I‘m sure if one has played Chess long enough, we’ve all experienced “tough losses.”  In fact, I would venture to say that if you haven’t had a tough loss yet, then you haven’t played Chess long enough.  It happens to everyone and at all levels.

What are tough losses?  There can be many versions in Chess – losing a completely Winning position; losing a dead Drawn position; being swept off the board; missing a win when you were lost the whole game and then had an opportunity for comeback which you bungle, are some examples.  Unfortunately, I’ve experienced all four of the above examples in my relatively short tenure as a Chess player.   

One time when I lost a completely winning chess game was in an unrated club tournament.  I lost an exchange up position against a 225 ELO point lower rated opponent.  I had about 10 different ways for a win, but I went for something that looked fancy.  I didn’t do the deep calculation.  It was a horrible blunder and I resigned next move.  Aargh!  The lesson I learnt from that was to always Keep It Simple.  Simple moves most of the time are smart moves.  The chess game rewards you for your win, not how you win.  R
ecently, I lost a simple Drawn position in a chess tournament in Austria.  I was playing against the World Senior Chess Champion, GM Vladimir Okhotnik, and made a plain blunder of what was a straight-forward Draw.  It hurt because I had played strong for the entire game (you can read more about this in the September posting on Chess in Braunau, Austria).  The time when I got completely swept off my feet was again in the same chess tournament in Austria.  It was just a bad game from the very beginning.  I just couldn’t play right.  The time where I missed a win after being lost for majority of the game was in the Czech Open 2012.  In my excitement at a chance to win a poorly played game, I made an incomplete calculation and forgot to first secure the Draw before trying for the Win.  An opportunity to make amends for a weak game, but I let it slip away. 

Such games are very hard to accept.  
They linger in the back of your head, haunting you.  Yes, the chess tournament could have turned out differently if I had won; Yes, I could have been paired with an IM or GM if I had won; Yes, I could have assured myself of winning my rating category, etc.  These thoughts are psychologically draining.  But it’s hard to Move On, as any Chess player will tell even though we realize this is what needs to be done now.

Nonetheless, we have to deliberately learn to Move On.  In most cases, there is still a chess tournament to play.  We have to realize the next chess game is also worth the same point as the one where we had a ‘tough loss.’  Sitting in the room thinking about the loss doesn’t help.  We need to flush it out of our memory for the time being and not waste any more energy thinking about it.  And please don’t start analyzing the tough loss right away, if you’ve another round to play.

As you can see from instances above, I’ve been in such situations multiple times where I’d to deliberately Move On.  I will share with you what helps me.  The best thing for me is to go out for a walk (if the weather allows), and have some of my favorite food!  Something sweet like an ice cream helps or a dessert of your choice.  Don’t wait for after dinner to try your dessert.  Have it now!  If there is time, watch a funny show or a little bit of a funny movie.  Mr. Bean, Zack & Cody, Drake & Josh – whatever gets u tickled.  Anything to get your mind off the loss, or at least make it fade away for the moment.  When the next round chess pairing is out, it’s a bit easier now to Move On since we now have preparation to do that will keep us busy.  But I feel it’s important to do that mind-flush before. 

If you observe, often times when someone has a crushing loss, s/he loses the next round too – many times without a fight.  It happened with me in the National Challengers Chess 2011, which was a qualification tournament for the Indian National Chess Championship.  After a lackluster start, I found my game and was kind of unstoppable.  I had a great streak going with a Win, Draw, Win, Win against higher rated and very experienced players.  In my next match, I had a high-rated IM on the ropes.  But then I let him get away after several weak moves.  The match was a Draw, in what was an easy Win.  You can see that game on Monroi – R10 – Chandra vs V, by clicking here.  I was extremely disappointed, and since I was a ‘beginner’ in terms of how to deal with such a loss, I lost not only the next round but also 2 rounds after that without a fight – 3 rounds total.  It was a very sad moment because if I had won that game, I’m sure I would have kept up the momentum and had a good chance to qualify for the Indian National Chess Championship. 

Many times I have observed a seasoned player with a tough loss will take a quick Draw in the next round, even when the opponent is lower rated.  This is a strategic move many times.  You take a Draw to soothe the brain, not make it work very hard, and to avoid the risk of another loss.  But such an option may not always be available.  So we have to boost ourselves psychologically to perform well in the next game. 

To summarize, after a tough loss in a Chess game we need to get out and do things that can take our mind off the loss.  Eat your favorite food, watch a movie or show, don’t forget an ice cream; whatever makes you relax.  Just don’t sit and dwell on it!  The above ideas have worked for me.  You will have to find your own comforting things.  I hope just thinking about this helps you plan better when you encounter such a situation.  I wish more Chess players will write their experiences – it helps others learn.

I apologize for the lengthy post.  Hope I didn’t put you to sleep 🙂   If you have anything to say or share, please feel free to write comments.  Au revoir!

    5 replies to "Hard Loss…Now What? Recovering from a Chess Loss."

    • Shahzad

      Thanks a lot it was very interesting! and informative 😉 btw whats ur rating?

    • Sanket K

      I really liked reading this post and it helped me. You sound a lot more mature than your years.

      • Akshat

        Hey Sanket K, I’m glad my article helped you! Thanks, and good luck in your chess journey!

    • Margie

      Thank you so much! I really needed this. I tend to cry after losing a game I should have won.

      • Akshat

        Hey Margie,
        It’s perfectly natural to cry after losing from a winning position – I used to as well :).
        The important part, however, is how we rebound from such a setback.
        I’m glad you found the article helpful!
        Good luck!

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