How Chess Improved My...Rock Climbing??? Chess Psychology: A Response to IM Silman and Success Story
For me, improvement always comes when I am willing to open my mind to new ideas from those who are more masterful at the skill than I, and learn from mistakes. Yes, it could be defined as stubbornness as an ego can get in the way of accepting the new ideas and ask for help. That was me three months ago. However, as you take the first step to opening your mind, you will find that it will become easier and easier to seek out how to improve and ask for advice. Also, who knows... Maybe the things you learn could apply to other aspects in your life.
Three months ago I started playing chess pretty seriously. Go to my profile and you might learn that I am not a strong player. It has taken lots of practice to get me where I am. But I love the game. Not only as a fun past time, it helps get the brain juices flowing, and makes for fantastic conversation with friends. What I didn't know is that the skills from chess would leak over into real world.
An average weekend starts out for me like this. Attempt to be in bed early Friday night. Haha it doesn't always work well as I am contemplating the next days activities. Be up by seven AM, have breakfast, meet up with friends by 7:30, start the drive to wherever we decide to climb followed by arriving at the crag. Then begins the long hike to the wall. Everything it is a matter of nutrition and maintaining a solid mental state. There are a few different styles of rock climbing, to list a few...Top Roping, lead Climbing, traditional climbing, aid climbing, ice climbing, and Alpine climbing. I could go into the details of each type, but let's stick with lead climbing and how the climbing ties in with chess, and the psychology of both. **Do not use this as a learning aide for climbing. Climbing of any sort can lead to serious injury, or death without the proper training and/or equipment. I am not liable for anyone who reads this and gets hurt.**Ever read a chess article with a warning lable??? Haha! Anyways... Lead climbing is where you are attached to a rope, free solo up to the point where either you hook some climbing gear into a bolt in the rock, or place a piece of gear into the rock for fall protection. After that point you are typically safe. However, a fall results in falling twice the distance between you and that last piece of protection, plus any other slack in the system. In the back of your mind, you are hoping that none of your gear fails in the event of a fall and that you just land in space. After that, the mental game is on. You need to be 100% mentally alert as you calculate how far you would fall once you climb past that protection, where the next protection will be, figure out where the holds are, (Which gets harder with the grade of the climb as they get smaller, movement becomes bigger, and more power is required) hope that your belayer will catch you, and calculate falling distances. Hopefully not let them sink in too much and play with your thoughts. It is very common to sometimes climb 15-20 feet past your bolt to your next protection. 20 feet past a bolt could result in a 40+ foot fall. Hopefully cleanly onto your rope. Not the ground. If you are with competant climbers, and have the proper gear, hitting the ground rarely happens. Needless to say, there are no room for mistakes.
Now on to the Chess psychology. When I started playing chess seriously again, I scoured the internet for any and all information I could find. I ran across an article sharing the points IM Silman had made in his book "How to Reasses your Chess" and immediately put them into action. I wish I could recommend the book as a buy. I still need a copy myself! But back on topic, it took a while counteract negative thoughts. Especially when I was still new to learning tactics, and openings. I was getting beat consistantly as I attempted experimenting with openings. But everything started improving. Slowly at first, but as soon as it caught on, I started going on winning streaks. Once the success was experienced, more success had breeded in itself. I am not saying I am the best in the world. I'm not. But practicing these ideas had taken my game from nothing, to something. Tactics started improving, and endgames became very short. As it became a habit to remove any negative thought from what I was doing, I found myself out climbing one day using my entire strategy for chess, on the wall. It wasn't hard before I had learned to immediately dismiss negative thoughts like: "I AM CLIMBING. TIME TO GET SCARED" or the classic "I am too short to make those moves" or "OH MY WORDS I AM SO FAR OFF THE GROUND AND I CAN'T EVEN SEE MY LAST PIECE. THIS COULD BE A 40 FOOT FALL". With immediate positive thoughts of "This will be a good climb, let's take it move by move" Or "I always find a way to get around the section I feel too short for" and also "I am far from the gear, but I don't place it unless I am confident it will hold, and I won't hit the ground" I soon found myself walking up to the wall, figuring out what opening sequence to use. Looking to see where the holds are, where to place the protection. As I was climbing, have the confidence to pull the moves blocking out any negative thought unless it was life threatening, (No more being scared of a long fall if it was safe) learn how to overcome being a short guy in a tall mans sport. Now I was climbing efficiantly and thoughtfully. Working out the puzzles that make climbing an amazing sport. Sometimes what looks like a hold from the ground...Isn't...And you have to learn how to get around it. But it was easier to climb longer distances, because my thoughts were focused on how to make the moves better to save energy. Next thing I knew, I am climbing at a difficulty that (Supposedly) only 5% of climbers can achieve. Everything is now just a matter of training to get stronger.
With all of that said, the next time you do an activity you enjoy, ask yourself this...Could chess be affecting your performance in said activity? It could increase your enjoyment of Chess and motivate you to go further and learn more. I am just happy that I took the first step of having a learning mindset and found the tips from IM Silman. You are right. But right about more than what just applies to chess. Thank you! And thanks to anyone who reads this! Anyone else have success stories? Feel free to share! They definitely want to be heard! I hope everyone enjoys and can take something away from this! As always! I am always open to any recommendations to improve my game. Thanks again!
PEACE! And a shout out to FilipSS. You might not know, but you were a big help!