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Your Brain…Use It!

One can never underestimate the mental requirements of chess. Being mentally prepared for a game like this requires going far beyond memorizing opening lines or practicing tactical exercises. A player must focus his or her full attention and energy on the task at hand in order to achieve superiority on the board. To most people, this might seem like a no-brainer, but it is easy to get lost in the massive amount of chess data available to us as players and to find ourselves relying less and less on optimal environ[mental] conditions when playing. My blitz games over the last week provided me with an opportunity to step back and reassess how I approach my play. As a person with an reasonably obsessive and high-activity personality, I often play online chess while watching television or in the main living room of our home where my family congregates. There are a myriad of distractions including children, animals, and my wife that make it difficult to focus my complete attention on the games.

It was not until three nights ago when I finally set down in my bedroom with no television, music, or other distractions to play a quick blitz game. I was surprised at the swift and powerful outcome in my favor and wondered if I had just gotten lucky against my opponent or if there were other factors to consider. I began another blitz match and had the same result. Of the six games I played that night, I won five of them with relative ease, including games from opponents rated 200 ELO points higher than I am. This trend has continued over the past few days and it has served as a stark reminder that environmental hygiene is critical to increasing success in chess. Wins and losses in chess are like the rain in that they come and go with time. However, there are things that players can do, such as studying and ensuring they are playing the proper environment to increase the chances of a winning streak. Once again, it is back to basics for me.