Mental Toughness In Chess: Practical Tips To Strengthen Your Mindset At Your Board, by Werner Schweitzer
This book is an interesting one in that it is written by someone whose skills at chess are somewhat modest. Nevertheless, this book is notable in that it views chess as an athletic endeavor and seeks to encourage the reader, who is presumably a competitive chess player, to develop the skills to get an advantage in toughness over one’s opponent. One of the aspects of mental toughness discussed in this book that I found particularly interesting was the way that the author discussed not only playing against opponents who are scored much better but also who would be considered much worse–such as children and new players. It is important neither to overestimate nor to underestimate those we are competing against, and there are players that do much better than they would otherwise because of how they deal with those particular circumstances. As might be expected as well, this author also looks at chess in a way that brings it in line with the competitive practices of more physical sports, seeking to turn a chess player into someone whose mental toughness provides an advantage that can allow one to maximize one’s use of one’s talents.
This book is a bit less than 150 pages and is divided into four parts. After a preface that discusses the goal of having more success through mental toughness, the author then discusses how mental toughness can be trained (I) in eighteen short lessons that include focusing on how to strengthen one’s strengths, gain in self-knowledge, learn from mistakes, overcome fears, make brave decisions, have more confidence and patience, and be able to set and visualize one’s goals. This is followed by a discussion of game preparation (II) that includes a discussion about calmness, the right kind of tension, taking naps, having proper nutrition, and even how to play against a child. After this comes a discussion of playing successfully (III), including dealing with emotional balance, maintaining concentration, time management, and winning one’s won games. The book then ends with some more practical tips (IV), including dealing with luck, learning from Carlsen, and having more fighting spirit, after which there is an epilogue, bibliography, and biography.
Overall, this is an easy book to appreciate. The behavior discussed in this book is certainly applicable to chess but is intentionally designed in such a way as to be applicable to a lot more situations than simply playing chess. This appears to be intentional. The author writes as a sort of coach that is seeking to make a player tougher and better able to handle adversity and deal with opportunity but does not only have chess players in mind but anyone engaged in competitive endeavor. It is important for us to realize that the mental game of chess is more than simply about the moves on the board but how we size up our opponent. I remember one time when I was in chess club in high school that the teacher who sponsored the club thought that I was a suitable opponent to try experimental chess strategies with, and I ended up winning a fair amount of matches as a result of playing a basically sound strategy that was not particularly flashy but was considerably more safe than what was being tried. This is likely not an isolated experience, and there are certainly going to be occasions where people would do better than expected because of the match of approaches that a particular match has.
I’ve always endorsed what this author espouses. American football is physical chess, for the game is all about strategy. Even though it is a hugely physical game, winning depends on which team’s strategy is the most effective. They must be able to accurately anticipate and counter each offense with a strong defense and vice versa.
In the greater sense, chess represents life. Whether we succeed or fail depends on how we read the signs of the times (discern the trends and prepare for what is coming), and how we block and defend against the onslaught of offensive weaponry. We’re told that the world will have a counterfeit for everything–the strength, overwhelming power, might, deadly weapons, and ability to rule the entire world–but it won’t have God’s Spirit. Will we tap into that in order to save our eternal lives, even at the expense of our physical ones? That’s the most important chess move of all.
Yes, that’s quite true, and something I comment on from time to time 🙂