Tournaments and Sportsmanship
A few days ago, I won my first Bullet tournament (here on chess.com of course)! Now, this is not really a huge accomplishment, considering that I play bullet at the <1000 level, but I wanted to share the story and the lesson I learned with you. Hopefully it will be useful, or even inspiring!
Over the past couple months, I began venturing into bullet tourneys. I won 3rd and 2nd place medals in a couple, and I began really wanting to win 1st place in one. But over the last few weeks my performance began to decline. In virtually every tourney, I came in dead last. After each one, I felt angry--partly at myself. Why? I have a habit of hanging pieces, especially my queen. It was getting the better of me. This also led me to be angry at my opponents: I felt I was better than them, but they got lucky by my blunders.
I almost convinced myself that I should take a break from bullet, but I decided to play one more tourney. I really wanted to win! I tried to get into the mindset, trying to convince myself that I'm perfectly capable of winning. First game, I actually think I'm winning! But then--I hung my queen, again. I was not happy. It didn't take long before I lost. I was ticked off--very mad at my opponent.
Very suddenly, I felt like I needed to tell my opponent, "Good game." This was quite a strange feeling, as I never contact my opponent--I just move on to the next game. But I couldn't shake the feeling, so I said it: "Good game."
He responded with a simple "good game" as well. Somehow, I felt a bit better. Didn't have time to think about it though, as my next game started immediately.
Game 2: Due to my experience moments before, I was actually no longer thinking about winning the tourney. I had incredible focus on the game, it seemed. It was certainly not a perfect game, but for the first time in a long time, I didn't hang any pieces. Before I knew it, it was over--I won the game! I was very happy, but I congratulated my opponent yet again: "Good game."
Rounds 3 and 4 continued on--more wins! My focus was excellent, no hung pieces, and I always remembered to congratulate my opponent. I was so happy, that oddly enough I still wasn't thinking about winning!
Next round, opponent was disconnected. I was actually sad! I felt bad taking rating points without playing a good game first.
Final round: yet another win! Congratulated my opponent, and then looked at the scoreboard. I couldn't believe my eyes! I had secured 1st place!! And my rating went up 40 points too!
What lesson did I learn? Well, how good you are at chess is not the only factor in tournament performance. In an internet tourney, it's easy to forget that there's a human being on the other side of the screen. But you can't forget! Don't just play to win--play for fun, and play to learn! If your opponent wins, congratulate them! They deserve the win after all. If they lose, congratulate them for that too. They gave their all, and that's what counts.
Not only is it good manners to congratulate your opponent, it can also be beneficial to your own play. When you only focus on winning the tourney, or even the game, your mind is not actually on the game. But congratulating your opponent--appreciating every game--puts you in a mindset of peace, and allows you to enjoy yourself! The sharp sense of competition can be replaced with deep thought and focus, and a truly good game! You might see significant improvement to your play if you're in the right mindset.
But above all, never think your opponent doesn't deserve the win. If you blundered, it's not true that you're "a better player than that," or that "they got lucky." If you blundered, you aren't as good as you think! And if they won, they still had to convert that win!
To sum up, be a good sport. Remember you're playing a person, and congratulate your opponent, win or lose. Every game is a good game if you're both good sports having fun. And who knows--with that mindset maybe you'll win your next tournament too!
Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments!