Psychology, Nerves and Confidence in Chess

FM TheDragon2000
Feb 23, 2015, 11:12 AM |
Everyone knows that psychology is a massive part of chess. Nerves affect almost all players, although it can have a bigger influence on some than others. Obviously, this is natural and is difficult to prevent. Personally, I get nervous before the game and occasionally during the opening stages, but then nerves go away and I simply focus on the game. This is different for everyone. 

Nerves can be a good thing. It often means that you care about the result and that you want to win, but if you get too nervous it can distract you from playing good chess. Below are a few tips which can help control your nerves and help you concentrate on the game:
  1. Do not get too caught up the result. This does not mean that you should not want to win, because you should. The point is that thinking about the result while playing will prevent you from concentrating on making good moves. Get thoughts of the result out of your mind and focus on the game. If you do this, the results will come by themselves.
  2. Go for occasional walks around the playing hall and maybe take a glance at other games. Thinking too hard about the game at one time can have a negative affect on your play. Fatigue can set in and you might lose a sense of reality. Get up, walk around and take a breather. When you get back to the board you can be fresh and concentrate harder than before.
  3. Remember that life goes on, irrespective of the result. Sometimes chess players (including myself) get so immersed in the game that they forget losing is not the end of the world. 
  4. Try listening to music before the game. Admittedly, this is highly subjective and depends on the individual. I know certain chess players who enjoy listening to music before the game to get themselves excited and confident. I have tried it and it certainly makes me very determined to win. The downside is that having a song stuck in your head can completely destroy your concentration. So: use at your own risk.
  5. Inspire yourself by looking at games that you have won. I actually use this quite a bit. It gives me a huge boost in determination which certainly helps my play. Using it after a disappointing loss to regain confidence is probably the best way to use it.
  6. Stay as fit as possible, while eating and sleeping well. I think that this is a vital and often underestimated piece of chess advice. Chess players tend to focus on their knowledge and playing skills, often forgetting the practical side of chess. Feeling fresh, healthy and well-rested can be a huge confidence-booster. Not to mention that in long games, fitness can determine how long you can focus without fatigue setting in.

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