Develop a Winning Mindset

Develop a Winning Mindset

spassky
Jun 9, 2009, 12:00 AM |
20 | For Beginners

By Bruce Till

You study. You play at the club.  You play on the internet.  You play against a chess computer. You play in tournaments.  You buy more books (maybe you even read some of them).  You try new openings.   You study endgames.  But your rating doesn't go up and you can only beat people around your rating.  You want to get better, make progress, but don't know how.  

I was there.   In a 5-round tournament, I was always the one with 3 or 3.5 points who finished just out of the money.  If there were 3 prizes, I came in fourth.  I was good, but not good enough.  I looked at my results to try to determine why this always happened.  What I found out is that I always had one disasterous game per tournament.  One game where I made one stupid move that threw away the game.  I had always written those off as "flukes" or "bad luck".   But I finally realized that I had a "fourth place mindset".  That is,  I thought of myself as good enough to play a game or two or three really well, but not 5 in a row.  That was only for the "good players" or the lucky ones, but not me.  I could be "near" the top of the leaderboard, not "on top".  I ALLOWED myself to lose a game or two. 

What I had to do was DECIDE not to do that.  DECIDE to play each game not error-free, but blunder-free, game-losing dumb move free.  DECIDE to make each move a non-losing move.  DECIDE to have the discipline on each and every move to check for blunders.  Once I did that, I scored 4.5 out of 5 and won the Maryland Amateur Championship, and having shown myself I could do it, I did it again the next year.  I also scored 5 out 6 (4 wins, 2 draws) to tie for first in the US Amateur Championship (lost the trophy on tiebreaks). 

The point is, I didn't dramatically improve my chess ability, I just changed my mindset from an also-ran to a winner.  Instead of watching the award ceremony and saying "those guys are good",  I DECIDED to become one of those guys.  I had players looking at ME now and saying to each other "Watch out. He's really good. He won this twice in a row." 

Now, I don't claim to be a Grandmaster who can point out any mistake in anyone's game at any level.  If you want that, go to any other chess website or get a chess program.  I have spent the last 30 years between Class A and Expert.  I can ABSOLUTELY help anyone rated below Class B.  I'll call these players "BB" or "Below B", but I would like you to think of "BB" as meaning "Better and Better", which is what you should DECIDE to become.

What I want to do is show you how to build confidence in yourself by improving your chess skills and your chess mindset.  DECIDE to play like a winner and think and feel like a winner.  DECIDE to be the dangerous player that no one wants to play, not the harmless punching bag that no one is afraid of.  DECIDE to play active, aggressive chess that makes other players nervous.  DECIDE to learn your openings inside out to give you confidence at the very start of every game.  DECIDE to hone your tactical ability so you are always looking for a knockout punch, even in the endgame.  DECIDE to call the shots in each game you play, not play defense.  DECIDE to be a winner!

Visit the Maryland Chess Association website, http://mdchess.com/ .

More from spassky
How Do You Win a Chess Tournament?

How Do You Win a Chess Tournament?

What are "weak squares"?

What are "weak squares"?