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Tackling Surprises in Chess ... and Life

May 21st, 2015

Written by Laura and Dan Sherman

Life can sure throw us some nasty turns and surprises. The trick is learning how to deal with them as they come.

As parents, we all hope our children will grow up with a strong ability to solve problems, laying waste to the barriers that will inevitably emerge in front of them. We hope our children won’t be the type to quit at the first sign of trouble.

It would be great if they could emulate the immortal words of Tim Allen’s character, Jason Nesmith, from the movie Galaxy Quest: “Never give up. Never surrender!”

When your children begin a chess game, encourage them to give it their all.

Each time.

Every game.

It shouldn’t matter if their opponent is twice their age and height, or if they have a higher rating. Rating smating! Tell them to just go for it!

Tacking Surprises in Chess

All experienced players have stories of victories against what seemed like unbeatable odds at the time -- for example, being down a queen with minutes left to go in the game. These experiences, these games, are the stuff of chess lore and legend. Chess enthusiasts discuss these games for decades into the future. Most likely your children will, too.

Encourage your children to avoid resigning, even when the game’s outcome seems set in stone. Instead, make their opponents take the necessary steps to checkmate them. One never knows what will happen in any game until it’s over.

The never-die attitude they will learn through playing chess is one that translates well into life.

Never Give Up

Throughout their lives, your children will face many difficulties. Chess is a great proving ground for learning the important skill of problem-solving. They will need to conquer their own fears and uncertainties as they face all kinds of battles in the future and chess can help them learn the valuable skills to do so.

The more games your children play, the more experience they’ll gain. With that experience comes a self confidence that will build to an unshakeable magnitude. Before you know it, they will grow into self-confident men and women who can succeed in life, tackling whatever problems may cross their paths.


Winning From Losses -- Can We Learn From Them?

May 14th, 2015

by guest author Greg Delaney for Wholesale Chess

Let’s state the obvious right from the beginning: losing chess games is not fun! Okay, now that we are past that, we can now move along to the real subject of this article – how to handle losses and make them work for us. I recall reading somewhere long ago a statement by a tennis coach that went something like this: "Tennis must be a great game, because half the players who play it lose – and they keep coming back." I think our wonderful game of chess is no less "great." Everyone who plays chess loses sometimes, but we keep playing anyway. Two important aspects of chess learning that have taken me awhile to accept (albeit grudgingly) are that losing chess games is okay, and that it can help us become stronger players.

One of the strongest roadblocks in my own path to chess progress has been the thinking error that my worth as a person rides on the result of every chess game I play. This irrational belief has led me to do the following:

  • 1) put tremendous pressure on myself to win or, barring that, not lose,
  • 2) play cautiously and passively – “not to lose” rather than trying to win,
  • 3) avoid playing at times so as not to risk a loss,
  • 4) feel so ashamed of my losses as to avoid post-mortems and replaying the games for understanding,
  • 5) criticize myself unmercifully for errors and blunders, and,
  • 6) fail to share losses with strong players who could point out patterns of mistakes and thinking so change could happen.

I know that I cannot be the only chess player who has done some or all of these things, so I’d like to share a few tips about losing that I’ve learned the hard way. First and foremost, there is no connection whatsoever between our level of chess strength and our value as people. This sounds self-evident, but I have witnessed numerous times tantrums and unsportsmanlike behavior from players who have lost a game. Some people have a hard time losing any competition because they tie their self-worth to winning. Secondly, all that self-criticism does is to undermine confidence, which is a vital characteristic of a good chess player.

The third one took me awhile to understand: playing passive chess and thereby forfeiting the initiative is effective – only if you wish to lose! Chess is a war game and the object is to “kill” the opponent’s king. I have learned that the opponent will gladly take the initiative if we kindly hand it over. Making threats is what chess is about, and if we don’t make them, our opponents will. My fourth idea is tied to the tennis coach’s statement above: the possibility of losing is not a reason to not play chess. Personally, I have not yet died from a loss, and I imagine no one reading this has, either.

Finally, we need to look over our games with players stronger than ourselves – not just to learn from our mistakes, but to have pointed out to us all of the errors and blunders our opponents make. It is reassuring to see that our opponents are not perfect and that we may have simply not seen and taken advantage of the mistakes they make. Moreover, Mikhail Botvinnik was insistent that objective, thorough, and critical evaluation of one’s play in each game is essential to improvement. How else to not keep making the same mistakes over and over? I have begun to let go of my shame and fear about losses by sharing them with my chess coach, IM Yelena Dembo, and listening – really listening – to her constructive feedback. By viewing our losses in these ways, we can use them for improvement, rather than feeling bad about them and ourselves.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Wholesale Chess. We welcome open discussion on all aspects of chess on the Wholesale Chess Blog. If you would like to be a guest author on our blog, please contact us at


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