Showing posts with label Chess and Psychology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chess and Psychology. Show all posts

November 28, 2011

Bobby Fischer against the world

I don't know how come I 'succeeded' to see the absolutely wonderful HBO documentary on Bobby Fischer's life only a while ago. I should have watched it immediately when it appeared on the market. Anyway, later is better than never and I strongly recommend it!

November 16, 2011

Separate chess tournaments for WoMen?

The women world chess championship between Hou Yifan and Koneru Humpy is currently ongoing, giving all of us the opportunity to follow the games and have interesting debates related to this topic. At least I had a tough time trying to explain to my non chess players friends (but also to some professional players!) why we have separate events, for women and men. In fact, our discussions went further than that, since there is actually no 'only men' competition, but an 'open' section, where women are allowed to compete against their men counterparts. Assuming that I managed to make my point and give strong arguments for the segregation, another question popped up: Are we talking about positive discrimination than?!

October 23, 2011

The hardest game to win is a won game

'I was so winning and I lost! What a badluck I had, to ruin such a good position! It's amazing how lucky my opponent is!' - common chess frustration. It happened to all of us and it will still happen as long as chess will be alive.

Indeed, luck plays a role sometimes. I forgot where I heard the following quote: 'If you are good, you can be 2nd, but to be 1st, you need some luck.' - or something similar to that. But no matter how much I was blaming Gods, destiny, weather and of course, badluck, I became wiser and reached a deeper conclusion: I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.

August 23, 2011

Decision fatigue in chess

Does the following scenario sound familiar to you? You're playing a game. You are not tired nor distracted. You are not tense nor in time trouble. You don't feel any psychological pressure due to various reasons. Quite the opposite: you are fit and happy to play. You have time and you can use it. You might even think for half an hour for your next move - plenty of time to figure out all kind of possible complications. And yet...a mistake arises on the horizon! "How could I have possibly played that move?! - you might think later on. "How could I have been so careless in my calculations?! I was thinking for so long and I suddenly played a move without looking too much at it?!"...

August 14, 2011

Chess Simuls

Inspired by yesterday's event: my husband's simul in Heemskerk, Holland, I decided to write about...simuls. For those with little chess knowledge, it seems incredible that only one person can play simultaneously with even more than 20 players! And quite successfully:) For the more experienced players though, it's not so uncommon that a GM can face up to 40 (or more) players at once. After all, besides playing in tournaments, lectures and simuls are on almost every GM's agenda, to allow others to enjoy their skill and knowledge.

June 15, 2011

Tata Steel Chess - "Schach" magazine's article

Latest issue
This is my first article which I wrote for the well known German magazine "Schach". It was about struggle, pain and hapiness - high class chess in Wijk aan Zee. It has been a while since it was published in February this year, but I hope you'll still enojy it, in case you haven't read it in the original form.

"Every year, long time before the month of January comes and long time after it’s gone, chess lovers all over the world have one favorite subject to discuss: Wijk aan Zee and its famous tournament.

April 30, 2011

Checkmate life's problems!

Playing chess:

Chess for a brain, by Yury Bashkin
It is a method of life cultivation and rehabilitation to promote intelligence development. When playing chess, people concentrate the mind on the chessboard and get rid of all distracting thoughts. Therefore, playing chess is applicable to people with distractibility and difficulty in concentrating the mind. Besides, playing chess helps to remove depression and have a light heart. It can be applicable to infantile retarded intelligence development and declining intelligence in old people. 

March 17, 2011

64 Squares of Pain

It does feel like that sometimes. Ah, how bittersweet our game can be!
People say that chess is a difficult game. By that, they probably mean that the complexities of the game's strategy and the vast amount of possibilities open to the players on each turn, make it difficult for the novice to master its intricacies.
True as it may be, chess is difficult also in another, subtler way: it is an emotionally difficult game.

March 7, 2011

Chess is life?!

I spent a better part of last night thinking about the analogy between chess and life. It turned out to be a very interesting exercise. As always, images get formed in my head before I can gather the words. So, here is how it appeared to me after some elementary thinking:

February 10, 2011

Grandmasters are humans too

Two days ago I was asking you if the famous queen "sacrifice" looks familiar...of course, we also have our "highlights", but somehow, we expect that such kind of terrible blackouts don't occur in the games of strong Grandmasters. 
But, as you will see in a few following samples, blunders and bad days don't avoid the top players. We should maybe stop blaming ourselves and our brains when these kind of mistakes appear on our boards as happens!

January 6, 2011

Is it worth playing chess?!

The idea of today's article started to take shape while reading, not for the first time, a few remarks regarding the madness, the lunacy of the professional chess players. 2011 just started and in these moments we tend to make some time to think, to plan and draw conclusions.
So, let's analyse both, the positive and the negative side of playing chess.


1. Satisfaction: all chess players of all strengths experienced the happiness, the gratification feeling after winning a game. It's great, isn't it?! Afterall, we are all artists! Not to mention when you win a tournament...the feeling is overwhelming and I am sure you get motivation for another couple of months.

Dar Al Hajar - Yemen

2. Travelling: thanks to chess I was able to see 36 countries, many of them more than once! Believe me, it's really wonderful to be there, to see LIVE the Asian temples, to ride a camel in Emirates or an elephant in Malaysia, to admire the famous paintings in Hermitage or Prado museums, to pick up with your own hands from the trees the passion or the dragon fruit. Experiences which you normally wouldn't be able to have with a different profession (for more pictures - see the album).

3. Meeting new people: this is how I met my husband, chess tournaments:)
Another important aspect is that you will actually understand and feel on a deeper level the new places you visit, with the help of the local chess players. You will not be just a tourist, enjoying the architecture and the unusual food from that country, but also you will be able to have an insight in their daily life and gain memories for a lifetime.

4. Chess is an exercise of infinite possibilities for the mind: one which develops mental abilities used throughout life - concentration, critical thinking, abstract reasoning, problem solving, pattern recognition, strategic planning, creativity, analysis, synthesis and evaluation, just to name a few:)

5. A key that might open many doors: you already gained a lot of life experience and you can transfer it for different activities, besides the ones which are still connected to the chess world: arbiter, organizer, trainer. Here comes the best part: there are many chess lovers and I am sure you you will always find someone to help you start in a completely new career, if you want that, and chess will be the bridge that will connect you.

6. You can perform for many years: unlike other sports or jobs, chess can be played even when you are 70! Psychologists higly recommend such activities, it's good not to let your brain fall asleep.

7. Despite what some other people might say, chess is reinventing itself everytime! There is always something new: a new line, a new place, a new person, definitely not a boring life. But, it can be seen as a negative part as well...people with a low tolerance for stress, might find this life too unstable for them; you have to be flexible, in order to adapt and re-adapt to the new situations you have to face.


1. Pain and suffering: when you lose in chess, the pain is usually deeper than in any other sport. That's because in football for example, one can say: Oh, they were faster, the arbiter was not fair, we were not playing as a real team...they can put the blame on external factors or on the fact that the opponent was just better prepared this time. In chess is somehow different: the arbiter cannot influence the game anymore; and when you lose, you start questioning your abilities and, especially, your intelligence. This leads to a low self esteem, the biggest monster of all fears...

BUT: Only the people who suffered can go through life with a perspective on a different level, they have an interesting story to tell; only the intelligent people have problems because they have something to say and think about! They have ideas, opinions, they take attitude and, of course, people and society will react, thus leading to headaches for the pioneers:)

2. Less time with the family and friends: there is not so much to say here...although, by human nature: when we are home, we feel like going and when we are far away, we always want to come back:)
One more remark though: even when a chess player is home with his family, he is still absorbed by his lines, openings, books, can read my post on "The chessplayer's widow" to make an idea on how the other people might feel about it:)

3. Uncertainty regarding your monthly income: What should I say?! You cannot be sure of anything nowadays. As long as you keep your eyes open, you will always find new opportunities, hopefully.
Someone once said: "A bad day of chess is better than any good day at work." As long as you like the game and you make money out of it, you can consider yourself lucky!

4. Investing too much time in chess might cause social and health problems: 


Many times the media likes to focus on particular chess players, on particular and isolated cases, pointing out and concluding happily that too much chess makes you crazy!
First of all: anything in excess is excessive! ANYTHING in large amounts is harmful and has a negative effect, not only chess.
On the other hand...moderation is a fatal thing; nothing succeeds like excess. And that's why we comment on these "crazy" Grandmasters: because what they are doing has been noticed!
Have you ever heard about the normal Mr.X who lives next door?!
I'm 100% sure that you can be a successful chess player and be more than ok!

5. Chess might develop undesirable character traits such as: selfishness, envy: Selfishness and envy are part of our personalities. Even when we make a good deed, somehow we know that we will feel great afterwards, so...we can even say that we do it to reward ourselves, we do it for us and for our wonderful feeling which comes with it: that we are good people. And envy...I don't know how it is in your country but in Roumania envy is a sickness which will remain years from now. It comes from the past and it's really difficult to get rid of it. 
How can we say than that chess is responsible for our dark side?! Chess itself is just a game, it's a sport, and what really counts is our attitude towards it, our education, our character. The only moment when chess might be poisonous is if it would take over your life, if you slowly but surely start to play and be interested only in chess. 

We have 7 against 5: the positive side has won:) And I didn't do it on purpose! On the contrary, I am also a bit surprised that I managed to find only 5 negative aspects. Especially if I consider the moments when I wanted to give up, when I almost "hated" chess and myself...(just for the record, these moments appeared after a lost game, a terrible tournament etc, and I was not aware of my disruptive way of thinking; that's why i started to write articles about it, maybe you will learn from my mistakes).
On the other hand, if I think a little, it's normal: as long as you don't make an idol out of chess, as long as you don't devote your ENTIRE time to it, your life will be richer and happier.
So, what do you think?! As you can see, I support the chess cause, which is kind of normal, this is what I do:) But it's up to you if you want to step on the chess' road or not...of course you will face disappointments, sleepless nights, frustration and anger, but trust me: it is worth to give it a try! You won't regret it...well, maybe just sometimes...a little bit:)

December 4, 2010

Women and Chess

The World Women Chess Championship is starting today! While checking the official website , I remembered one question I was asked during my presentation of my final thesis in Psychology University:"You are always in the middle of the chess world...can you tell us why women are worse chess players than men?".

Ever since I started playing chess, I've always heard the following questions:
"Why are men better chess players than women?"
"Do you have an explanation for men's chess superiority?"
"Why men rank higher than women at chess?"
"Can women play chess as well as men?"

The following videos might be an answer:)


Gender and chess - The ever changing, never ending question...but there is a problem from the very beginning, from the way the question is asked! It already implies the answer, it's guiding you to search for reasons why are women worse chess players than men, which you are already taking it as a premise and than jump to the wrong conclusion.

Many explanations have been given for the disparity: biological, social, psychological, cultural and so on. But now scientists say you just have to do the math, statistics can explain everything
A study published by the Royal Society, London, finds that men's superiority over women at chess at the top levels can be explained by population size. Since many more men play, there's a wider range of abilities, meaning more individuals at the very top.
An Oxford study says that "women are just as good as men, but they just don't like the game".
Both explanations sound reasonable to and women: equal but different in many ways, that's for sure. 
One last remark: somehow women take their loses more personal than men do. After a game has finished, the men chess players almost always check the game together, thus learning from their opponents, they have more interest to find out the truth; on the other hand, in women's games, you can see so much passion and even hate, which makes it almost impossible for them to be able to check with a cold look their game afterwards. It's not good for our chess improvement, but definitely it's much more fun for the public:)

Fore more information, here are a few links illustrating the above conclusions:




November 19, 2010

If chess is played by so many celebrities, why is it still considered to be a game reserved for weirdos?!

It's so interesting how the human mind we complete the puzzle even when we are missing some pieces. If something doesn't fit the picture, if we have some weird elements, we always find a good and reasonable explanation for that. Otherwise our brain will be confused and we don't like to have chaos in our heads:) A great book which reflects this concept very well is: "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov. (Highly recommended!:)

How is this applying to chess?! Let's take a look at celebrities and their shared passion for our beautiful game.
Big names, from USA-based business leaders (Bill Gates), artists and musicians (Salvador Dali, Ludwig van Beethoven, Bono, Madonna), movie and TV stars (Will Smith, Julia Roberts, Al Pacino), writers (William Shakespeare, Fyodor Dostoievski) to supermodels (Carmen Kass, Heidi Klum), sport stars (Kobe Bryant-NBA, Gary Sheffield-baseball), royalty and politicians (almost all US Presidents, Jacques Chirac), just to mention a few, they all declare their fascination for chess!
Here it comes my question: As mentioned above, many celebrities enjoy and play chess. Than why chess is still considered to be a game for geeks and weirdos??! On the contrary, it should be seen as a very cool game, if all these famous people declare their passion for it!

The missing piece from our puzzle and the only explanation I found, to satisfy my brain for consistency is:
- these people are not defined by chess, they are known as: writers, business men, actors and so on. Chess becomes just a "cool" accessory, just another eccentric deviation which makes them even more interesting and more popular.
- the image of a chess player, in people's minds, remains the same: glasses, weird look and we know the rest:)

But slowly and surely, I think that this image will be changed. We can already see more and more exceptions to the rule: Carlsen's recent G-Star events and Susan Polgar's and Alexandra Kosteniuk's approach in promoting chess. Note how they all make good use of new media such as twitter and facebook.
To change the way we are seen by the people from outside the chess world will take a lot of time...hopefully chess will not be solved by then:)

November 18, 2010

Chess Player's prototype - Research!

Wise and Smart?!

Geek and Nerd?!


As I promised yesterday, I followed my new idea. It all started when i posted on 16th November: Chess Player's prototype: nerd or smart?! How are we, chess players, seen by the other people from outside of the chess world? If on my previous post I included videos with commercials, supporting both opinions, this time i went in the city and asked people on the street:) Because I don't have my statistics program on this laptop, SPSS, I won't make you bored with charts and histograms, I will just briefly present you the results. 

A few remarks before presenting the final conclusions:

1. From now on, I will change my attitude towards the people that are making a survey on the's really unpleasant to get some grumpy looks, some impossible to understand mumblings (which are not the nicest words ever:) or a total ignorance. I had just one question...I can imagine how the poor investigators feel when they have to present a long questionnaire:)
2. Besides the above remark, I had to face a lot of perplexed looks, something like...what kind of puzzle is this?! An "I don't know" answer quickly followed and that was it. Lucky me that I am so stubborn:)
3. Finally, exactly like the baby who doesn't cry, doesn't receive food, I persisted and here you have my discoveries!


I shouldn't maybe use such a pretentious word:"research"...I didn't have the resources of a scientific study, but I am sure that the conclusions drawn from this small sample and the idea itself, could be successfully used for a larger investigation.

Information about the sample: 50 people kindly answered to my question, man (52%) and women (48%), with an average age of 29. I asked both men and women, young and old, in order to have representatives of all groups.

So, here I am, in Woerden, Holland, asking people on the street to describe in 3 words a chess playerYes I know, differences might appear because of the two languages: English and Dutch; they might use the English words they know, instead of the ones they would normally use in Dutch. That's why I asked them to say the Dutch words and than, back home, my husband had to help me with the translation:) He enjoyed it very much:))

After saying these three words in their attempt to describe a chess player, I also asked them to range their words, from the most important to the least important, on a scale from 1 to 3. In this way, 1 is the most accurate word to describe a chess player and 3 the least. I did this in order to separate just some random words from the most meaningful ones. Than I put the similar words together in different categories:
Chess Player's Profile??

1. Boring
2. Antisocial
3. Intelligent/Smart
4. Focused
5. Patient
6. Old person
7. Loser (in daily life)

After combining the mentioned words and the level of importance, I can bring you now the final conclusions:

As we already consciounsly or subconsciounsly assumed, a chess player is not the most popular person on this planet. The chess player prototype looks like as follows: an intelligent person (but only for his game or also, in a few cases, in sciences), who is living in his own world, failing when it comes to daily social life. Nerd, glasses, boring, focused and desperate to win, completes the picture.

What should we do with this information?! We, chessplayers, know that it's not completely true! Yes, we are desperately trying to win sometimes...and we get annoyed, frustrated, spending a lot of hours on this game. But for sure we are not boring! I have met the most interesting and difficult to understand people through and thanks to chess! 
And...let's be serious: we can see glasses or lenses everywhere in this world, not only on chess players noses:)
We know that...but how to let the entire world know it too?! How to break the myths and misconceptions when it comes to our image?! Because this is our image and a character like Kasparov is considered to be the exception which confirmes the rule...

My idea is: Let's open the closed doors and reveal the wonderful, intriguing personality that lives in each of us! Chess is already considered to be a boring game, but what really counts is how we present ourselves! When we go to apply for a job, we pay some attention on which clothes we choose. Of course this doesn't mean we have to wear a suit everytime we play a game, but to make a small effort in looking presentable. We can make this game look entertaining and exciting, but we have to start the change with our own person. Otherwise, chess will be "like a dead language, very interesting, but for a very small group".(Sytze Faber)

November 14, 2010

Behind every great man, there is even a greater woman!

The wives of Kmoch, Flohr and Alekhine
I continue today to write down the thoughts that crossed my head while reading the "Chessplayer's Widow"(see the post from 6th November). The story was in short, about the difficult life a woman has to face when her partner is a chess player. Besides him being distracted almost all the time by his job: playing chess, chessplayers often travel for tournaments and thus, leaving their wives behind. Home alone, maybe with children to raise, looking always after entire house, many of them working as well...who said that a Wife's life is an easy task?! And some might argue that being married with a chess player, definitely doesn't help much. These have been said, I can quote now that: "Behind every great man, there is even a greater woman!" or, we can apply it to our case: 'behind every strong Grandmaster, there is a wise and patient woman'. Of course, in both cases, love must be involved:)
The origins of today's title are not completely narrowed down. It is known that it has been adopted as a feminist slogan. The origins are uncertain, but it's certainly much older than the Women's Movement of the 1960s/70s, which spawned other such slogans. For example, "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle".
The use of the phrase received a boost in 1985 with the release of The Eurythmics' song - Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves:
Now, there was a time,
when they used to say,
that behind ev'ry great man,
there had to be a great woman.
But oh, in these times of change,
you know that it's no longer true.
So we're comin' out of the kitchen,
'cause there's something we forgot to say to you.
We say, Sisters are doin' it for themselves.
It's long been said that behind every successful man is a strong woman, although it is not a pre-requisite for career success, the world’s most successful men have often had a woman behind them driving them to succeed through love and ambition.

I also discovered a great article on Dana Mackenzie's chess blog:
What do Wilhelm Steinitz, Emmanuel Lasker, Jose Raul Capablanca, Alexander Alekhine, Max Euwe, Mikhail Botvinnik, Vassily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosian, Boris Spassky, Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, and Vishwanathan Anand all have in common?
The obvious answer is that they were all world chess champions. The not-so-obvious answer is that they were all married at some point in their lives! That’s right, not a single recognized "classical" world champion has been a lifelong bachelor.

Obviously the one who came closest was Fischer; he got married in 2004, although some might say it was a marriage of convenience.

A few champions married more than once; Alekhine was married four times, Kasparov is up to three times so far. Some of them married only after becoming world champion: Lasker, Capablanca, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, and Kramnik. But the others all married before becoming champion, which goes to show that you can balance marriage and life at the top of the chess world.
A more difficult question is whether getting married actually helped any of these champions. 
Grandmasters wives: Sofia and Aruna,
patiently waiting for their husbands.
Arguably, another player who has been helped by matrimony is our current world champion, Vishy Anand. I found some articles online that describe his wife, Aruna, as being extremely supportive of his career, and she in fact handles a lot of the negotiating over terms for matches — thereby freeing him to concentrate on his chess.
Aruna and Anand got married in 1996. Of course, if you have a more cynical outlook, you can say that he was already number 2 in the world by then, and so the main thing he needed was for Kasparov to get out of the way. But that would, I think, not give enough credit to the steadying, calming, and grounding effect that a happy marriage can have on you.

So, where lies the truth?! I heard many times people saying:"Oh, he lost, but it is clear why: he just cannot play when his wife/girlfriend is around!". But I have also heard:"What a beautiful game today! It's absolutely obvious that his girlfriend/wife inspired him!". Sometimes I hear them both referring the same person!

We, chess players, like scientific people, always tend and want to think in logic terms. To be able to say: this has caused that, cause and effect. But in this case, to generalize that if you want to become a World Champion, you should get married, is of course, exagerated. 

I would actually love that the above state to be always true. I am a woman, I am married, I am even married to a Grandmaster! Which means I would like to take credit for my husband's results, always good for my ego:) But again, there are so many different other factors involved, life is so simple and yet, so complicated, that we cannot say for sure: women do help men to have better chess results. It's nearly impossible to anihilate all the other influences like: hours of work, talent, chess understanding, character, personality, luck and so on.

And back to the start of this article...are really the chessplayers' wives lonely creatures that we should feel sorry for?!
Like anywhere else, in life, other domains, there are cases and cases, people are different, otherwise it would be extremely boring. 

So I ask you: don't you think that a woman also loves the attention she gets through her husband? That she loves having an intelligent, powerfull man next to her (intelligence definitely leads to power)? That this chess life, full with loses and grumpy faces, is also full with excitement, travels and rewards?

One thing is clear: we need researches, not assumptions. If only human mind would be a bit more simple...

November 7, 2010

Chess Addiction Test!

OK, I have to admit it. I am a bit of a chess addict. I am playing since I was five, I have plenty of books and magazines. I am following GM's games online, I am playing chess online, I have a blog about chess...I even brought chess into the kitchen with my own cooking chess recipes. My wedding cake was with chess motifs, in University I was always talking about chess (it was interesting from psychological point of view as well - I graduated Psychology). I dream about chess and becoming better...what else? I wanted to give up at some point, but...chess didn't want to let me down:) So I went to the next tournament, than another one and than the next and so on...

What about you? Do you see people as pawns? Yourself as a king? Well...the mere fact that you are here at, reading this article, is not exactly in your favour:)

For your own good, for the sake of your loved ones, take a few minutes to determine if you are a chess-o-holic.

Answer Yes or No to the following questions:

1. As soon as you are out of bed, you turn on your computer and check the online games.
2. You buy the biggest, fastest, most expensive computer just to let your engine run faster.
3. You have more chess clocks than watches.
4. You buy a newspaper only if it has a chess column in it.
5. You take a chess book to the bathroom and forget to go to the bathroom.
6. Every week you download every chess game from every chess site on the Internet.
7. You have more chess books than any other books or magazines combined.
8. You spot the chessboard set up wrong in every movie or tv program with a chess scene.
9. You have a chess logo on you tshirt.
10. You have a chess mug for coffee.
11. You have more PGN than DOC files on your computer.
12. Preparing for a good chess game online requires cleaning the mouse and checking it's working order.

 Choose the response which fits you best:

13. Gentlemen, you find yourself seated next to a beautiful woman, in a tournament's closing ceremony. You:
A. Remark her eyes and get distracted from the ceremony.
B. Try to find a better sit, closer to the chess stars.
C. Take out your pocket-sized Russian dictionary.

14. Ladies, you find yourself seated next to this man, in the same closing ceremony. You:
A. Accidentally look at him and make a nice remark about whatever.
B. Try to find a sit next to the strongest GM.
C. Stand up and run for your life.

15. Chess is:
A. A fairy tale of 1001 blunders. (Tartakover)
B. As much mistery as women. (Purdy)
C. Everything: art, science, sport. (Karpov)
D. Above all, a fight. (Lasker)
E. _________________ (Fill in the blank)

    * The mere fact that you took this test counts against you: negative 10 points.
    * For every "Yes" answer you gave, that's negative another 10.
    * For every answer "B" you gave, you know what to do. (By the way, if you answered both questions 13 and 14, you have problems well beyond the scope of this article)
    * If you chose "E" for number 15 and said "Life" (like Fischer once), please cut again 10 points.

- 40 to -60: Incipient Chess Addict. Seek professional help now! It's not too late for you to get into a more healthy, fulfilling lifestyle, such as crocodile wrestling, car racing or being a fireman!

-70 to - 90: Confirmed Chess Abuser.'re a mess. With bloodshot eyes, you meet someone and your first question is: "What's your rating?" - if you are trying to get a date, think it all over.

-100 and up: I'm sorry, but you are a hopeless case...clear sign for being a chess-o-holic: you have read all of this!

- inspiration sources:,,

November 6, 2010

The Chessplayer's Widow

The wife (or husband or significant other) of an addicted chessplayer is a very lonely creature who must put up with her husband's (or wife or significant other) obsession with chess. The chessplayer's widow sees her husband as a vague person who is more interested in a checkmate than his own mate. He is studying his board; she is bored of his studying. He is thinking of knight moves; she is thinking of night life; he is looking for mate in one; she is looking for one to mate.

The wife occasionally entertains at home by cooking an elaborate meal for a few of her husband's chess buddies. Chessplayers have only other chessplayers as friends, of course. The biggest mistake she can make is to use a checkered tablecloth. When everyone sits down to enjoy a sumptuous meal that took the wife hours to prepare over a hot stove, she will find all her salt and pepper shakers, toothpick holders, sugar bowl (and cubes), cups and glasses, and miscellaneous foods from various plates make an excellent substitute for chess pieces on a chess board patterned from the tablecloth.

The strong chessplayer is gifted with an incredible memory. A game is analyzed in detail and played over and over; past chess games and brilliant moves and variations are never forgotten. The latest theory of the Scheveningen variation or Najdorf, Poison Pawn Variation of the Sicilian Defense has been memorized to the smallest detail. Yet, when there are a few chores to do around the house or a few things to pick up at the store, or take out the garbage, the chessplayer has forgotten all of this and passes it off as "poor memory." However, he can remember that brilliant chess game he won five years ago to a fellow chessplayer in the third round of some minor Swiss tournament played at 30/30 rate (30 moves in 30 minutes).

The wife can tell when her husband has lost a tournament game or done poorly at the local chess club. He comes home a loser with no trophy or he may have won $2.72 that ten other players received for tying for third place. His chin is so low he practically trips over the door step. The door slams as he mumbles to himself, "I lost to the weakest guy in the tournament. And he was only 10 years old. I should have won that game. I won a piece by move eight. I had the better position all through the game. How did I leave my Queen hanging? He was lucky that time. I was distracted by his burping. Wait until I get him in the next game. He is only rated 1100 and I am at least 1400 strength." The mumbles continue all night. His only interest is how he lost a won game. The magnetic chess set is his constant companion - in the bathroom, at dinner, in bed, while driving.

The chessplayer's widow probably suffers more if her husband has won. He brings home a small trophy and already spent his prize money by taking all his chess friends to a pizza house and ordered 3 pizzas. The wife must listen with interest as he gives her a move-by-move description in detail, with added explanations of how brilliant each move was, including all variations and the amount of time on the clock for each move. The wife must follow her chess-playing husband from room to room, so as not to escape a single move of a particular game, or else suffer the consequences of him setting up the pieces all over again and starting over from move one.

The average husband disappears into the bathroom with newspaper or magazine. Not the chess-playing husband. He disappears with a portable magnetic chess set and latest chess magazine and spends up to an hour analyzing chess games and variations. He later emerges but later discovers one thing missing. The last pawn in the second row for White is gone. Before he realizes it, the wife has flushed the toilet. To his horror, he suddenly remembers where his pawn was (I guess he dropped a piece)

The chessplayer tries to teach his wife how to play chess. But he already knows it is hopeless. She forgets how the Knight (she calls it the horsey)moves; she can't understand the en passant rule; she wants to castle in check; she trades her Rooks (she calls them castles) off for Bishops because she doesn't like the design of the Bishop; and she takes all her moves back when he wants to exchange a piece.

The worst thing a wife can do is learn how to play the game herself. First, she will want to accompany her husband to chess tournaments. Then she will play the chess computer or online chess. Soon she will prove to be too much competition and may beat her husband in an off-hand game. If that happens again, that does it. It's time to give up chess forever, sell or give away the chess books, and take up golf. Hope she doesn't have a good swing.


I liked this article, but it's not entirely true:)

November 5, 2010

"Chess is mental torture" - Garry Kasparov

Chess is good for your mind. There are hundreds of books to prove it. No wonder that chess is the intelligence symbol. You can see it everywhere, in almost all movies, advertising...even if the house owners have no clue of how to play this game, they still display it in some corner, just for show:)
But, as in life, after day, night comes, after rain, sun is shining, for every coin there is a flip and heads sometimes become tails. Tea is a healthy drink, but in excessive amounts can lead to kidney or liver damage.
Same with chess: in the right amount, it will enrich your life, played excessively...bizarre behaviour might appear. Thus, the above quote shouldn't be seen as an exaggeration.
I bring you two stories from the past, which clearly show how, because of too much concentration, your brain can give strange signals:

Absent-minded Grandmasters: 
Tartakover was once playing in a tournament on a very hot day. He called for a glass of iced water. The waiter prepared him a drink with lavish care, squeezing out fresh oranges. He brought it to the table where Tartakover was deep in thought. Without looking at it, Tartakover picked up the glass and poured the contents over his head.:) - source: "Chess Scene" by D.Levy and S. Reuben (London, 1974)

Personal example: I just had a conversation with my husband, asking if he has such stories, with GM's completely absorbed by their games, floating in different spheres of this Universe. It seems that more often than we would expect, the following scenario appears: I am sitting on the board, trying to focus, calculating, when suddenly i see someone taking a seat in front of me's not my opponent!:) The best part is when the person realizes that it's the wrong board:))

Reffering to "hallucinations that occur in match and tournament play", Mr. Bruno Siegheim mentions in the Johannesburg Sunday Times that in one of the games of the Blackburne - Steinitz match, a check which could have won a rook was left on for several moves. The possibility was seen by everyone present in the room, except the two players. Mr Siegheim adds that a still more curious incident occurred at Breslau, in an Alapin - Blackburne game. Mr.Blackburne checkmated his opponent, but assuming that Herr Alapin would see the mate, Mr.Blackburne did not announce it. Herr Alapin looked at the position intently, trying to find a move, and the spectators smiled and whispered. At the end of five minutes Mr.Blackburne relieved his opponent's anxiety by informing him that he had been checkmated. - source: "Chess Notes", Edward Winter.

And these are just some amusing samples. We all know the not so funny ones: while your head is full with new ideas, obsessed with a difficult line, calculating and checking and than checking again, you completely forget about the outside world. Absorbed with the moves, you might forget your food on fire, your bag on a park's bench or you might not see a car when crossing a street.

The moral?! Combine chess with outdoor activities, it's good for your brain:)
Moral number 2: Make a list with problems to solve for the current day, this is what my father would always say:)

November 2, 2010

Who likes to lose?!

Based on what Anish said (see the post from October 31: Close-up on the GM's!), I come now with another story from our wonderful chess life...this time I won't give names, I don't want to cause any embarassing situation. It occured in a game of one of my close friends and I was there when it happened. Now it seems funny of course, but when I look back and remember the situation, it was a clear example of how difficult we accept our defeats.
So, we have White and Black playing a game, without increment. Time trouble...a lot of tension, both sides are just banging moves, trying to save time, none of the players is asking for a was a very important game for medals, in an European championship. But, for some reasons, the arbiter was not there and...Black just didn't let White press the clock! He blocked it with the hand from the other side! Result?! White lost!
The problem was of can you prove it? Well...we usually hope for some fairplay:)

It is clear to me that we, chess players, face with more difficulties when losing a game. Perhaps more than in any other sport. I will explain why. To lose a chess game, which requires intelligence (of course, for professionals is a bit different, work is also required:), it's seen as a personal failure. Thus, a lack of intelligence. On the contrary, in another sport, we might claim: Oh, he was stronger or faster. But in chess...Oh, he was smarter, clever and...I am stupid.

But, afterall...chess is great, isn't it?!