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Personality Traits at the Chess Board

posted December 29th, 2014

Written by guest author Greg Delaney for Wholesale Chess.

I would like to share some of my experiences and insights from an over-the-board chess tournament in which I participated recently. These tend to support my belief that our personality traits, both strong and weak, have profound impact on how we play the game of chess. In the following examples, some of my weaknesses of character showed up very distinctly in this event.

Reacting vs. Acting

I think I can safely and accurately describe myself as a person who tends to react to circumstances rather than as someone who initiates action. This showed itself several times in the games I played during the event. In each game I had at least equality out of the opening, but in two of the three failed to utilize the positive aspects of my position on the chess board by making a clear plan and acting upon it. The result in both cases was predictable: I forfeited the initiative to my opponents, who took advantage of their positional strengths to develop strong positions. Of course, once I was under pressure I responded with some appropriate defensive measures, but I lost both games nonetheless. I suppose one might argue that the need to play better defense exists, and I don’t disagree. But I think I could have initiated threats of my own rather than letting myself get into passive positions in the first place.

Anxiety in Tension

Moving Chess Pieces

I have read in many places that one of the common weaknesses of weaker players is the tendency to not handle tension in a position very well. Those of lower ratings tend to want to simplify such positions to remove the stress and to establish some clarity. This definitely occurred in my last game (a loss). I had won a pawn from my higher rated opponent and also had one of his pieces pinned to his queen. Instead of examining the position with a calm demeanor, I allowed myself to get anxious and overlooked a simple reply that would have retained my extra pawn. Instead, I tried to “simplify” matters in the position and ended up losing the pawn as a result. In hindsight, several better moves at this juncture came to mind, but during the game I couldn’t overcome the feeling of stress from the possible complications.


My final example is one of a positive nature. I know very well that once I have established a superior position (whether in chess, an argument, or a debate) I can be very efficient in “finishing off” my opponent. My confidence grows and my thinking takes on great clarity and accuracy. An analogy in sports would be “getting into a zone,” where I can’t “miss.” This occurred in my only win of the tournament. I took advantage of a blunder by my opponent to win a piece. He continued playing, and I kept playing moves that added more and more pressure until I had an unpreventable mate in one. I played confidently and very well once I knew I was fully in charge of the game.

My thought is that most chess players can relate to at least one of these illustrative situations. I hope that sharing them will help other players examine their own games to see evidence of personality difficulties that hinder their growth as players. I could have used examples featuring well-known chess personalities (Bobby Fischer would be a prime example), but sometimes self-disclosure leads to greater understanding. In a future article I hope to share some insights about changing these traits in a positive direction.

Greg Delaney is Life Member of USCF who returned to chess in 2005 after a three decade hiatus from the game he loves. He is an educator, club player, and student of IM Yelena Dembo. For fun, he blogs about chess and his work to improve as a player.


Real Experiences Starting a Chess Club

posted December 9th, 2014

Written by customer Kent W. Book

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Good Morning my chess friends,

I'm a new librarian in a small Kansas town that thought chess might be a fun activity for the kids after school and during the winter break. I didn't realize that it would quickly grow into a 30+ kid a day activity. We stay hopping with 9 boards going at a time, in every open corner we can find, and a waiting list to last until we close, and we've got kids from K-9th playing each other. One 1st grader is looking to be the next Capablanca. It's been great.

What's also been great is your customer service. The first 4 sets I ordered came quickly, but missing a few bags of pieces. Mistakes happen. I made a call, got in touch with a real person first off (which was pleasantly shocking), and she was very friendly and helpful....and I had my missing pieces in 2 days. Amazing. Seriously, that kind of service is hard to find these days.

Then we ordered 5 more sets, and they were here in a speedy zip.

Then I started looking over your web site and reading the articles. Terribly fun and informative.

Thank you, from a very pleased customer.

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We appreciate Kent's comments, and we're really excited that there has been so much success with the after-school chess activities in his local library. It is great for people to realize how easy it can be to get others involved in chess, and it can be contagious, too! This is a fantastic example of proving that having a chess club is not as intimidating as it sounds, and it's amazing how quickly clubs can grow. Children love to learn, plus there have been many studies on how chess can improve cognitive function, so we love to hear about kids getting involved and learning to play. Apparently, it's as easy as offering some kids the opportunity!

If you're trying to start a chess club or have inherited the coaching position in a club, and are looking for supplies to help your chess club members play and grow, we've got you covered. You'll want to take a look at any of our Club Chess Sets, but probably the best for new players is the Basic Club Chess Set Combo. You might feel like you need a clock or other accessories, but there's no need to complicate things even more for yourself until your players are past the fundamentals. And if you are going to be teaching a group of new chess players, you'll probably want some kind of demo set to make it easier for everyone to see tactics, moves, and strategies.

Remember, the bottom line of any successful club is to make sure the members of the club are having fun. Children will have the most fun when they're actually learning and playing, so teach them the basics, give them some pointers, and get them involved in some games. You'll be amazed at the success!


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