Monday, 29 October 2007

Does chess make you happy?


Does playing chess make you happy? Perhaps the answer might not be as obvious as it first appears. When we win, then of course we are happy; but when we lose we are quite the opposite. Chess can be bruising to the ego and for most of us there is always someone better than you who can give you a painful lesson.

So is the joy of winning greater than the pain of losing? Dan Heisman believes that the ability to tolerate losing "just right" is one of the three important attributes that it takes to become a good chessplayer. To find out the other two see the article!

Tolerating losing "just right" means not caring so little about losing that you "don’t care and keep making the same mistakes, but also not caring so much that you are paralyzed by losses. The best is in-between: the ability to keep losing while simultaneously learning how not to repeat your mistakes."

So do you think chess increases the net amount of joy in the world, or is every joyous winner balanced out by a miserable loser? Is chess a nil sum game of happiness or does just playing the game make you happy, regardless of the result?

5 comments:

Wahrheit said...

Chess is not a nil sum game, psychically, though it meets the mathematical definition, game theory-wise. "like love, like music (it) has the power to make men happy." I've always loved Tarrasch for writing that. I don't believe he meant only after a win.

KingSolomon said...

Chess, or for that matter, nothing is emotionally zero-sum. It all depends upon attitude of the players. After a game, both players may be sad - loser because he lost, winner because he played a weak move earlier which the loser could not utilize but winner knows he could lose either. Similarly, both can be happy in different degree - winner because he won, loser because he could put sufficient resistance beyond his own expectation against a stronger player etc.
All this discussion is regarding emotion associated with result. But there is emotion associated with process too. Those who love chess enjoy the battle itself, and though an average player knows his number of win and loss are comparably equal, there is an overall sense of satisfaction which comes from simply playing the game he likes.

Dan Scoones said...

Many years ago Jeremy Silman wrote something that has stayed with me: "When you win you earn; when you lose you learn." Well expressed.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I vacillate with this. Sometimes I think I am happy with chess but everything else has suffered because of chess so I am less happy overall. Other times it seems chess is the only thing that has kept me sane when I am sick of work.

Kevin said...

I think chess players are too analytical to actually answer this question. But sometimes I'm not a chess player, and then chess makes me happy.