The Huge Importance Of Chess Psychology

The Huge Importance Of Chess Psychology

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I write quite a bit about chess psychology since it plays an enormous part of one’s results.

Fear of a higher-rated player, trusting a player’s move instead of challenging it, falling victim to the ubiquitous (and deadly) “I can’t” and “I have to” -- these things will rip your rating to shreds.

The simple fact is that a courageous player often has better results than another player who is timid. Mr. Timid might be somewhat superior in every area of the game, but the brave player will be more successful.

Here’s a game by the legendary Giulio Cesare Polerio (1550–1610), which not only shows that Polerio was a very poor player, but also shows how doubt and fear lead to one bad decision after another.



  • Don’t drink several bottles of alcohol before and during a game.


  • Don’t allow doubt and fear to scramble your brains.

Let’s give Polerio another chance:

Improve on Polerio's play:

Of course, nowadays grandmasters don’t run screaming from every little threat (“I have to defend”) or every little self-destructive dictate (“I can’t”). They know what needs to be done and they insist that they find a way to do it.

Here’s a case in point:

How would you play Black’s position?

These decisions are regularly made in positional and tactical situations. The following is all about tactics.

During the game I had to prepare myself for 18.Nxe7+ Qxe7 19.exd6, which looks scary since both the black queen and the c5-rook are hanging. In fact, it would be easy to reject 17...Rc5 and try something else. However, instead of freaking out, you need to stand by your convictions, only doing an about face if you have convinced yourself (after an honest assessment) that 18.Nxe7+ is simply too strong.

Is Black in trouble?

Our final puzzle features a dangerous position for White since Black’s pieces (the bishops in particular) are extremely active. Fearing the power of those bishops (for good reason!) White played 21.b4 “ordering” the bishop to vacate that powerful g1-a7 diagonal. A good idea, but does it work? Should Black accept that he “has to” move the bishop to safety, or is something better lurking behind the scenes?

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