Okay, the chessplayers have spoken. But I’m also going to write “running with your belly” later.
When you try too hard to win, you lose.
If this happens to you frequently, as it does to me, the game is trying to tell you something. But most of us come up with a wrong rationalization for these results. Tell me if this sounds familiar: “Well, at least [higher rated opponent] knows I wasn’t playing for a wimpy draw.” Yes, we tell ourselves that we play like cavemen because that’s more honorable than making draws. So the ‘value’ of this style is that it makes us feel mas macho.
There’s certainly such a thing as a wimpy draw. But for most players who frequently experience these tried-too-hard losses, here’s what it should teach you:
1) Your ability to evaluate a position is poor. This reflects lack of technical skill.
2) You aren’t objective enough. This reflects emotional immaturity (in the context of competition – don’t take it personally :).
Which problem is yours, and how do you fix it?
1) Ever do a post-mortem with a good (2300+) player? Almost without fail they will frequently assess positions — it’s equal, white’s a little better, black has enough compensation. If you don’t think this way, if you never draw these conclusions explicitly DURING PLAY, lack of technical skill is indicated. Read “Reassess Your Chess” by Jeremy Silman. Follow his methodology until it develops into a habit. Working and analyzing with a strong chess coach will also help.
2) Game scenario: You have an advantage but you are now presented with a choice. The line that makes the most sense seems to let your advantage slip. This makes you unsatisfied or angry, so you sacrifice material instead to try for a knockout blow. Then you lose the endgame. If that happens to you a lot, read “The Seven Deadly Sins of Chess” by Jonathan Rowson. Stop saying “Well at least I went for it” and work on developing the habit of trying to play the objectively strongest move at all times, regardless of result. Notice that in the language under point 1 above, strong players often say “White’s a little better” rather than “I’m a little better”. It’s that objectivity thing at work.
For the record, I have both problems :) But I am making a little progress.
Anyway you can always go back to playing like a caveman, but why not try to be strong instead of trying to look strong?