What is the Relationship between Chess and Mental Health?

Your mental health is crucial if you are a chess player. In the previous Tips4Chess article “Importance of Personal Traits in Chess and Must Have Qualities to Become a Good Chess Player”, it is mentioned about Former World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer`s famous quote “I do not believe in psychology, I believe in good moves”, however, as a Psychologist and as a person having an understanding of the rules of chess and observed the lifestyle of professional chess players, I have to contradict the statement of former World Chess Champion, and I admit that psychology does play a significant role in chess!

We all know that Bobby Fischer quit playing professional chess when his mental illness got worse. His childhood was not an easy one, his father left the family, Bobby couldn’t feel safe at home and he made up his reasons to leave home. He indicated that he could not study chess because there was noise. His paranoid attacks increased in the adulthood, after he became the world champion of chess, he quit playing chess and moved to another country. Maybe as his stress level increased related to the championship, he couldn’t handle with all.

Mental Health and Chess

We must realize the fact that mental health is important for every human. Considering the type of life chess players have, it may even become more crucial on certain occasions. Chess tournaments take long days, you travel frequently, move from one tournament to another and stay away from your home for a long time. Staying away from your comfort zone increases your stress. Each day and each chess game during the tournament is another struggle, you wonder whether you will win or lose. Especially when you are a professional chess player and playing competitive chess regularly, your life plans, expectations of yourself, your friends’, family’s and other’s expectations from you may put serious pressure on you. If you identify yourself with your success, then that makes it worse each time you lose a game or competition.

You may be a perfectionist. You may be the one, who blame him/herself harshly when the plan isn’t worked out. You may have hard times accepting yourself with both of your strengths and weaknesses. You may come to a point that you deny your weaknesses and not to accept yourself as a real person with both strengths and weaknesses, good and bad matches, good and bad moves. You may obsessively think about that how you did that move, how you couldn’t find the correct position, how you have become that wrong etc. However, it makes things worse as that approach increases your stress level, and only you can find how to improve yourself when you are open to accept your weaknesses, what may be better, what is not well enough.

You need to be mentally strong if you want to be a strong chess player. You need support. You need your acquaintances supporting you. You need supportive friends and supportive family.

Support you need is sometimes a professional one. You may need counselling or psychotherapy. Professional support increases your abilities and strengths. It gives a chance to work on your weaknesses. It gives a chance to reach your potential at a higher level. Professional support balances your stress level, and therefore you become more able to handle with your issues.

Deniz Cosan

Counselling & Clinical Psychologist


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Importance of Personal Traits in Chess and Must Have Personal Qualities to become a Good Chess Player

As many of you know that chess hıstory has witnessed many great players and stories of these great players. Every world champion has a great and interesting personality which we all admire from many different aspects. For instance; when Bobby Fischer said: ‘’I do not believe in psychology, I believe in good moves’ he most likely wanted to emphasize the importance of being a hard-worker in chess simply by knowing the positions better than his opponents but also calculating deeper to demonstrate his strengths over his opponents.

On the other hand, if you have a look at Garry Kasparov vs. Anatoly Karpov World Chess Championship Match, there you would see that the pressure over players have significantly shown its effect on the score sheet. There are many factors in a chess game that effects the result however personal traits are always an important aspect of the chess game as the type of personality you have will most likely show its signs on the type of chess you are playing.

A player like Mikhail Tal was one of the great attacking players in the history and his straightforward approach is definitely a reflection of his thoughts, his way of understanding the game, and his approach as a person. You would most likely prefer to play an endgame against Tal rather than having queens on the board as you would not like the legendary ‘Riga Magician’ to make sacrificial experiences over the chessboard, if you are a type of person who likes to stay away from complications and if you would like to play solid and positional chess then you are not the best friend of Tal`s chess.

A person who likes stability will avoid taking risks and this naturally will make you a calm and positional chess player where you would more or less search for minor opportunities instead of searching for major and drastic changes in the positions.

The character and personal traits will always give important tips and hints about your opponent if you have enough information about your opponent. Even in the modern era of chess, it is still possible to see how much personal traits play role in the world championships, even though the strength of the players objectively getting better and better over time, personal traits and character of people still needs to be analysed well to take over the game not only in the technical aspect but also from psychological aspect.

‘Be self critical & always search for ways of improvement!’

When you are trying to dig in deeper, you have to search for reasons for the consequences of your actıons. In order to ıdentıfy your mistakes, to analyse yourself and your decision making mechanism carefully in details and be self critical. Like in many different fields of life, the chessboard is a place where we as players and as a person have to take tons of different decisions while we are playing the game and this requires strong nerves and taking responsibility of the consequences of decisions we are taking. To be a good chess player in reality, a chess player has to face with the truth of the fact that not every decision we have taking is perfect and therefore it is highly crucial to be self critical at any point in the chess career to identify the critical points in decision making and also to identify which factors play significance in our own mechanism when we are playing chess.

Finally in relation to being self critical, another important personal trait for a chess players is to research on a continuous basis in order to find a better way to perform. A chess players is a real sportsman if considered to play series of chess tournaments and to degree of success and the level of achievements are directly related to our personal traits and approach to the process of playing series of serious classical chess games. Not only mentally but also physically a chess player will have ups and downs and the ultimate goal for a successful chess player is to be able to optimize all contributing factors to play better chess and this requires being aware of your own personal qualities.

Being goal oriented and also being open for improvements there will always be an opportunity to comeback in the game of chess!

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Tips4Chess “King Safety and Importance of Castling” Tips for Beginners

The ultimate goal in the game of chess is to checkmate your opponents King and the goal is also valid for your opponent. Many beginners start learning chess by attacking strategies.

There are popular mating techniques such as Scholars mate in addition, it is vital for a beginner to learn how to mate with queen, how to mate with rook etc., however, it is almost equally important to ensure your own King Safety to achieve victory.

When we learn the rules of game of chess, there are two special moves we teach the beginners after showing the movement of all chess pieces. These two special moves are “en passant” (capturing a pawn which advances two steps forward) and the other special move is called “castling” which is an extremely important and multi-functional move achieved by moving the king and one of the rooks on the corner to ensure your kings safety.

For our readers who would like to get more information about legal rules of chess, we would recommend to google the key words and you will be able to access tons of useful information about fundamental rules of chess.

The importance of castling is usually not very well understood by beginner level players because of the fact that beginners usually tend to enjoy the attacking strategies and capturing pieces which usually gives a good feeling of an achievement however,  underestimating your own king safety will lead to a defeat.. Many beginners tend to lose more and more games and this will create more suffering for players and also may decrease the level of joy they get from the game as losing always is not fun ! 🙂

If you have King in the middle of the board, there will most likely occur major practical failures which will sooner or later prove that the risk of having a king in the centre is putting a serious limitation to your freedom of challenging the struggle in the central squares (e4,d4,e5,d5) and also will put limitation to your attacking options  and opportunities in most of the cases.

In a scenario where you would try to organise attack to your opponent without castling your own king, you will most probably face serious issues to coordinate your attacking pieces, especially considering the coordination of your pieces. Do not forget that castling is not only ensuring your King Safety in most of the cases but also contributes to your pieces development by bringing one of the rooks in the corner quickly into the game and also creating connection between rooks on the first rank.

As Tips4Chess team we recommend all beginners and chess enthusiasts to play their games by castling right after developing all pieces in order to ensure their King Safety ! 😉

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Tips 4 The Right Attitude and Approach to Solve Chess Problems & Combinations

Tips4Chess gives you hints on the right personal approaches  and attitudes to solve chess problems and combinations.

Here are some important bullet points that will contribute to your chess approach and enhance your personal skills to become a better chess player.

Never Move the Pieces!

When you are trying to solve a chess combination or a chess puzzle for training purpose, it is highly crucial to stick to the initial position of the chess problem and try to start always calculating possible lines by taking reference this position.

It is very common to see amateur players moving chess pieces while they are analysing or trying to solve a chess combination, however this attitude needs to be completely avoided as moving pieces has several downsides.

First of all if you are involved in a group analysis or chess training, moving pieces on the reference chessboard will disturb other players concentration and also by moving a pieces on the board, you may get yourself into the wrong direction rather than solving the problem which means that you might be putting your effort and energy on a completely wrong variation.

Many people consider that moving pieces will give them advantage or a bonus to guess the next move easily however this approach is completely wrong as the best example could be given from chess tournament practice where chess players are always obliged to move the pieces they touch!

So the big point behind not moving the chess pieces while analysing positions is that you should make sure that the solution you propose is entirely analysed and concluded by you and also make sure that you will be able to discuss all possible variations and sidelines once you propose a move or solution of a chess problem on the chessboard.

Moving a chess pieces means that a players has analysed all possibilities and feels confident about taking decisions and what make a chess player good is that the concept of calculating variations to the extend possible and searching for better options through all possible alternatives!

The right and the most appropriate attitude for a chess player is not to propose a move at all if he or she haven’t found a concrete solution to a chess problem, puzzle, combination etc.

Think Silent!

The most crucial  activity for a chess player is to remain silent during the thinking process where the players main task is to focus on the chess position with high level concentration and focus.

To be able to perform the thinking process in the most efficient way, a chess player needs to create a silent space rather than speaking out the moves. Chess is very well known to be the game of calculation and this is a game where the thinking process should never be interrupted by other factors, tasks or activities.

In other words, external factors such as voice, sound, talking to other people, dealing with other activities needs to be minimised to get the best efficiency from the thinking process. if you have ambitions to be successful in long term we would recommend you to create the most convenient atmosphere for you while training chess and solving chess puzzles which is simply to analyse silently in a peaceful atmosphere where distraction factors are minimised.


Never Interrupt Analysis of Your Colleagues!

Never forget that chess is a game of intellectuals and this requires players to demonstrate the right attitude while sharing opinions and discussing ideas.

We should be aware of the fact that every players has their own ideas and understanding of the game of chess and naturally there will be differences in the ideas and opinions and managing this process is also one important skills that needs to be learned and improved by all chess players regardless of their level.

The best example could be, if you are making analysis in a team of players or a group analysis, you should always respect the one showing his or her analysis opinions and ideas and letting them to complete their variation as interruption will cause multiple discussions and distracts others from focusing on the main topic.

Therefore showing respect, remaining silent and following up your colleagues analysis, ideas and variations will only help you to learn more and improve your chess and also will enhance your ability and skills to talk and explain your ideas.

Never forget that there will always be a turn where you will be declaring opinion of yours!

Start Calculation with Forced Variations First!

The right approach to start analysing a chess problem is to focus on the forced variations first. The idea behind analysing forced variations is that it will put limitations and restrictions on your opponents number of choices. For human beings, it is quite natural to start variations with limited options and alternatives where we will be able to perform calculations much more effectively.

It is very common to observe that many tough chess problems consist of non-forcing moves in other words, the trickiest part for a chess player is to offer your opponent variety of possibilities as this will force you to calculate too many variations and many chess players intuitively ignore the most flexible moves initially when they analyse a chess position as they are less concrete and there is more risk and room for miscalculations.

Different from humans, the computers will calculate every single possibility or move that exists on the chess board, however, as human beings we have to use our intuition to spend our energy and time more efficiently on particular choices.

In the case of solving a chess problem, it is therefore highly recommended to first look on the forced lines and if that doesn’t work we will have to expand our analysis on other candidate moves one by one unless we are convinced about the outcome.


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