Forgetting and recovering from your chess losses

One problem that I have seen chess players have is recovering from a loss in a tournament.  They lose a close game, or a game that they should have won, and it affects their future games. 

I have seen both children and adults crying, storming out of a room, pouting, withdrawing, yelling, and obsessing about their losses.  I know people who have quit chess because they could not handle losing.

I love this parable from Eckhart Tolle, who wrote “The Power of Now”.  I think that it contains a very powerful idea that you can use to let go of losses both on and off the board.


Here is a text version of the story as it appears in “A New Earth”:


   The inability or rather unwillingness of the human mind to let go of the past is beautifully illustrated in the story of two Zen monks, Tanzan and Ekido, who were walking along a country road that had become extremely muddy after heavy rains.
   Near a village, they came upon a young woman who was trying to cross the road, but the mud was so deep it would have ruined the silk kimono she was wearing.
   Tanzan at once picked her up and carried her to the other side.

   The monks walked on in silence.

   Five hours later, as they were approaching the lodging temple, Ekido couldn’t restrain himself any longer.
   “Why did you carry that girl across the road?” he asked. “We monks are not
supposed to do things like that.”

   “I put the girl down hours ago,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

   The parable can apply to your chess losses as well.  Once the game is over, it is over, and there is no need for you to mentally carry this weight and burden around.  

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3 thoughts on “Forgetting and recovering from your chess losses

  1. I had heard the story about the two monks before, knew the punch-line coming at the end.

    Winning too much can also have a negative effect. It’s easy to become bored and resort to non-creative chess. Then you only get a few points for the win, and you are winning on experience so not learning so much. But one almost always learns something more profound from their losses.

    You’ve made this into one of the best chess blogs on the internet. Great interviews and articles!

  2. This is so true, recently i loas a game where i played quite brillaintly my oppnent hung on to smother mate me a rook and severalpawns down. It had an awful effect on me.

    Winning to much is very bad, the trick is to play a good game and ignore the result, enjoy the game not the result.

    A wonderful book I rfeccomend by Arnold Arnold (yes thats his name) called Winning, he states very lucidly that the pursuit of winning is childish and negative, and the fear of defeat is enhanced. We muststay in the now and the over pursuit of winning ruins the real object – to play well – give a 100% – enjoy the game – and luck at loosing as a learning event…

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