Chess in the Zone - The Brain Nourishing Environment

Chess in the Zone - The Brain Nourishing Environment

Mar 10, 2010, 12:34 PM |

I write a lot of nonsense in these blogs; the Jack o' Lantern Attack being an excellent example of the sort of inane and hilarious (to me) writing I'm capable of. Nevertheless, I want to offer some real insights here, along the lines of the Chess and High Performance States blog I wrote a while back. Back in the 1990's I had a private pratice in Toronto, Canada. Although I did a lot of remedial work; i.e., fixing problems, I also did quite a bit of generative work; making good things even better. This included working with the North Toronto Masters Swim Club and some of their incredible athletes. I worked with police cadets too, endeavoring to pass their physical fitness tests for the Ontario Police College. So high performance states and their access became something of a specialty.

All this to say, I have found a genuine correlation between an engineered state of mind and the ability to play chess at my best. When I have neglected to apply the methodologies I list below, my game falls in quality and blunders return; a couple of times, I gave my queen away through inattention. On the other hand, although I don't believe for a moment I'll ever reach master strength - it's just too late in my life for that - by judicious application of a number of strategies, I've gotten my blitz rating up to the mid 1900s. This is very high for me, as I typically played at around 1800 at my very best. As a psychotherapist and lecturer, I began thinking a while back, of ways to create and access high performance states; one method being self-hypnosis with added NLP New Code - more info on my website:

So here's the current protocol I've employed to create a brain nourishing environment:

  • Playing at night - I'm not a morning person, and by playing at night I work with my circadian rhythms.
  • Olfactory stimulation - The olfactory sense is the express train to the brain, and the only sense whereby we apprehend the world directly; the scent particles reaching the limbic system. I burn incense that I like.
  • Music to stimulate the right brain and cause more whole-brain thinking and transhemispheric communication. I started with Bach and Mozart, but surprisingly found that AC/DC puts me in a better state.
  • Saturation - Learning the patterns of a few killer openings that are unfamiliar to most players and then playing them over and over and over and over again...
  • Relying on the unconscious mind by playing moves that "feel" right. Naturally, we still have to calculate, but this approach offers many candidate moves to begin working from.
  • Supplements - B Vitamin complex and ginseng as well as gingko biloba to help oxygenate the brain, and Omega 3 EFA rich pharmaceutical grade fish oil.
  • EFT - Meridian based psychotherapy - Erasing the effects of badly played games and building confidence by tapping on acupuncture meridians in the EFT algorhythm immediately after blunders occur. (check out for more free info on this method)
  • Q-Link - Electromagnetic insulation and anti-stress, producing mental clarity through the patented Q-Link to support my biofield. (Google Q-Link...)
  • Proper attitude. It's only a game! Adopting this attitude has helped immeasurably. I'm still competitive, but don't care if I lose because nothing happens.
  • Not playing after eating! Digestion requires a huge amount of energy and drains blood to the stomach and small intestines.

I'm always on the lookout for new methods, but for now, these appear to be working. Playing chess last night I was more in the zone than at any other time in my life. I was typing a virtual comedy routine to one opponent as I decimated his position. To be fair, he was rated well-below me, but I was in a very focused state and played one of my best and most bizarre games.

I'd love to hear from any of you and find out what puts you in the zone...

Dr. Mike