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The Will To Win: A Crucial Ingredient to Success in Chess

  • NM IgnitionOnBoard
  • | Jun 19, 2014
  • | 3475 views
  • | 22 comments

When I was first starting my own chess training I was introduced to the movie 'Searching for Bobby Fischer'. I recommend everyone who enjoys chess to watch this at some point. There are very few movies about chess and this one inspired me greatly.

In the movie Bruce Pandolfini tells the young Josh Waitzkin that Bobby Fischer held his opponents, and the world, in contempt. Bruce says Josh must also hold his opponents in contempt in order to reach greatness.

First: let's define contempt.

 

The feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.


Did Bobby Fischer really view everyone in the world as worthless and unworthy? Many say this is true. But, the real question is: 'Should I also view others as worthless and beneath me in order to become the greatest chess player I can?'

The answer: absolutely not. Do not let your ambitions for great success in chess cloud your judgement of what is right and wrong. It is WRONG to hate others and to view yourself above them. I tried it myself as a child and I can tell you from experience it only leads to lonliness because nobody wants to spend time with a person who treats others with contempt.

Bobby Fischer was WRONG to hold the world in contempt. The reason it worked for him is because this hate for others fueled the TRUE INGREDIENT required of a chess player to be a great success: THE WILL TO WIN.

Bobby Fischer hated his opponents so much that he could think of nothing other than destroying them over the chess board. His hate fueled his desire to win.

However, as we all know (or should know now) HATE LEADS TO THE DARK SIDE. Yes I'm making a Star Wars reference however the above statement is completely true.

THE KEY IS TO FIND THE WILL TO WIN WITHOUT HATING OUR OPPONENTS

How do we do this? By setting our goals high. I used to tell myself constantly as I trained at chess that I would be the next world champion. I didn't just say it; I believed it to my very core. This leads me to my next realization:

BELIEF IN YOURSELF AND THE WILL TO WIN GO HAND IN HAND!

If you don't believe that you're good enough to play better chess than your opponents then you will never find the will to win.

Let me show you a game from my early chess days. I wanted to test this idea that if I wanted to win badly enough I could, even without good preparation. I purposely didn't study before the tournament and goofed off the night before. I didn't get much rest and was tired. However, I wanted to win... very badly.

I don't remember my opponent's name however he was USCF expert rating at the time. I was playing Black.

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 d6 4.d4 g5 5.h4 g4 6.Ng1 Bh6 7.Nge2? (the correct move is Nc3 - the idea is after Nge2 Black plays Qf6 to continue guarding the f4 pawn but playing Nc3 first allows for Nd5! hitting the Queen and the uneasy pawn on c7.)

7... Qf6 (without Nd5 as a problem my Queen comfortably defends f4.

8. Nc3?! f3! 9.Nd5?? f2# (I actually had to stare at the position for a while. I knew it was checkmate however as a young boy playing an adult expert I felt I must be missing something to be allowed a checkmate so soon. After triple checking and taking a deep breath I finished the game.

You are probably asking yourself, "Jesse, the expert blundered right out of opening book and you won. What does this have to do with the will to win?" I'll tell you.

When you want to win badly at chess (or anything) your body and mind take on a calm fierceness. This fierceness can be felt by your opponent. If they aren't in the same mindset then they will instinctively begin to feel fear, doubt, hesitation. Keep in mind that my opponent was an expert! (USCF 2000-2199) He is a strong player and this is an opening he's seen countless times.

My theory is that he blundered because his will to win couldn't touch mine. He got momentarily confused/hesitated and made a careless as a direct result of it!

THE WILL TO WIN IS BOTH FOR YOUR BENEFIT AND YOUR OPPONENT'S DETRIMENT. IT WILL CAUSE YOU TO TRAIN AND FOCUS HARDER. IT CAN EASILY CAUSE YOUR OPPONENT TO BE FEARFUL/PASSIVE AND PLAY LOSING CHESS.

Comments


  • 2 months ago

    decoslim

    Thanks for sharing. I'm new to Chess.com and I can say dis is d best place to be if I want to be an expert in the game of chess

  • 2 months ago

    pmcteixeira

    Great read!

  • 3 months ago

    NM IgnitionOnBoard

    @OldChessDog

    I would have however I didn't think it would be kind to ask someone after a humiliating defeat, "Why do you think you lost like this?" would have been taken very well.

    All I know is the explanation I've given is the best fit for the scenario as I believe it would have been easy to see if my opponent was drunk, taking drugs, extremely tired or emotional.

  • 3 months ago

    OldChessDog

    Nice article, but unless you spoke to your opponent and you know for sure, I think your conjecture that your fierce will to win affected your opponent is purely that--conjecture.

  • 3 months ago

    Hellllbender

    @Akatsuki64: Yes, that would be one mate...except that my opponent did not play Kd4, he played Kb4, which led to his mate a few moves later.

  • 3 months ago

    Akatsuki64

    @Hellbender Kd4 Qd6#. 

  • 3 months ago

    NM IgnitionOnBoard

    @gbidari

    Thanks for your feedback! :)

  • 3 months ago

    NM gbidari

    Fascinating observation about the calm fierceness being felt by your opponent leading to doubt and blunders. Perhaps this is what Spassky was really feeling in the 1972 World Championship match with Fischer, where Spassky said he felt a discomfort and thought he was being exposed to some kind of technological power which the Soviets thought could be emanating from Fischer's chair.

  • 3 months ago

    LoverSpy

    cool ! thnx for this article .

  • 3 months ago

    Akatsuki64

    Where there's a will there's a way.

  • 3 months ago

    NM IgnitionOnBoard

    Thanks!

  • 3 months ago

    Eternal_Patzer

    Jesse - To post a playable game --

    1. Click the chessboard icon at the top of the text box

    2. Click "Game or squence of moves"

    3. Click "Use a pgn file"

    4. Paste the pgn into the text box

    5. Click "continue" 

    6. If everything looks OK, click "Insert"

  • 3 months ago

    NM IgnitionOnBoard

    @yuresystem

    Thanks for posting the game in replayable format. How do you do this?

  • 3 months ago

    yureesystem

    I like the last part in your article, I agree if your will to win is there you give your opponent a tougher game.

  • 3 months ago

    Hellllbender

    There's nothing more important than the will to win, in any game. In the following really old game, white had the rook-queen battery contructed for a long time while I delivered continuous checks trying to reel the white king in. I won 4 moves after the position in the picture. It was pretty much only the will to win which kept me going in a situation where I was only one move away from being mated.

     

     
     
  • 3 months ago

    Vendetta14

    Here, Here "Bunny_Slippers " Wink

  • 3 months ago

    CM Iamwell

    A thoughtful article on chess psychology in my opinion. 

  • 3 months ago

    Vendetta14

    Excellent article, I feel it's an important and over looked part of chess training. I'd like to know more information on this subject matter.  Thanks "NM"

  • 3 months ago

    Elubas

    9 moves isn't exactly a long time to know if your opponent wants to win or not. If my opponent wants to win I just try to make sure he doesn't. I generally agree with you on this, but let's not pretend the will to win is as good as magic.

  • 3 months ago

    Bunny_Slippers_

    I find too many people obsess about their rating number and worry about playing someone rated higher too much. Often it can be a good thing to come in lower rated; the opponent will possibly underestimate you. Remember: you both must play using the same rules, the opponent has no  advantage before the game starts unless your lack of confidence kicks in and you assume that you will lose the game before it even happens. At the same time, this player has some skills, you should respect them, but sometimes their overconfidence will make for sloppy play and you can stick it to them (it's nice when they start sweating). 

    I was in a tournament last year and my OTB rating was about 1490, I ended up playing a 2150 and a 1750 player and getting draws from them both; I was quite pleased with those results and I had that goal of drawing in mind before each of the games, I knew they would be tough cookies to play. But, hey, why not some other result than a loss? We shouldn't think it's inevitable. If they want to win, I'm not going to lay down and get run over. They are going to have to give me their A game (which probably would have won), but their B or C game only showed up, I'm going to give it what I have and a draw against those guys was a good result. You have to want it. And forget about the stupid rating number, just play the game.

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