Mastering Your Emotions

  • WGM Natalia_Pogonina
  • | Aug 2, 2011

At this point this will be the final article of this little cycle on psychology in chess, but I will return to that topic in the future. After all, chess psychology is a very large field, and one of almost universal interest. Today we are going to talk about the important issue of keeping your emotions under control before the game.

People say many games are lost before they are started. Some players act as if they are doomed. All the events of our life are interconnected, even if they seem to be unrelated. For example, if you were in a bad mood before the game for some reason, or someone frustrated you or made you nervous, then even if you switch back to your normal psychological shape before the game, there is still a fair chance of a mistake caused by the emotional imbalance. Have you ever looked into the eyes of the players before the tournament? Sometimes it’s an easy way to predict how each will fare. During the event the situation might change (especially when the competition takes a lot of time), a person might start looking more confident, but still lose. When you allow fear and other negative emotions dwell in you before the game, you are preparing yourself for the upcoming mistakes. Of course, this can be mitigated.

If you find out the reasons of your psychological problems and eliminate them before the game, the mistake might not happen. However, this is playing with fire. It’s better to deal with your psychology well in advance. This holds for chess, as well as for many other activities. When you know that everything in life is interconnected, and your negative emotions won’t go anywhere, you will be thinking twice before reacting that way.

Our performance is strongly affected by emotions. Here and there we hear that one shouldn’t be disappointed after a loss. This is correct, but it’s much harder to follow the advice than to offer it. If a loss stirs negative emotions inside you, they will probably affect the next game, thus decreasing your chances for success. Surprisingly, euphoria is also harmful. Sometimes people are so happy celebrating a win, the next day they don’t have enough energy to fight on. Overreacting in the case of losses or victories is the wrong way to go. One should be delighted in a reserved way about wins, and treat losses as a means of improving in chess and stepping stones to future victories. Naturally, I am not trying to imply that one should become an emotionless robot. It’s about the golden middle and being the master of your emotions.  

The following game was played at the ’11 Polugaevsky Memorial. Before that, in round 2, I drew a lower-rated player with White, and had a worse position during the match. This did not inspire any negative emotions in me. I became more concentrated and won the next game without any troublesome adventures.


White misplayed the opening, so I got a comfortable position. At some point my opponent should have sacrificed a pawn, but when he failed to do so, his position became really bad. The game was decided by Black’s strong center and the advantage in the mobility of the pieces.


  • 3 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    Let’s stay in touch on social networks! Here are my official accounts:

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  • 5 years ago


    Thank you for the great article

  • 5 years ago


    Psychology is a HUGE part of Chess, as it is in any sport or competition - and no one likes to be intimidated. One cannot play a good game if his/her nerves are rattled from fear of imtimidation. 

    I agree with the statement in the article, "...many games are lost before they are started." After all, who hasn't heard of a fair player (or team), on his/her best day, defeating a great player (or team) on his/her worst day? A positive frame of mind is vital to Chess success. If you lose,  then go back and use this game as a tool to learn, not as a chance to gripe. Even World Champions lose a game now and then. You think they don't go back and analyze the game(s) to see where they went wrong? Griping will not help you win games; learning from your mistakes will.

    I have always said that if you are not 110% focused on the game at hand before you even sit down, then to find something else to do. Of course, this is not so easily done during a live tournament...

    Lastly, a great article. Keep them coming! :)

  • 5 years ago


    Just a wonderful article, Ms. Pogonina. Very well written and the points gracefully made.

  • 5 years ago


    You're so pretty!

  • 5 years ago


    Thanks for sharing! Impressive win against someone 200 points below yourself.

  • 5 years ago



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  • 5 years ago


    For Gepy,

    easy, c5

  • 5 years ago


    I won many games after losing a figurine. In fact in turns out when you have a solid position/Initiative even such a loss won`t keep you from winning if you don`t lose your confidence and line.

  • 5 years ago


    Before that I lost out against a higher-rated player with White. This did not inspire any negative emotions in me. I became more concentrated and won the next game - but how?

  • 5 years ago


  • 5 years ago


    Nice article as usual. I actually find chess has helped me control my emotions rather than the other way around. You can only play only one move at a time and got to wait for your opponent to respond. Sometimes the stress is too great, but yet you got to stay calm and focussed. All this has helped me in real life.

    I like your annotations to games where you play opponents 200+ points lower than you. I learn a lot more reading those games than from your other games where you play evenly matched opponents.

  • 5 years ago


    The psychology is very simple the harder you work the luckier you become

    Fail to prepare prepare to fail.

  • 5 years ago


    Thanks, this really helps. I've never considered emotions a component on win/lose chances before.

  • 5 years ago


    i think you can compare your view of this matter with the way a professional athlete reacts after a win or loss. after a win the athlete will say i don't want to get too up, after a loss, don't want to get too down, just want to focus on becoming a better player. thanyou Natalia for your insight into the way we should look at our emotions in a rational way

  • 5 years ago


    Great article.=) Thanks WGM Natalia!


    As for me, when I just focus on playing the best moves and enjoy the opportunity to play chess, I usually end up doing quite well. =)

  • 5 years ago


    If you are a chess player and you know your game aswell as anyone only way your going to lose to your opponent is due to your form coming into the game or your mood which cannot be controlled.

    "May be if you go into the game think of your longest winning streak it might help u be confident to recreate it or surpass it or listen to nice melody or music which makes you inspired"

    Its all about being fresh and willing to give 100% percent of your game.

  • 5 years ago


    excellent article Natalia Smile

  • 5 years ago




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