How do you deal with a loss in chess?

To deal with losing in chess it is helpful to review some of your own games, play against weaker players/computers that you can easily beat, immediately winning the next game, or writing words of encouragement.

Losing is an inseparable conundrum every chess player has to deal with. This does not only apply in this particular pursuit but in fact, all things that involve competition.

But chess is a little different, it makes you feel intellectually inferior inside which lingers for a long time. And that’s what I’m going to answer today, how to actually deal with the feeling of helplessness inside.

I want to provide an actionable solution that you can implement whenever you’re in this situation. Let’s face it we will lose at some point therefore it is helpful to learn how to deal with it, let’s start.

Does losing in chess always mean you’re a bad player?

Most people attach the stigma of losing to being a primitive player which is not true. Chess is played by two people where only one side can win, of course every player will suffer a defeat at some point.

Losing a game of chess does not always translate to a lack of skill, perhaps one player just got outplayed, has a weaker psychological attitude, or a better preparation.

There’s a lot of different factors that could be taken into consideration when determining someone’s loss. It does not always reflect the skill set of the player (though it is a variable).

You need to realize that losing is a natural part of playing the game. If you don’t want to lose then chess is not for you (since again, only one person can win).

Remember that it’s not always who’s strong/weak sometimes the position just unfolds the way it is. Otherwise, all professional games would end in a draw (though there’s a lot of draws some are decisive).

Especially if the battle are between two players of equal strength, the win is much more situational. This impression that you need ti somehow win every game is more detrimental than anything when it comes to mindset. 

Is taking a break after a loss (in chess) helpful for recovery?

Taking breaks has scientifically shown to help to cope with losses (in general), so I have wondered if it will work here.

Resting for some 5 minutes has been shown to help players cope with the losses. A sleep, power nap, or even a week of detachment after the letdown is significant.

You see after a loss we are tempted to immediately pursue another game hoping to take it back. And I can see the value of this since I have the same problem, but hear me out for a second.

If you continue to play after losing a game there’s a tendency that you will rush moves (hoping to finish which faster). This would inevitably make you play low-quality moves that make losing likely.

It may be helpful to calm down a little (a five-minute break) before playing another game. It will help prepare your brain to be in a condition that is able to play the next match.

If 5 minutes is too short, a sleep or at least a power nap (closing the eyes but not sleeping) are always options to consider. It’s just easier to perform if you have the replenishment gained after the activity we call sleeping.

If the sleep and power naps are not enough you can do other things like exercise, playing a mobile game, or even taking a walk, it can help your mind move on from the game. Detaching yourself away from the results can be smart action for the advancement of your game long term.

If the damage is really memorable to you, isolate yourself away from chess for a couple of days (or a week) before continuing playing. Maybe it is a blunder you’ve made, a tournament ranking missed, whatever.

Dwelling on the past will not help you move forward, taking a break momentarily is the best you can do.

If a doctor makes a mistake, the patient may die. If a pilot makes a mistake, hundreds of people may die. If a chess player makes a mistake, he could lose the game and sometimes not even that – David Navara.

Does analysis of the (chess) game help you cope with the loss? 

Analysis of the loss game (with the opponent or a stronger player) can spark an inspiration that would help one improve. If not, one can try to glamor on games that they’ve won to help relieve the stress.

This is actually something I have developed to improve my chess while dealing with the loss at the same time. Once you lose quickly analyze the game instead of moving into a new one, finding your mistake can help bring peace.

Instead of wondering about things that you could have done differently, it is helpful to correctly identify the mistakes. Reflect on your psychological and technical attitude towards the game and work on it. 

If it is over the board you can even try analyzing with the opponent to formalize things. By turning it into a helpful conversation the game becomes an afterthought, you will subconsciously signal to the brain that the game has ended. 

Plus you will get to improve in the process of moving on, how cool is that? You can even ask a stronger player where you went wrong since they can provide you with insights that would make you feel better. Not only on the positional aspect of what went wrong but also the general approach to the match. 

If this is a stronger player it’s likely that they will have more experience and visualization and thus could provide valid opinions. Chess players as they say can only be understood by other chess players, this association might land you some tricks to overcome the defeat. 

As a pro tip I suggest you transcribe every game you play whether it’s a win or loss. 

Recording your game can help you look back on both wins and losses (for learning) which can also lead to motivation. 

If you are early in the process (not that good yet) you may want to keep some of your winning games and review those to boost confidence. Those moments of ingenuity from our victories can help shine the demotivation of losses away. 

After all, reviewing the things you’ve done wrong in a game where you have been crushed can be grieving to some people. Looking at the thing over and over again can become a form of mental torture which no one wants to experience. 

The stress sometimes can even override the productivity, so you may want to check if that applies to you. 

Whatever it is, reviewing a recorded game winning or losing is a good pathway to chess success. You can turn losses into motivation to improve further, though occasionally hard to actually implement. 

Winning isn’t everything but losing is nothing.     

Edmar Mednis

What psychological tricks can you do to recover from a chess loss?

Sometimes it’s just hard whatever we do to recover from a loss, but are there mind tricks to this? Like some form of psychological steps, something we can implement immediately that can alleviate the burden? 

To recover from losing a chess game it can be helpful to play against a weaker player/computer, watch some top games, write words of encouragement, or immediately move to the next game to win that one. 

Some people may not agree with this but you can actually try playing blitz games against lower-rated players (online). I said blitz since you want it to be fast (it’s only a coping mechanism) but is something you can do over and over again without much doubt. 

The point of this is you want some sort of punching bag to express your frustration. It may not seem to improve your overall chess game yes, but it will definitely help you move on. 

If you can’t do this (since you don’t have an internet) you can play against a weaker chess computer that you can easily beat. Same idea, same purpose, the function is to make you win games in order to restore confidence. 

After a losing you can even try to immediately move on to the next game and attempt to win that one, although it might be counterproductive. After all, you have no idea if you can win the next match, so it is sort of a gamble. 

But if you have trust in your own abilities and have a decent shot then do it, it will regain your self-esteem as fast as possible. 

If you want more of a tactic to this you can even write words of encouragement on a piece of paper which may seem ridiculous but can actually work. If we are going to see something (visibly) that we write down which is telling something inspirational, it is easier to digest. 

You shouldn’t let your parent or a friend see you though (since it is awkward but is definitely a reasonable approach). 

To add to this you can even try watching professional games that are artistic. Watching these top player matches may help you relax in some way. 

I have personality tried it and I can testify it’s replenishing results, it may even work for your case. 

Is mindset a factor to quickly recover from a loss (in chess)?

To easily cope from losing a chess game one needs to revitalize their emotional strength, and have a mindset that prioritizes what’s happening over the board rather than beyond it. 

You see coping with a loss can be different from person to person, so you should find what works for you. I have stated above various ways on how to possibly deal with it but may not be applicable to you. 

One thing I know though is you need to be aware of the problem before even hoping to solve it. After this, you should establish some form of coping mechanism that will minimize emotional outrage after a loss. 

You should practice controlling your emotions in general (since that constitutes the coping mechanism). By learning how to relax, meditate, and being light-hearted, it will help you develop the process. 

One thing I’ve discovered though is that people are really mindful of the rating. They don’t want to lose one game because they want to show the world those frivolous numbers. 

Due to this, they have more tendency to put extra pressure on those losses even though they are reasonable ones. I say you shouldn’t mind the ratings, you can see this in professional players that are more oriented towards the game. 

The ratings are really just numbers, some lower-rated players are way stronger than they appear. In fact, astronomical rating differences can be tossed aside when one lower-rated opponent miraculously wins easily. 

If you want more proof then you can view my article about chess hustlers (will open in a new tab) and how they got strong even without a rating. 

You can also talk to stronger players about how they deal with their losses. Every industry has a neat trick that only the professional knows, which you can learn by talking to them. 

If the game is over the board (tournament) you should focus on winning the game rather than winning the rankings. The “I have to be perfect” mentality is really stressful for someone who has just lost a game. 

Instead, you should concentrate on the game at hand and not think about anything else, only the situation at the board. This collectively will help you pay attention to details that matter, which will be critical to standing up from the loss. 

 “If you are not big enough to lose, you are not big enough to win.” ― Walter Reuther

How do you cope with losing a game of chess? 

Defeats no matter how much we deny are a part of the game we can never remove. No one can win if somebody else did not lose paving the path for the one who played better. 

In fact, we should be grateful that this feature exists since it makes the game much more rewarding to master. The moment where you could come out on top from the ultimate test of mental struggle, I like it.

However, this means that we will have to lose at some point so we gotta be prepared when it comes to that.  I hope you’ve found what you’re looking for from reading this article, sleep well and play chess.