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Losing at Chess

Posted December 23rd, 2015 at 04:00 PM by Sylvano the Wasabus
I won't say that I’m bad at chess.

Even though that's what I really want to say. I have always said that. It's not a game I enjoy. Only my eldest son plays at my house, and he's a minor chess champion. I have only beat him three times in ten years.

I don't idle well. I like games that move quickly. I like dynamic things. ADHD is my life philosophy. Chess always seemed to take too long, to drag on and ultimately I didn't care that much. It wasn't that interesting.

Well my son and I have been playing again. I always agree when he suggests it because to be honest I feel like I could improve a great deal. I hate being sucky. I am always hoping to learn something.

He'd say “do you want to play chess?”

and I would answer “sure, but I’m going to lose.” or “sure, if you don't mind beating me yet again.” or “sure but you're going to thwamp me.”

one day my son turned to me and said “why do you always say that?”

“Because it's true.”

“it's defeatist. Why play if you hate it so much? Stop complaining. You sound like a sore loser. Its passive aggressive. And it's really annoying.”

He was right.

The next time he asked, I said “sure.” That's all. And you know what, I did feel better about playing.
Maybe by saying I was going to lose I was allowing myself to lose. I don't mind losing- its game play I like, not winning or losing. But maybe by predicting my loss I was subconsciously already preparing to not try.

The other thing that bothered me is that my son would politely say “good game” after we'd played. I was sometimes a little upset, and I’m afraid perhaps he thought I was a poor sport. I didn't really care about losing. One loses way more than wins in everything in life. I was upset because I felt I had failed miserably, I’d made stupid mistakes, I’d played really badly. I was disappointed in myself. I could not say good game in the way he had because it had not been a good game. In fact I had played a very bad game.

I resolved to try and end things in a nicer way. When he said “good game” I replied “thanks for playing.” I was thankful that he played. And you know what somehow I began to give myself more of a chance. I began to enjoy the games more. And I began to play better.

It was as if I had too much baggage- doubts about my chess playing that go way back into my youth, and also the negativity I was creating by setting myself up to lose and then not trying that hard and playing badly.

An unlabelled jar can contain anything. I stopped labelling my chess playing. Even thinking “maybe this time I’ll win” is a label. I did not put a label on it at all.

I still don't think I’m a very good player. I won last night, which was pretty incredible. Honestly though I didn't care that I won. It wasn't the point. I had a great game and was at his throat the whole time. I made a few stupid mistakes. I didn't say “good game” when we were done even though I’d certainly had one. He hadn't. “Thanks for playing” works better for me, win or lose.

I can't help but think about the life applications of what I’ve done. Stop labelling things and I’ll enjoy them more. Stop preparing for defeat. Or victory. Live in the moment.

I think I’m getting better at chess.
Total Comments 3


Tornado's Avatar
Nice perspective.
It is amazing how a slight change to a response can alter your mind set and enjoyment of an activity.

Chess is difficult to be good at without being a student of the game. I have never really enjoyed Chess myself unless playing against some that is also not skilled.
Even a slightly adept player will completely mop the floor with me.
Posted December 24th, 2015 at 07:28 AM by Tornado Tornado is online now
kolakoski's Avatar

Being Less Judgmental

Well met!

I have come to realize that judging - pre- or during an activity - has been a major obstacle to my success in practically every endeavor, from games to singing, from relationships to buying a shirt. Acting in the moment, freely and spontaneously, is a legitimate part of living, just as discipline and responsibility are. Both must be in balance. But in Chess, I'd use it as an opportunity to exercise the latter. Or study the games of Fischer and Casablanca.

Posted December 24th, 2015 at 04:02 PM by kolakoski kolakoski is offline
kolakoski's Avatar


Well met!

Anxiety, in and of itself, in anticipation of an activity, is common. Mindfulness concerning this will always help to a degree.

Posted August 17th, 2018 at 02:08 PM by kolakoski kolakoski is offline
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