Be a Six-Sigma Chess Player

Be a Six-Sigma Chess Player

Dec 22, 2007, 12:46 PM |

The term “Six Sigma” comes from statistical quality control and refers to a quality process so robust that you can manufacture goods with only 3.4 defects per million, which is six standard deviations (sigma) from the average in a ‘normal’, or bell-shaped, distribution.  You can see a near-normal distribution on if you go here.

If your rating were 6 standard deviations from the average, you would appear out in that tiny tail region of the distribution and be in rare company indeed.  Of course, this works for both ends of the distribution, and with that in mind I will now proceed to explain how YOU can become a Six Sigma Chess Player Extraordinaire, giving you one rule per sigma.

Rule 1:  Excuse your defeats.

When you lose a game, even if your opponent was ahead by 3 full pieces and 2 pawns, inform him that you were overly tired, or sick, or distracted and not really paying attention to the game.  If you are clever, you can even make this statement sound sarcastic and condescending.  Everyone within earshot (or readshot, if you’re on the web) will understand the truth of your superiority.

Rule 2:  Always trust your instincts.

Because you are superior, there will never be any need for you to study.  Child prodigies only exist in math, music and chess.  Clearly, you fall into that last category.

Rule 3:  Talk trash at the club before you reach USCF 1000.     

If you’ve never visited a real chess club, I strongly recommend it.  Chess clubs are amazing, instructive and endlessly entertaining.  I particularly enjoy hearing the regulars talk trash to each other, and I’m not being facetious here.  The insults fly as fast as a game of speed chess, and the more creative you can be in talking trash, the more status you achieve.  Some of this banter can be extremely humorous, and while I do think I have a clever wit, I do not yet engage in this behavior because I feel I’m not a good enough chess player.  That need not stop you, however. Belittle your opponents.  Be like the 10 year old boys I once observed at the club who, in imitation of the adults they so look up to, began talking trash to each other even while making the most ludicrous, amateurish moves.

Rule 4:  Know that you are better than your rating.

We have all lost games that we knew just didn’t reflect our true playing strength.  This is a natural human instinct, in addition to a universal truth. 

Rule 5:  Confound your opponent with non-standard moves.

For example, check your opponent while placing a piece en prise and smirking loudly.  Your opponent will then fear that taking the piece will lead him into the abyss of some master-level trap, and move his King instead.  You can become extremely creative with this rule, if you only use your imagination.

Rule 6:  Mirror your opponent.

Even a six-sigma chess player may occasionally meet someone who he may suspect is a superior player.  If this happens to you, simply imitate his every move.  This can be particularly instructive in the opening. 

If you adhere to these rules, I can virtually guarantee that you will enter into that rarified region of the bell curve where few others will ever reach.  This will work not only in chess, but in your life as well.   Thus, choose your move carefully, in chess as in life.