Learning to Lose

Feb 29, 2008, 9:32 PM |

I always thought of myself smart kid. I thought chess was for smart people. So I expect to win a lot. Instead I lost.

I lost and lost and lost.

I tried to read chess books, but I didn't have the patience to work through all the variations of "Ng3 is better than Re1 because obviously 13. ...QxB and then 14. PXP" I have to work it out on a board, and then I seem always to wonder "but why not KXQ? THAT looks like a good move, too."

Instead I tried to discover general heuristics for playing chess. But there are so few of them. "Control the center", "don't move the pawns too much", "don't bring the queen out too early". There's only about ten or twelve, and I think I'm following them even when I lose.

Lose and lose and lose.

I played many thousands of games against the computer, since getting my first chess computer in 1979. It was many years before I won a single game at the lowest level. It's hard to play against the computer, because none of my psychological tactics work, and because I blunder. The computer never blunders. 

I seemed to lose partly because I couldn't resist attacking. I love the poetry of sacrifices. I'd hear sounds in my head of crashing and braying war horses while I took that pawn with my knight and then got took by the other pawn.

I love discover attacks and knight forks, except I am so often on the receiving end.

I've always been an intellectual, but I'm an ape at chess. So, I had to learn to lose.

I had to learn to enjoy losing. It's the only way I could stand to play.

This is the great life lesson I've had from chess: when I lose, I can feel good about playing a necessary and honorable part in the victory of my opponent. I simply identify with my opponent.

The great thing about chess.com is that I'm slowly getting better at chess. I'm working through Chess Mentor, and the Tactics Trainer. I'm seeing progress.

But I will not forget that lesson: if I love my opponent, I can lose a hard fought game with a smile.