Empathy in Chess

Nov 6, 2007, 8:34 PM |

Sometimes when I go through games of Masters of old, or Grandmasters, I wonder why they make certain (awful) moves. I even think that I could have done better in that position! I wish Capablanca or Fischer had not lost any games. For the longest time, my only consolation and explanation was that Chess is only a game, and so even the best lose sometimes.

Today something happened. I was going through a game that Capa lost to Botvinnik in 1938 - AVRO Tournament. It was hard to find where Capa made a mistake. Was it grabbing the pawn on a4? or was it pushing the pawn to c4 to attack the Queen on d3? Anyway, I saw other chess players comments, and I ended up at a link where there was some history about the game. The article, by Edward Winter, mentions that Capa got sick during the game and had to go out, at one point, to wash his face with cold water...
This is not to take away from Botvinnik's brilliant play. What I took from it is that sometimes I forget that Chess greats were/are human, just like me. They go through the same things that I go through, may be worse. They may have left a sick child at home. They may be seeing a Doctor the next day for some tests whose results may be heart-breaking. They may be tired from having partied too much the day before. They may just be bored and uninterested in being focused for hours on end. Who knows? Oh, did I say, they may be sick?! It does not take a genius to figure out that other Chess players were/are human, but it has taken me a long time to consider this when I am evaluating their games. May be I am learning Chess empathy.