Emotional Weakness in Chess

As compared to emotionless computers, human chess is inconsistent. Computers may lose at chess but they don’t have “bad days” where their performance is inexplicably poor. Emotional thinking, therefore, appears to present a weakness for decision making in humans.

Chess Scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Obviously, we are biological creatures and emotions have by and large served the human race well which is why there are over seven billion of us alive right now on earth. However, the biological advantages of emotions on a macro level seem to be disadvantageous to decision making on a micro level. Thus it is vitally important for humans to recognize that emotions, both good and bad, distort our perception of reality.

In chess, to avoid making mistakes caused by this distorted view of reality, we must first be cognizant of our emotions. As emotional creatures, we must strive not to react to a chess position based on feelings but rather respond to the task at hand with a logical approach. If our current line of thinking creates an emotional response, then we must reevaluate our conclusions. Finally, chess players, as much as possible, need to refrain from making major decisions when emotions are running high as this is when mistakes are most likely.

Of course, it is really easy to speak of making emotionless decisions in chess but to play emotionless chess is far more difficult. Personally, I have managed to play correspondence chess consistently at a relatively high level by never deciding a move based on feelings. I also am applying this strategy to tense situations off of the chessboard and trust me it has helped me deal with life’s up and downs. Of course, this didn’t happen overnight but I have discovered that practicing calm decision making in chess directly benefits my everyday life and now I try and share this finding with my students.

Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Chris Torres served as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy from 2005-2020 and currently is recognized as a correspondence chess master with the United States Chess Federation. Since 1998 Chris Torres has taught 6 individual national champions as well as led multiple school teams to win national championship titles. In addition, Chris Torres has directed and taught at 10 different schools which have been California State Champions at chess. In 2011 and 2012, several former and current students of Chris Torres have been selected to represent the United States at the World Youth Chess Championships. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: