Chess and High Performance States
In the wealth of caissic literature, there appears to be little written on the accessing of high-performance resource states to improve our chess. As a PhD and a hypnotist, the unconscious mind is where I work and play, and with this in mind, I began looking at alternative ways of improving my game.
Back in the 1980's I belonged to a very strong local chess club. I put in my time on the various openings and learned as many main lines as I could. I worked on my endgame too, and managed to get my rating up to the mid to high 1800s. There I stalled. I played an old Novag chess computer to improve my tactical play, but mostly just got my butt kicked. One night I was at home, playing against a much better opponent, while struggling with a sudden fever that subsequently became a nasty influenza. My opponent was rated 2265 and I ventured a Kings Indian Attack, which I'd just been studying. To my amazement, my fever was concomitant with a surprising mental speed and clarity. I wound up winning that game, to my and my opponent's surprise. Clearly, I had the ability to reason and calculate well enough; at least when I was febrile!
With this in mind, and 15 years later, I've been seeking to improve my game through alternative and unorthodox methods. Apart from the typical methods: hyper-oxygenation of the brain through deep breathing and fitness, supplements like caffeine, Gingko Biloba, etc., I began working directly with the unconscious through techniques developed by Dr. John Grinder in his NLP New Code. (Check out my website www.mikemandelhypnosis.com for more on this) Consciously, we're processing about 7 bits of information per second, but unconsciously, millions if not billions, including heart valve synchronization, thyroxin production, blink reflex, etc. If we are able to access the wealth of the unconscious, in theory at least, our games should improve. To this end, through deep breathing and various New Code interventions, I put myself in high performance states before playing the Grand Game. I also wear a titanium Q-Link which appears to create a calm and clear mental state, and insulates me from electromagnetic stress. I burn incense for olfactory stimulation, and use music extensively to create the right mental attitude. I started with Glenn Gould playing Bach, but have found that AC/DC puts me in a better state for chess. (Even Bobby Fischer would listen to rock music while playing casual games.)
On top of this, I cut my repertoire down to a few choice openings that I could learn, but that most opponents would probably be unfamiliar with, and have to think about. I dropped the Spanish, English and French completely, as too recondite for my time commitment. I focused almost entirely on the 19th century Romantic Era for my material, although I kept the Sicilian and Colle System / Stonewall as back-up openings that I knew well enough to feel pretty confident.
As Black: Albin Counter Gambit and Latvian Gambit (the old Greco-Counter Gambit)
As White: King's Gambit, Blackmar-Diemer Gambit and against the Sicilian, the Wing Gambit, to take my opponent out of the more obvious lines and attempt to make him or her play "my game". I saturated myself with these ancient, venerable (and "unsound") openings, playing many hundreds of games in the usual lines that develop. I needed to give my unconscious mind the schema to make rapid calculations below the surface of awareness. The idea was to play by pattern recognition.
Another difference that's had a profound affect for me is to simply trust the unconscious mind. Addition is a conscious process, but multiplication is unconscious, and I think that chess calculations are largely multiplicative. To this end, I've begun to listen to unconscious promptings, when certain moves just "feel right". This saves a lot of calculating with the slower and less resourceful conscious mind. We've all had occasions when we make a move that's really clever and knew it was strong and sound as soon as we let go of the piece, although the processing was entirely unconscious.
So what am I saying here? Should we just move whatever feels right and to hell with calculation? Of course not. But through the judicious practice of creating and maintaining resourceful states, opening preparation through saturation in a few specialized, unusual lines, combined with recognition of unconscious promptings, we should be able to kick our games up a notch or two...
I'm currenly running in the 1900s which is the best I've ever achieved. Will I stay there for long, or slide back down? Who knows...? The theoretical foundation may be flawed. The other day I blundered away a Queen...But for now at least, it appears to be working...