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The Stare

  • Last updated on 4/13/13, 2:52 PM.

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In chess, as in other games that promote gamesmanship, "The Stare" is a common tactic used by players to intimidate, annoy, confuse and otherwise put an opponant out of his or her comfort zone. It is generally done when a player is trying to think, and his clock is winding down, his opponant will stare directly into the eyes of his opponant.

Mikhail Tal the Eighth World Chess Champion was famous for his intimidating stare. People suggested his stare was hypnotic and that in this way the "Magician from Riga" was enchanting his opponants and lulling them into losing. Coupled with his attacking genius and fantastic calculating ability, Tal was certainly very fearsome on the board, and in this way played "the man" as well as the board. Pal Benko famously tried to wear glasses during a game versus Tal to avoid his gaze.

See video here

The stare can also be used to good effect BEFORE the start of the game, as an intimidation tactic. In general the stare is looked down upon, but rules prohibiting are hard to enforce or non-existant in most tournaments.

In Dominic Lawson's esteemed "The Inner Game" regarding GM's Nigel Short and Garry Kasparov's World Championship Match the GM Short describes in detail the "stares" of Kasparov and Karpov and supports the claim that this is a common tactic even at the highest levels of chess, and that strong players even have variations on how they do it.


  • 14 months ago · Quote · #1


    I suppose you can stop the clock and approach the TD or arbiter if your opponent does that, as it falls under the definition of "bothering the opponent" which is prohibited by FIDE laws (I don't remember which clause). 

    I once had a guy do this to me in a G10 tournament, where I was going down a piece and had to figure a way to go out of it, using 4-5 minutes (!!!) of my time. 

    The good news is that I got him beat with a spectacular rook sacrifice and mating attack. He received quite a talking-to from me after the game.

    I wanted to include the game here with his full name, but that would be a bit too much even for such nasty behavior. I trust and hope that he learned his lesson. 

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