Friday, May 16, 2014

3 Ways to Get the Edge in Chess (Part 1)

Do you sometimes get overwhelmed by the amount of work and knowledge it will take to get to your chess goals?

Well, if you feel this way, which I have and do at times still, I'd like to introduce you to the concept of The Slight Edge. The basic idea is that simple choices that you make and small consistent actions that you take over time will create big results. I learned this concept and how to apply it to my life and chess from a book by Jeff Olsen called The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness. In this two part series, I will discuss a few of the most insightful ideas and how we can apply these to our chess training.

Get a Better Philosophy


Don't worry, this isn't about some esoteric philosophical system that you need to learn to get better at chess. It's about your beliefs about yourself, your ability in chess, and how you can improve. Jeff Olsen defines your philosophy as what you know, how you hold what you know, and how it affects what you do.

Your philosophy about chess (and anything else in your life) creates your attitude, which drives your actions, which determines your results.

Understanding this, does your philosophy empower you or limit you? (I think this is a similar concept to limiting beliefs which I will discuss in more detail in another post).

Here are two chess philosophies:
  • You've either got it or you don't.
  • No matter where I am currently, I can improve myself.
Which of these philosophies would empower you to have a positive attitude about chess training? Which of these philosophies will help me to get past your tough chess losses? Which of these philosophies would provide more enjoyment over your lifetime of playing chess? I hope the answer if obvious.

Your Philosophy Creates Your Attitude

Here are some attitudes created by the philosophy of "You've either got it or you don't."
  • Studying chess is a waste of time
  • I don't need to analyze my games
  • I'm probably not going to get any better than I am now.
On the flip side, here are a few attitudes  that a philosophy of "No matter where I am currently, I can improve myself."
  • Everything I do to study and train will help me to get better.
  • By analyzing my mistakes, I will avoid them in the future.
  • I'm not where I want to be, but I will be some day.


Your Attitudes Drive Your Actions


We can see that these attitudes will each drive different actions. People with the first set of attitudes will probably tend towards doing the following:
  • Mainly play games (and not study or analyze their games)
  • Try to play opponents who are weaker than they are (since they see no point in playing tougher opposition where they are more likely to lose)
  • Eventually quit playing chess as they get more frustrated with their lack of progress 
And the actions that would flow from the 2nd set of attitudes might include:
  • Going over your own games (including and especially your losses)
  • Try to analyze after games with opponents to try to improve
  • Balance playing games with study and training
Finally, your actions determine your results. Whose results do you think will be better over time? The person who believes that you've either got it or you don't? Or the person who sees chess improvement as something that is attainable?

Your Assignment


In The Slight Edge, Jeff Olsen teaches that it doesn't matter how good the information is if we don't apply it. So I invite you to do the following as soon as you can:
  1. Determine what you current chess philosophy is? Write it down.
  2. What attitudes does your philosophy create? Write it down.
  3. Do you need a new or better philosophy? Guess what? Write it down.
  4. What new actions can you take with an improved set of philosophy and attitudes?
I hope over the coming weeks and months you can enjoy the results!

Please share your insights with us in the comments section and check out Part 2.



Here are a couple books that you might find helpful.

The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olsen

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
This is a great book that inspired me that despite my age and state in life (e.g. parent, businessman, etc.) I could improve my chess. Carol Dweck describes how your mindset - similar to your philosophy and attitudes - help to determine your success. If you are interested in self-improvement in any area of life (and chess), then I highly recommend this book.


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