Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Rant: Don't Make Excuses for Not Playing Chess

It constantly amazes me how many people that enjoy chess find excuses not to play it:
  • "I don't like losing." No one does. Use it as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes. Dan Heisman wisely observes in Everyone’s 2nd Chess Book "You'll more likely learn from losing [than winning] as long as you identify the cause of the loss and make a positive correction for the future." And keep things in perspective - the important thing about winning and losing was best stated by Vince Lombardi: "Winning is not everything, but wanting to win is."
  • "I don't know the chess openings well enough (or the middle game, or the endgame, whatever)". Nobody does - except maybe Deep Fritz ;-) I think a lot of the fun in chess is discovering what you don't know for yourself - when your opponent either does something clever or punishes you for doing something stupid. Yeah, sure you could learn all the traps and tricks from books, videos, and chess software - but it is much more fun to learn them the hard way across the board from a fellow player.
  • "My rating might go down." So what? Chess is supposed to be a recreation - an enjoyable recreation - if it isn't why play at all? Don't spoil the game by obsessing over a largely meaningless number. Your rating is simply a tool, which it seems to me has two purposes 1) as a tool to help in pairing up players of similar strength 2) and, possible, as measurement for tracking one's chess progress.

So, get out there and play - no more excuses! Enjoy the world's greatest game! This is supposed to be fun, right?


Greg said...

Very good post! You reminded me of something I was told by International Master Andrew Martin during a chess lesson. He said that my anxiety about playing is linked to my perfectionism - I expect to play an error-free game and if I don't, that shows there is something wrong with me. There is, of course, no such thing as a perfect chess game. Martin speculates that my "reasoning" in this matter is basically that if I can't do it perfectly, don't bother trying.

Sciurus said...

Here is another reason for not playing chess, particularly for the blogging chess improvement crowd: After a work day and spending some time doing tactics problems, I often feel too tired to play a game. This makes me feel really weird sometimes, because after all, I do tactics training to play better chess, and not as a replacement for real chess games.

Loomis said...

Your comments about people fretting over their rating reminds me a nice quip I heard once: "Only chess players judge each other by the number the federation assigns to them." Sounds like something out of Star Trek.