Chess Psychology: Identity Crisis Part One

Last week you brought a little something extra to the chessboard. You sensed a hanging piece long before it became loose, played your plans with aplomb, and weren’t afraid to make an unclear move. Your brain was a brilliant, ergonomic machine capable of mighty feats. The chess world stretched out in front of you and the only thing left was to stake your claim.

Now your brain is a caricature with crisp, accurate calculation all but a vain fantasy. What happened between those two extremes? Just the other day you were delivering cheeky mates in four, and now you’re living on the edge of checkmate. You have the same brain as last week so why did you stop performing so well? It’s inexplicable for so much to change so quickly, yet it has!

Arm wrestling is a contest of brute force. Strength remains relatively constant in this he-man-esque endeavor. If you keep following the same gym routine you’re going to go over the top of the same guy every time. If you can beat your opponent today, you will certainly be able to beat them next week. You have a right to expect that your muscles won’t let you down. You do not have the right to expect this of your brain.

Everything from low glucose levels in the blood to problems away from the board can chip away at your brainpower. Short-term mental ability is subject to forces that you can understand as well as those that puzzle even eminent neurologists. You can exercise, eat right, and do all of the correct things, but what you ultimately get out of your mind comes down to chance.

My thyroid is currently not doing its job and I am experiencing a rating downswing of several hundred points. In order to rebound efficiently, when my brain resumes working, I need to maintain my confidence level. I’ve figured out how to do that and it’s instructive.

I’ve resolved to create a separate chess identity to protect the real me. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde if you will. The human mind strives for a unitary identity and cohesion among selves. The new player is the exact opposite of the old. What happens to the new cannot affect the old.

Interestingly enough I find that it is becoming increasingly difficult to play in my old style. It appears one identity will not survive the conflict. Will I become the chess player I can be or the chess player I pretend to be? The battle continues.





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