How to Use Psychology
Edited by AntheaC, Harri, Teresa, Flickety and 2 others
The great thing about playing chess against a human as opposed to a computer is the psychological factor. When analyzing why you lost a game, (also called "doing a post mortem") a lot of what you learn is as much about self knowledge as chess knowledge. And you can use this to your advantage when you play, knowing that your opponent is subject to many of those same things, like irrational fears, over-confidence, lack of focus, and so on.
1"Know thyself." This famous Latin aphorism is as true in chess as in life. In fact, the truth you learn about yourself through examining your score sheet after a game and asking yourself, "What on earth was I thinking?" and actually trying to answer the question will give you insights into your character defects on and off the board.
- Did you refuse to accept a draw against a lower rated player, only to lose instead? Pride goes before the fall.
- Did you get overconfident and stop paying attention, only to lose your queen?
- Did you become needlessly afraid and react to threats that weren't there?
- Were you too lazy to calculate? Answer these questions as well as you can as you go through your score sheet, and make sure you add these to your overall understanding of your chess mistakes.
2Now that you understand your own mind better,turn that laser-like understanding on your opponent.If you're really good at reading people, you can even try to use what you observe. But in general, this means taking advantage of flaws we all have. Laziness. No-one wants to work harder than they need to. So try to make your threats invisible.
- A good example of hiding your threats is to make sure that when your opponent asks himself, "Why did he move there?" he has an easy answer available. Good threats are moves that answer threats, and make threats of their own. "Why did he move his bishop there? Oh, to defend the knight that I'm attacking." And many a player will stop right there, satisfied that he has answered the question, and too lazy to bother asking whether there could be another reason. The stronger the player, the harder they will work.
3Use three threats in a row.Chess coach and Life Master Brian Wall used to say that Patzers (or weak chess players) collapse after three threats in a row. Three threats, and they get tired of being on the defense, and begin to giving up psychologically. It works like magic. There's something about the number three.
4Take ten moves to do what you could do in two.This makes your opponent begin to lose his caution. He finds no meaning in your last six moves, and gives up looking. Make sure these meaningless moves are done in safe positions and are not giving him the opportunity to create problems for you.
5Surprise your opponent.Sometimes even an unsound piece sacrifice can win just due to the shock value. That doesn't mean you should make unsound sacrifices, but one of the reasons overly aggressive players often win is that they have succeeded in intimidating their opponents and rattling them into unsound defense. Keep in mind that this in particular is also true in life. People bluster and act intimidating, refuse to believe them. Remain objective.
6Use fake outs over the board.This includes not looking at the part of the board you're actually thinking about, pretending to concentrate when your opponent has forgotten to hit the clock so that he doesn't notice his time running, as a few examples of this kind of cheap bluffing. In a game as intense as chess sometimes we can be affected by unconscious clues and gestures.
7Older players tend to rely on their knowledge of positional chess and they play a tough opening and a tough ending.If you play a closed positional/space game they will defeat you easily. Try and open up the position and get them into a game that is all "Tactics" because this is where they break down and make mistakes in calculations or they just "miss" seeing a few threats.
8If you are a very young player, you will not be able to play the ending very well so play gambits where you sacrifice a pawn to get an attack and this usually decides the game long before the ending.