Rating Obsession, Chess Depression

Sep 2, 2015, 6:43 AM |

For the past two years I have been obsessed with 4 digits. A rating. A number. That obsession has lead me to become totally dissatisfied with the game of chess and all of the beauties of this wonderful game. Like many, I strived to improve my rating by playing more and studying more. For some time in those two years I made significant improvements in my rating, going from 1200 to 1400 to 1500+. But it was this sudden captivation with ratings that diminished my interest in chess. Every game felt like a job. "I have to get to 1600 and then 1700 and then 1800", "I can't lose this game", were constant mantras in my head. I could not escape this trap. And so for the past two years I feared losing more than anything else because it meant that I was not going to be a good chess player. I could not control my sense of loss. 

My addiction to chess ratings and comparing myself to others lead to an inability to cope with games where I made mistakes, a completely natural part of chess that even GM's make, even world champions!

I remember a tournament which I had played in where I scored 3/6. It was a brilliant experience. But the nagging continued. "I can't believe I made such a ridiculous move", "why did I play that". And for many months after this tournament I couldn't forget the losses. I couldn't forget the moves. I couldn't forget the memories. 

Chess became utterly miserable. Something that once was my all time passion, a game where all my dreams were encapsuled, became the worst thing I ever had in my life. I hated chess. 

It was during this time in my life where I also suffered depression for long days and weeks and months. My negative thinking throughout my life poured over into my chess. I felt I was being completely taken over. I felt depression had taken over all hope of me becoming a player over 2000. With an unfruitful future, I thought that all this chess studying and all this practising was coming to nothing but uselessness. I felt angry that I wasted time on chess when I could've been working harder at school furthering my caeer prospects. My ultime fear was that I wasn't going to be somebody in chess or in life.

But it all changed when I saw life differently.

During the last couple of months I've stopped being so obessed with ratings. I started to just not care anymore. There was no point in being sad about my failures in chess, or the moves I could've made. It was time to forget that attitude (well at least partly). I recalled the days when I first learnt the game of chess and how enthusiastic I was at every game. I wanted that back. And I was going to get it. 

And I still am.

Yes I still have a compulsion to look at my ratings, but losing is not a problem. I have learnt that in my losses I learn more than in anything else. I make my greatest improvements by analysing my losses. I become emotionally stronger in coping with setbacks. 

And so, for the future I feel no more burden on me to be a great player, or to be a master, or to have a 2000 rating. I strive to play and to not be held back by my past mistakes. I want to play for the happiness that chess brings. The chess demons, so to speak, will no longer hinder me.