Psychology Of Chess

The role of psychology in chess is often underestimated. The study and application of chess principles is not always sufficient to achieve the ultimate goal of the game – victory. Qualities of the player’s personality, such as character, will and attention can determine success or failure in a chess battle. Human psychology in relation to the game of chess was studied for the first time during the Moscow Tournament of 1925 by the Institute of Psychology.

The results highlighted the importance of human psychology during a competition. However, this research did not have much influence on the practice of the game and failed to elaborate on how players can avoid errors that occur in almost every game. On the other hand, new studies on this topic by psychologists and chess players have subsequently framed the role of emotional factors and their control.

This is in addition to the defects of attention and other psychological elements, which negatively affect the logical processes of the player. The individual characteristics of some champions were presented. The players included Morphy, Lasker, Capablanca, Fischer and others. They were picked not only because of their skill in the game or playing technique but also in relation to their personality. This was considered from the psychological or psychoanalytic point of view.

Traditionally, chess literature analyzes opening positions, middling games and finals as the fundamental basis of the player’s knowledge. Most players are mainly immersed in the study of openings and endings without thoroughly analyzing their strengths and weaknesses from a psychological point of view. It is impractical to ignore some elements, such as attention, concentration, will, the role of emotions, the relationship with the adversary and the errors that occur during competitions.

Psychological preparation

Emanuel Lasker was the first to understand that behind the moves of the pieces there is a human being with his character and temperament (the psychology of chess). He understood that it is not possible to engage in the chess game without considering the human element and the psychology of the adversary, idiosyncrasies and preferences. Lasker expressed the belief that chess is, first of all, a struggle between two personalities and two intellects.

His ideas on the psychology of chess are universally accepted. The ideas are based on the need for psychological preparation to face the difficult conditions of the tournament and familiarizing with the playing techniques of adversaries. It is also instructive to know how the rational and psychological conception of the ideas was expressed.

Waiting for the opponent to make mistakes was not enough, it was necessary to provoke them. In other words, one should not hesitate to disturb the positional equilibrium to one’s disadvantage.

One must consider how an opponent thinks during the game and solves the difficulties encountered on the board. This also applies to how they react to successes and errors. In fact, success or failure depends not only on the chess player’s knowledge and experience but also on self-control, perseverance and other personal qualities.

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Visual perception

The main feature of the chess image is its generality. This image is not only the visual perception of the position of pieces and pedestrians on the board, but it encompasses the representation of the position in the mental image of the player. It takes into account the relationship between the pieces on the board and the moves played.

Hence, the pieces and other aspects on the board are represented in the mind of the player as carriers of ideas in relation to the position. As a result, the image formed in the player’s mind, visualize a unity of the abstract and concrete, of sensory and logical perceptions since the ideas and evaluations of the position are expressed in terms of moves and variations.

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Another important element is the intuition that contributes to the understanding and rapid assessment of the position. Intuition is the direct way to reach the goal, the solution that immediately comes to mind. However, behind this ability to suddenly discover the truth on the board, there is actually a collection of accumulated experiences and knowledge acquired in the past.

Contrary to the analysis of the position, the intuitive decision seems to reveal the result of mental operations that are not perceived up to that moment. In chess, creative intuition appears as a sudden discovery, which does not appear conscious until the moment of the decision. The object of intuition can concern the combinative or positional aspect and can be applied both in attack and in defense.

Another characteristic of intuition is the speed with which the player arrives at the decision during the game. They do not need general ideas regardless of originality but only those that solve the particular problem on the board.

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Attention is closely linked to emotions and will. It is through the emotions that a human being reacts to the surrounding environment. Emotional experience has a strong influence on a player’s attention flow and self-control, especially during competitions. For instance, negative emotional states, such as confusion, lack of confidence, irritation, fear or excessive self-confidence can greatly reduce the player’s activity, alertness and attention.

When it comes to the psychology of chess, attention is a central problem since chess requires constant and prolonged concentration. It is clear how a player can reach a winning position but then due to a brief relaxation or momentary inattention, the position won can turn into a lost game. This happens in a myriad of cases, not only in “off-hand games” between amateurs but also in matches between great masters.

Despite the high level of attention typically displayed by masters, errors of assessment also occur in international tournaments in an incomprehensible way considering the quality and experience of the top players. The occurrence of these errors cannot be attributed to general inattention or ignorance. These attention defects occur mainly in unfavorable conditions, such as due to fatigue. However, the explanation for these errors, which at first sight seem inconceivable depends mainly on the peculiarity of the player’s attention.

To better understand these phenomena, it is necessary to consider what is meant by the term attention in psychology. Attention is the concentration of brain activity on a certain object and since attention is focused in a particular direction, it automatically excludes other objects, phenomena and thoughts.

Psychology Of Chess
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