Chess is a Brutal Game

Chess is a brutal game. 

Thinking back to High School, there's no way I would've joined the chess club. It seemed like it was just too "geeky". I liked joining teams, clubs, etc. I would've considered myself a "joiner" because I liked participating in most sports and team events. I was a good student and considered myself to be fairly smart, but joining the chess club was unthinkable; I felt it would make me a pariah. 

Playing chess later in life showed me that the kids in High School that most would consider "geeks" or "wimps" either: 
a) did not play chess very well
b) were a lot tougher (mentally) than we thought

Now I see chess as very analogous to a physical altercation. Obviously, there are attacks and defenses but even aspects of it that are similar to "jabs", "knockout punches","body punches",  "haymakers", etc. The other player is trying to take you out! Not only that, but he/she is doing everything in their power to prevent you from taking them out. It's not just a battle of intellect, but a battle of wills. 

How will you deal with a blunder that costs you a game that would've won a tournament? Maybe it was a game that you were clearly winning and at a certain point, you assumed you would win. Maybe it was against a player that you are decisively better than. Can you regain your confidence enough to play competitively ever again? In chess, everyone blunders. Even the most accurate grandmasters of all time make blunders in their games. One of the things that make the great players great is their ability to shake off losses and blunders and persevere to be successful. 

Let me give you a couple of examples. 

Look at the following board:

I'm white and I'm up a piece and 3 pawns. Not only that, but black's bishop is totally useless. I trapped it for the whole game. If it moves, I capture it. So, it's like being up 2 pieces and 3 pawns. Against an even player, I would almost never lose a position like this - it's too much for them to overcome such a deficit. What's more, is that this player was rated 200 points lower than me. Losing is very improbable. My next move seems great to me - I'll take his g6 pawn with my knight! This forks his king and rook. He can't take it - I'll just take his queen. Seems like a great position for me, right? Well, look what happens when he moves his king and I take his rook with my knight - queen to g2 is checkmate! I saw this right after I took his rook and couldn't believe it! I opened up the file directly to my king and gave my opponent a win where there wasn't one. Luckily, he didn't see it and I went on to win the game but it just shows you - don't assume you've won or lost until it's over. 

Here's another example:

When I looked at this game 2 moves earlier, I almost laughed. Why isn't black resigning? Why does white need 2 queens? Is he going to promote the c pawn for a third queen? Well, look again - black wins on the next move - rook to a1 and the next move is checkmate against white! Unreal!

I've seen it many times - a player loses a position like the ones shown above and the fall into this abyss where they can't win a game to save their life. The embarrassment of a blunder makes them feel like they're probably not as good as they thought they were and as a result, their blunders cascade into an avalanche. 

Another way that chess is like pugilism is when you compare amateurs/beginners to professionals and experienced players. If you've ever seen an amateur fight, you've seen how they "swing for the fences". They throw wild punches with the intent of knocking out the opponent with one blow. This strategy is like tossing a coin - you may get lucky or you may get knocked out because of your lack of defense. If you look at a professional fight, you'll notice the combatants are more cautious, more restrained. The pro will wear their opponent down with jabs and body punches before pursuing a wild attack.  The same thing happens in chess. A beginner will memorize a mate-in-5 opening and start an attack immediately. This can work like the wild amateur punches in that you may get lucky "knocking out" an unaware opponent or your attack may fizzle out and get you into trouble. An advanced player slowly improves his/her position and attacks when everything else is in order. 

Anyway, chess is a great game. There are so many interesting aspects of the game. I don't think it's for the feint of heart, though!
Submitted  7/11/2013 9:57:04 AM
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