Tilt and being mentally prepared to play chess

Jan 5, 2011, 9:39 AM |

In poker, a player is said to be on "tilt" when he is begins to react emotionally and stops thinking clearly. It usually happens after a tough loss. I've found in poker that wins and loses come in streaks. The reason is completely psychological. When you win you continue to think clearly and play well. You forget the occasional tough beat, and don't let it bother you. But when a loss affects you emotionally, you stop thinking as clearly, and you begin to make mistakes and lose more and fall into a downward spiral. Statistically there is absolutely no basis for win/loss streaks. But because humans are emotional creatures and not machines, win/loss streaks are very real.

Tilt applies to chess as well. It can happen after you make a blunder or even after you opponent blunders. You stop thinking, and emotions take over. Listen to your internal dialog. If you mind is saying things like..."well I just threw this game away" or "wow, he just blundered. I'm going to win a piece and this game will be easy. I really thought he would be better than this"...you are on tilt and you are about to blunder. Playing chess to the best of your ability requires 100% focus from you. If you are entertaining internal dialog that is not related to finding and playing the very best move, you are not playing at your top strength. I've just realized that I make too many moves when I'm on "tilt." My goal for the future is to not move until my mind is completely focused on the position at hand. I always analyze my games afterwards with Rybka. A useful goal is to always try to find the move that Rybka would play or choose a line that Rybka says is strong. This applies if you are easily winning, the position is a theoretical draw, or if you are defending a theoretically lost position. My new years resolution is to never again just push wood. I will play the best move I can find, or I will get up and do something else.

There's a lot to admire about Rybka. It will never mate you in 5 if it can mate you in 4. If Rybka is hopelessly lost, it will do everything it can to prolong the game just one more move. Rybka is absolutely brutal in victory and fights to its last breath in defeat. This is the way and the only way to play chess.