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How to Handle Loss in a Chess Tournament

8th July 2014 is a date that is etched in the memories of most passionate footballers and especially ardent Brazilian supporters.

This was the date when Germany handed Brazil their biggest defeat ever- 7 goals to 1. After the first few goals the Germans even stopped celebrating as they did not want to humiliate their erstwhile formidable opponents; opting to just raise their hands after every goal.

One can only imagine the visceral pain felt by the players and the coach (Luiz Felipe Scolari who quit soon after the match) as Germany scored one goal after another.

Unfortunately, football does not have the option of resigning before the end of the 90 minutes and so the “Seleção Canarinha” had to wait till the final whistle to stem the bleeding.

We all have experienced loss, even major loss in chess tournaments. It happens even to world champions. How do they keep coming back? Here are some tips to help you keep your head above the water after a below par result in a tournament especially one you had prepared for.

1.       Stop thinking about the prize fund.

The worst distraction one can have when attending a major tournament is budgeting for the prize fund.

Money is always a distraction in any endeavour but more so when you have to keep your mind focused on your plan on the board. The worst kind of defeat is the sort which can be avoided. If you prepare for the tournament and think you have won before making the first move and you end up losing then the hurt is much more. Therefore, to prevent this gnawing feeling after a loss. Don’t set your eyes on the prize.

2.       Have a sparring partner before the tournament who will discuss with you after each game.

Most of the top Grandmasters have seconds and some even have a team of Grandmasters who spar with them and help them research new opening ideas and prepare for a potential opponent. Rome was not built in a day and neither was it built by one person. Two heads are better than one is an adage to be taken literally in preparing for a chess tournament. This same partner helps you understand where you went wrong without all the judgement that comes from your own head if you were to examine your own losses. Obviously, they must be equal or greater than you in strength to be useful.

3.       Have a physical fitness hobby.

Even though chess is a purely mental game the toll it takes on the energy stores of the body requires one to be physically fit to endure the gruelling hours of classical chess or the alertness required to play blitz well. The brain is the most expensive organ, energy-wise, in the body because it accounts for only 2% of the mass of the body but consumes 20% of the energy. Studies have shown that exercise helps to lift the spirits by increasing energy capacity and blood flow throughout the body including the brain. The endorphins released during and after exercise are also natural ‘feel good’ chemicals as well as pain killers. That is why athletes can continue playing with a severe injury and only feel the pain long afterwards.

4.       Analyse your game then forget about it.

A lot of times people spiral into a string of losses because the one mistake you made stays with you into the next games you play and this of course makes you lose concentration. If you don’t analyse the game you will always have doubts if the mistake was the real reason for your loss or maybe your opponent simply outplayed you.

5.       Prepare well so you don’t lose!

There are very few people who ever lived who earned the title “The Greatest”. Muhammad Ali was one of them. When he lost to Ken Norton in 1973 he wrote that quote above and went on to regain his World Heavyweight Championship title with the “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974.

The best way to avoid losing is to prepare well for your tournament so it does not happen to you. Sometimes you have told yourself that you deserved the loss because your opponent prepared much more than you did. It helps to know and emulate the preparation styles of the great players.

So if you happen to lose a game take it as a sign to work harder.



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