My philosophy on “casual chess” and self deception

I am not a big fan of “casual chess”.  I pretty much only like to play USCF rated games.  I don’t mind playing OTB blitz, but I don’t care for “long games” that aren’t rated.

I got burned once playing “casual chess”, and even since then it has left a bad taste in my mouth.  It is kind of a funny story.

A couple of years ago I went to a company picnic. My coworker’s husband knew I played chess, and pulled a set out so we could play.

I was rated around 1700 USCF at the time, and was known as a “really good chess player” to my coworkers.

Casual is to chess as flip flops are to shoes

During the game, I was

  • drinking beers,
  • making my moves instantly,
  • not playing with a clock,
  • letting this guy have take backs,
  • letting him know when he was making a bad move,
  • letting him play as slow as he wanted,
  • no touch move,
  • helping him to improve,
  • etc.

If I had played at full strength, with tournament rules, I would have just crushed him.

At one point, I helped him a little too much, and got a losing position, and eventually lost.

I was helping him so much, I was almost playing myself, but I didn’t really care, because it was “just for fun” and “casual”.

The next Monday at work, I heard multiple times how this guy had “beat me”! My coworkers were almost mocking me!

I realized, if you make all these adjustments, and exceptions, the patzer in their mind will think they actually won!

This was a recent topic on reddit.com called Survey on Casual Chess Games and I told this story.

One person replied:

It’s a common cognitive bias. There have been some recent research that shows how subjects discount almost any help they get in tests and competitions and their subjective estimate of their skill/knowledge is just based on the metric of the “result”.

They pointed me at a paper called “Temporal view of the costs and benefits of self-deception”, which is available here.

The paper says,

“Our experiments demonstrate that people who use an answer key to perform well on a test interpret their resultant high scores as evidence of superior intelligence.”

So basically, even if you help someone to win, they will not think that they won because you helped them, but because they themselves are great at chess, or whatever you are testing them at!

My philosophy ever after that was always play at full strength no matter what, touch move, clock if possible, no take backs, etc :-)






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