What would you do after losing 9 games in a row? Cry? Quit Chess? Talk about how unlucky you are?
I get it. But that’s not what (future) champions do.
In 2016, 11-year-old Vincent Keymer lost all of his games in a closed tournament (I also played in) and calmly asked his final opponent the same question he always asked after a game: “Can we analyze the game?”
He is now rated 2738, World #14, and led Germany to a Silver Medal in the European Team Championships. Who cares about 0/9 in 2016?
I believe it is mostly because of his attitude. Even as a small kid, he recognized what really counts: learning as much as possible.
Focus on learning, and you will improve your game. Focus on good short-term results, and you will burn out.
Sadly, many of us don’t react like Vincent to losses. It is because our focus doesn’t lie on long-term improvement, but rather short-term results.
Three mindsets are common in chess improvement:
- Super-Short-Term Focus
- Mid-Term Focus
- Long-term Focus
And there is a clear winner. Both for your well-being and chess improvement.
1) Super-Short-Term Focused
The only thing that matters is results. Now.
- Rating in Social Media Profile
- Always searching for an easy & quick hack
- Playing Opening traps
- Always stressed during games
- Quick Hacks don’t work in the long run
- Falling for people selling mediocre courses with grandiose marketing
Sadly, many of us sit here. And, it is partly not our fault. Society likes to rank people and the easiest way to do so in Chess is by asking “What is your rating?”.
2) Mid-Term Focus
You realize that training is important, but bad results cause you to rethink everything. This is a step in the right direction, but you will most likely still get frustrated often because plateaus are normal.
- Memorizing Opening Lines
- Trying to find the “perfect” Opening (course)
- Changing everything after a bad tournament
- Stress builds up over time
- Not giving yourself enough time to absorb new things
- Buying way too many opening courses
Emotionally I’ve been in this state for most of my career. I realized the importance of long-term goals, working on really hard things, and understanding openings rather than memorizing Engine lines.
But bad results still hurt a lot. I often needed days or weeks to fully recover mentally from a bad tournament. That’s when the rational side of my brain finally took over again.
3) Long Term Focus
Your goal is to be the best possible Chess player a year (or more) from now. It is evident to you that improvement takes time, and even really bad tournaments (or online game streaks) don’t disturb you. You still dislike losing, but after a short sting, you are back to training & learning the same day.
That’s where the magic happens. Thanks to a lot of work on my mindset, I rationally understood this was the best zone to be in for most of my career. But as mentioned above, putting it into practice sometimes wasn’t easy.
- Learning the fundamentals
- Understanding openings rather than memorizing moves
- Trying to solve hard positions you will fail from time to time
- Simple in theory, challenging to implement
- Less stress during tournaments/rated games (you do your best, rest is out of your control)
- Staying consistent, even when results aren’t great
- Working on what really matters
- Avoiding FOMO
How Can I Change Mindsets?
You might recognize yourself in the first or second state of mind. And wonder: how can I change?
It won’t be easy. But you can slowly go towards a better place. Here is how I did it:
- Rationally understand that focusing on results hurts you more than it helps.
- Avoid talking about short-term results with friends & online.
- Fake it until you make it: ask yourself “What would Vincent do now?” and do that, even if it feels weird. Slowly your subconscious mind will adapt.
- Be patient & kind to yourself. You will have setbacks. Losses that hurt a lot. Buy a course because of FOMO. It is ok. We all make mistakes. The key is that you learn and move on.
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