Sunday, 1 July 2007

I love chess, but...

I love chess. "How much?", I hear you cry. A lot - honest. Most of my spare time is taken up with chess which makes what I am about to admit all the stranger.

I like to read my chess books (I've got about 50 so far, and plenty of space in my bookcase to fill with more) and spend lots of time contributing to websites like and the Chess Exchange. I'm now also teaching my wife to play chess and any impartial observer would surely attest to my fascination with the game. However, I have a dark secret that I must come clean about.

I love chess, but...

...I hardly ever actually play chess any more. No, really! I enjoy reading instructional chess books and writing blog entries and forum comments about chess, but I swear as I type this blog entry right now, I can't honestly remember the last game that I played. Was it a month ago? Perhaps. Even longer? Maybe.

Does anyone else have the same problem? What's wrong with me? Am I simply addicted to learning and have forgotten that the point is to actually play?

Have I become afraid of losing? Perhaps - a bit. I'm aware that when I used to play online at I would play a few times until I won a nice game and then would stop so I could end my playing session on a winning note.

But I don't think that's the whole answer. Can anyone suggest a way to cure my "Caissa Interruptus"?


Blue Devil Knight said...

I sometimes suffer from the same affliction. I get into a comfort zone where I am just doing puzzles or reading or something, and think, OK now I really want to get better before I play again. And this fear of losing builds up, as I spent all this time learning chess stuff, so if I lose I must have just wasted my time. It becomes a feedback loop.

I just try to remind myself that it's just a game, that I need to lose a lot of games to learn and improve. By not playing, and not losing (which is inevitable) I am depriving myself of the most important chess lesson of all: learning and correcting mistakes I make in real games.

Laurent S said...


I think it's very much about your ego involvement in chess. If it's high, the fear of 'failure' may prevent you from playing.

The question is : what does it mean for you to lose a game ?

I have a close chess friend who is very knowledgeable and teaches me a lot about chess, but just can't stand the pressure of tournament play. That's something very personal, and I think every attitude to the game deserves respect. I don't think there's anything wrong enjoying teaching about chess rather than playing, and there's nothing wrong either with feeling very uneasy about losing a game...We're all different yet all human :-)

Ryan Emmett said...

Hi BDK, thanks for your comment. I'm sure you're right that studying and not playing is a feedback loop that's hard to break sometimes.
I forced myself to play a couple of games on my PDA yesterday and enjoyed it a lot, despite losing them all. I think I just missed the game so much I was glad to be playing at last.

I agree that the best lessons are learnt across the board in the heat of battle - thanks for reminding me of that. :)

Ryan Emmett said...

Hi Laurent - thanks for the comment. I guess there's nothing wrong with studying chess if I enjoy it (or helping pass on what little wisdom I have to others, when I can). At the end of the day I want to improve but I also want to enjoy myself, so I'll try to do what makes me feel good. :)

Now there's a motto to live your life by!!!

chessloser said...

i've got a similar situation. i don't get to actually play as much as i study. when i do play, it's usually online, and after two or three games, i don't want to play, i just want to watch or study or read or write about aren't alone, i think....