just like a sleazy used car salesman who needs that commission check for his rent that is due tomorrow, you have to “close”.

4. Losing a game where there was a big prize

I remember during the Edward Levy Memorial tournament held a few years ago in Denver, my friend Shannon Fox saw Anthea Carson in the hallway during the round.  He asked “How’s it going”.  Anthea threw up her arms in disgust and said “I just hung a 300 dollar bishop!”  You don’t get a lot of chances to win big prizes in chess, so when these chances do happen, you don’t want to miss them.  And if you do, it can hurt.

5. Losing because of a blunder

When you lose because of a simple mistake it can really hurt.  You ask yourself – how could I be so stupid!  Then later with the “hindsight bias”, you really can’t comprehend how you were able to make such a blunder.

Photo of Bruce Banner after he blundered his queen

6. Having a low rating

For me having a low rating caused me pain, because I felt it meant I was dumb.  The chess rating system is a quite accurate reflection of chess ability, so having a low rating meant that I sucked at chess, and had a lower social status in the chess world.  We are all built in with an understanding of how “social status” works at a subconscious level, and you can see this in the animal world as well.  There are high status “alpha males” that do all the mating with the females, and get all the food.  Then there are the low status “beta males”, whose genes get weeded out of existence.  Having a low rating can be painful.

7. Having your losses published

With chess we are able to have a perfect record of every game.  And now with the internet it is possible to spread this record all over the world, along with annotations, diagrams, and even “click and move” interfaces.  Paul Anderson told me that he has known players that quit playing after he published one of their games in his e-mail newsletter.  Most players love to have their brilliancies published, but not their humiliating defeats.

8. Spending lots of time and energy at chess, and not improving

This is a big one, and unfortunately is very common in the chess world.  The problem is that there is so much chess information out there available for consumption.  So it is easy to get “shiny object syndrome” and jump from one thing to the next.  One week you are studying bishop endgames, and the next playing through annotated games from the Zurich 1953 tournament, and the next learning about opening traps in the Grob.  It is really easy to get distracted and learning always feels productive, but often is not.  You are spending all this energy, and not getting anywhere, which can feel like being on some sort of perverse chess treadmill.

9. Spending lots of money at chess, and not improving

Chess is a relatively inexpensive hobby compared to many other hobbies that are popular here in Colorado such as skiing, fishing, golf, but many players sink hundreds, and even thousands of dollars into what I call the “Chess Black Hole”, only to see little to no improvement in their games.  They take private lessons with strong players who charge by the hour, attend camps and live trainings, purchase expensive DVDs, etc, only to see no improvement.

The Chess Black Hole

10. Playing for years and years, and not getting any better

This is the big one to me.  I see players spend hundreds of hours per year, year after year, decade after decade, and not get one rating point better.  They are literally doing the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.

So how do we deal with these pains?

To me the solution isn’t to deal with them, it is to fix them, so that they happen less, or not at all.  I still don’t like losing long games, or having a low rating, or spending money on chess products that don’t give me a tangible result.

This is why I created my Tactics Time Chess Training Product.  I wanted to solve as many of the above problems as I possibly could.  To make chess more fun, cause you to win more games, win more prize money, and get that sense of confidence that comes with playing great chess.

When you purchase Tactics Time, you not only get a database of 10,001 games from real class players, you also will get hundreds of tips, tricks, techniques and mindsets to help you avoid the pains we mentioned.

I’m not out to create the next chess genius, or child prodigy.  My main goal is to help the guy who has been stuck at 1300 for years, the guy who plays well overall but still blunders, the guy who has tried everything, and can’t get better.  The chess player who is frustrated!

Here is an e-mail that I literally just received yesterday from one of my customers,

Hey Tim,
Just to write and say thanks.  I’ve had a huge growth just in the past couple weeks and i’ve been looking for a while now for something to give me a better understanding of the game.  Even showed a couple other guys who have been playin longer and they’re real  impressed with it and even in the growth i’ve had in the past couple weeks as a player, but i owe it to your advice and database!
Thanks again!
So if you are ready to take your game to the next level, and stop these pains from ruining your fun, check out my training product now!

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