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Mental Domination

Jeremy Silman Kiwango cha Wastani: 1755 Mchanganyiko

Much has been made of psychology in chess, but rarely have I seen anything about how one player can get inside his opponent's head and make him accept a false image of what's really happening on the chessboard. And, once you buy into your opponent's version of reality, defeat isn't far away. This course is all about making an opponent accept your "orders", while also showing you how you can avoid the same fate by not falling for this kind of subliminal illusion. How often does this kind of thing occur? All the time!

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  • Refusing to Be Obedient!

    Welcome! This is a first look at a subject I'll be exploring in my upcoming, completely rewritten, 4th Edition of How To Reassess Your Chess (all new examples, new chapters added, old ones tossed out). In our initial example, we will see a scenario that's all too common: a strong player makes a threatening move, his opponent sees the danger, glances at his confident opponent, and ... caves in mentally! This process happens at virtually all levels of the game, but it's almost ubiquitous in the amateur...
  • Don't Be A Reacting Robot

    Every (non-master) student I've ever had shares one trait with all the others: they all react to every threat, be it real or imagined. One might think that this problem would be easy to fix, but it's actually a hard "habit" to break; it turns out that reacting is usually done on a subconscious level -- you react without realizing you're reacting!
  • A Bolt From the Blue

    It's not uncommon to see one player wiping out the other throughout the game, only to relax (sure that the opponent will soon resign) and toss the well deserved victory out the window. To avoid this kind of practical and emotional catastrophe, a tournament competitor has to learn to stay vigilant until his opponent finally turns over his King. Easier said than done, of course, and when we add fatigue into the equation, then anything can happen. This "anything can happen" mentality is what creates...
  • Doing Your Thing, Not His

    There are countless examples where one side suffers an hallucination and the other player joins him in the illusion: He captures, you recapture. He says, "I'm gonna sacrifice!" and you prevent it. He insists that a particular endgame is lost for you, and you buy into his dementia and avoid it.
  • Demanding Play

    It's not uncommon to see one side possessing all the perks, while the other appears doomed to a long term grovel for a draw. At times you have to accept your inferiority and just hold on like grim death. But at other times you can spit on your opponent's superior airs by finding a way (any way!) to get your own share of the play.
  • Just Say No!

    The most interesting chess occurs when your opponent comes up with a very interesting idea which could easily make you dance his dance. And, faced with this, you rise to the occasion and find a continuation that allows your agenda, not his, to rule the position.
  • He Says No, You say Yes

    It's always interesting to see two strong players voicing a difference of opinion. One says, "You can't make that move." and the other says, "Sure I can!" Even when one or the other is proven wrong, it's instructive to see how neither was willing to back down and cave to the other's perspective.
  • Beyond the Mental Block

    Players often get so caught up with what is wrong with their position that they fail to see what is right with it. And, if the good things don't seem to really add up to much, they turn back to the negative and end up completely caving to their opponent's will. Since negatives are so easy to see, so easy to obsess on, and have such an enormous emotional impact, one becomes transfixed by them and thus blinded to everything else that's going on.
  • Branding The Board With Your Vision

    When a very strong player is facing a good but weaker opponent, he wants to create tense positions that give him the opportunity to outplay his opponent. They don't necessarily have to offer him a straightforward advantage -- a hard game with mutual chances will do quite nicely. The trick, of course, is finding a way to make this type of intensity appear on the board. Then, faced with the reality that the stronger player is leading the dance, the hapless opponent will often fold mentally or simply...
  • It's My Party and I'll Do What I Want To!

    Threats are a dime a dozen and, if a pawn goes after a Knight, Bishop, or Queen we know from experience that it's no big deal since we can simply move that attacked piece away. But don't fall into an auto-pilot rut and move the threatened piece away without first looking to see if anything better is waiting to be discovered.
  • Total Supplication

    Every professional player has won countless games by simply doing the usual stare-down (one idea vs. another) and watching as the opponent averts his gaze and goes running for the hills. Put simply: when you are facing this kind of idea vs. idea moment, you MUST push your own agenda since turning your back and sprinting off the board will lead to defeat each and every time.
  • Falling Over the Cliff

    Every player has experienced a position which seems miserable and/or lost, but it's your move and your job to somehow hang on. Resignation (a form of mental and emotional capitulation ... at times it can also be called "reality," while at other times it's more akin to suicide) is an option, but many a game has been resigned in drawn or even winning positions (I've done it myself!). Ultimately, your ability to break the spell that made you think things were hopeless will be based on clearing your...
  • Standing Up to the Bully

    As in all things, every large "fish" will find a bigger one in some other pond. Thus, you might rule at your local club, but there's always some other player in some other place that will bounce you off the walls if you dare cross swords with him. If you do end up face to face with a world beater, your only chance is to (metaphorically) laugh in his face and go right at him. Defending like a wuss and bleating, "Don't hurt me!" won't get you far at all.
  • I Love the Smell of Napalm on the Chessboard

    You're in a do or die battle. Your opponent has his stuff, and you have yours. As it so happens, your stuff is all about dynamics, and your opponent is making it clear that he's defended all his vulnerable points and you shouldn't even try and find anything "special" since all his bases are covered. Are you going to believe this deluded fool, or are you going to sing a Viking battle song and rip off his face?
  • Is It Really So?

    As humans, we more or less swim in the ocean of preconceived ideas. And, when it comes time to step beyond the "party line," we often fail. This same thing constantly happens in chess. We can enter a situation that seems to be made of a huge warning sign, and we automatically avoid it like the plague. This begs the question: When do the patterns that guide us and make up a large part of our chess strength cease to be our friends and instead become serious obstacles?
  • Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun

    When an opponent threatens to gobble up one of your pieces, it creates an immediate "you can't take my stuff" response. Thus, you will either block the attack, take the attacker, or run for the hills! However, at times the best way to deal with a threat to one of your guys is to look down the barrel of that gun and, oh so calmly, show him your own weapon.
  • The Silent Consensus

    When a player looks at a position to see what his opponent can do, he often internalizes a checklist where he says, "After I make that move, he can't do that, he can't do that, and he can't do that." Oddly, the other player is also aware of that checklist and, quite often, he agrees! Thus, a silent consensus is formed with both players agreeing on what can and cannot be done. But, what if you refuse to go along with the program? What if you try as hard as you can to make the impossible possible?
  • Expanding Your Perception

    It's long been well known that humans see very little of what's actually going on around them. In fact, many things are completely invisible simply because the human mind has preconceived ideas about what is and isn't possible. This same kind of blindness is often seen on the chessboard, where both sides buy into the same insane illusion, or where the supposed forced nature of your reply turns out to not be forced at all.
  • Laughing At The Impossible

    When a player has a game "iced" because of a long term (static) plus (like material), it's very important that he take care to avoid tricks. In fact, usually one wants to avoid adventures altogether since they run the risk of something unforeseen hitting you over the head. Ideally, if you have a material advantage you would like to simplify the position, end your opponent's counter punching potential, and glide into an easy victory. However, what if the promise of simplification means entering into...
  • The Argument Rages

    Chess is a game where two different opinions wage war against each other. One opinion says, "I'm going to do this to you, fear me!" and the other opinion tosses it back by saying, "That's rubbish! Instead, I'm going to do this to YOU!" This goes back and forth until one opinion is shown to be correct, or until the opinions balance out and equality results. Whatever the result might be, chess is ultimately about creating a position that you deem sound/equal/favorable, and then defending your beliefs...

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