How to Overcome Anxiety in Chess (Explained and Solved)

Having been playing chess for almost half a decade I can tell you that many chess players are suffering from anxiety.

Competitive chess is lowkey brutal, the pressure to perform is so high and even losing one game feels like an embarrassment. Chess is beautiful, but its anxiety-inducing properties may turn off a lot of people.

Lucky for you there are many ways to overcome your anxiety in chess. This is not a new problem, people have been experiencing this issue for centuries. I think I can share a lot of good things about this topic which can help some of you out there. 

If you are suffering from chess anxiety and this article is for you, let’s get started. 

Play two unrated games before moving on to rated ones

The main reason why people suffer from chess anxiety is pressure from rated games. I want you to think back of the games you played with your friend, do you get that anxious over it?

I bet not, and it is normal, casual games don’t really matter and you can just play whatever you want. This freedom will naturally drive chess anxiety away, which is why I recommend playing two unrated games before moving on to rated ones. 

I think you should consider beginning each playing day with one or two unrated matches, this will allow you to calm your nerves. After the unrated games you can always switch to a rated one to become more competitive.

However, if the proportion of unrated to rated games was changed to two to one, I’m not sure how many rated matches you would engage per day (probably not many).

You will have the opportunity to calm your jitters a little bit, and if you end up losing the rated one, it won’t have as much of an impact on your overall rating.

Be nice to your online opponents, it may help calm down your anxiety

Confronting your personal flaws and achieving victory over them may be beneficial to your psychological health, therefore I recommend that you do it right away.

And what greater way to achieve that than by playing chess on the internet, where you are effectively anonymous to your opponents?

You are not the emotion that you express; rather, you are someone who experiences the sensation and is able to express it. This is the most crucial thing to realize, but it is even more vital to really live it for yourself.

The sensation in and of itself is unfounded in fact, but it has simply become a pattern for you. Converting a bad emotion, such as resentment, into a more pleasant one, such as having nice hopes and feelings for your rival, is a useful strategy.

Poorly played matches are quickly forgotten, and emotions are fleeting. Your level of mental composure is the factor that actually makes a difference.

People that respect their opponents rarely become anxious when playing. Instead of looking at your opponent as another random name to beat, appreciate the time that you have spent together. I personally think that being grateful can make a difference. 

The best treatment for chess anxiety is a good dose of chess experience

I believe that experience will always be the best treatment for chess anxiety, to achieve this you should try playing the game over and over again until the anxiety goes away.

When I first began playing over the board games I began to suffer from cold feets, but after losing a bunch of matches, I am now more calm and also more daring in my strategy choices.

Consequently, I believe that there is only one “true” solution, and that is to play and lose until you are no longer frightened of losing. After that, you transform into a dangerous adversary.

There is a counterthesis to this, some people think that anxiety can’t be beaten by experience, I disagree.

For the simple reason that even significant improvement won’t exactly address the root causes (the logic is that you still end up losing a fair proportion of matches as you play good defenders).

Some people have a tendency to believe that increasing one’s amount of training won’t help in any way to alleviate problems pertaining to anxiety and fear of losing.

I believe that excessive nervousness can be conquered to some extent, but probably not completely removed; people either genuinely like the struggle or they don’t. However, I think the opposite, I think this is something that can be accomplished.

You don’t have to be the coolest guy on earth that can remove your chess anxiety 100%. Performance anxiety is a normal issue when you are trying to win something, however I think that experience is the best thing that can lower the effects of anxiety. 

The main source of chess anxiety is rating anxiety

The complexity of the chess elo ratings is too much sometimes, it will induce anxiety.

A significant number of chess players have rating anxiety, it is more normal than you think. However it is experienced more often by individuals who haven’t participated in very many matches.

You should strive to keep your attention on playing chess for longer periods of time, this will help you overcome your chess anxiety.

I suggested not really caring too much about your rating, maintaining a high rating is far more difficult than it seems, I’m going to elaborate on this answer.

Your rating will always be subject to change, and because of the method Elo did work, surges in either direction may be very significant. It is not difficult at all to go down and up dozens of Elo levels.

I’ve improved my overall rating by over 150 points in a little over a month, yet I’ve also lost significant amounts of rating in only 2 weeks.

You might perform well, with an adequate precision, and confront an adversary who unexpectedly plays a game with an accuracy of 90 percent or more; you could have a commanding position and end up losing on time

You might play excellently except for one mistake; you might also have researched a number of similar positions and by possibility encounter entirely different line.

There are a variety of ways that you could end up losing,  That’s called variation. You will win situations that you understand better than your adversary in the long term, and in addition, you will overcome failing positions on time.

You will also encounter stiff resistance until your adversary suddenly makes a mistake and offers you a free victory.

These occurrences will nullify one another and become irrelevant (from a purely technical standpoint, they don’t, but let’s pretend for the purpose of the argument that they do).

My strategy, then, is to see the rating as a spectrum of alternative outcomes. You are not a player with a rating of 600; rather, you are a player with a rating of between 500 and 800, and your rating will move about within this range.

Your primary emphasis should be on minimizing the kinds of errors that contribute to your player rating of 500 and cultivating patterns of play that have the potential to raise that rating to 900 or 1000.

Abilities take precedence over ratings in importance. The rating will come later. As a mental exercise, pretend that you would give over control of your profile to a player with a rating of 1500.

If that person put in the effort, he could raise your rating to 1500 in a relatively short amount of time at most, and more than likely in a single day.

And even if he were to lose many consecutive games, he would shrug it off since it would only take him an hour to get over the disappointment. Skill will always come before rating.

On the other hand, the reverse is also true. I had a fairly nice winning run when I first began using lichess, despite playing against opponents who were becoming stronger. I had the impression that I was well in over my head.

But I continued coming out on top, as they made mistakes, missed the deadline, and so on. I ended the month with an overall gain of 150 Elo. Despite this, I was well aware that it could not be maintained in the long run. 

Rather than concentrating on the outcomes in the near term, shift your attention to the long term. If you have a chance to win against your adversary over the long term, then the only thing you are doing is witnessing volatility.

If you do not believe that you can prevail over your rival during the course of the match, then you need to focus on improving your skill.

If you want to overcome your chess anxiety then you shouldn’t care about your rating!

In all honesty, I couldn’t care less about the rating, despite how ridiculous it may seem. I don’t let my rating affect my pride since I simply perceive it as a mathematical estimate of playing power and I don’t compare my rating to other people’s ratings.

It may seem ridiculous and unnecessary, but the exact thing that decides my rating (whether I win or lose a certain game) does appear to be related to pride on my side.

Personally, I’ve been doing my best to put myself in situations where I’m up against more difficult opponents in the hopes that it would help me overcome my “performance anxiety.”

Despite the fact that it seems like it’s happening, it never ceases to amaze me how many simple errors I let into my matches because I’m afraid to take chances.

There are several pointers that were quite useful to me as my rating increases. The first is to keep your attention on the progression of your strength, not the actual rating (as to not hit the ego).

The second one is to give yourself a defined target for the amount of matches you want to play (such as four quick rounds of rapid or five blitz games), and then pause after that amount of matches to evaluate them.

There are many tricks you can use to improve in blitz, you should follow these advices (on the link). This will allow your analysis to be insightful, after all there is no use analyzing a terribly played blitz game.

After you have followed this advice your rating will increase in tandem with the general improvement of your chess anxiety management.

Your rating is only a figure that reflects your overall prowess, it is not necessary for it to describe who you are.

When you acquire new knowledge and see an increased number of strategic tendencies, your power will rise (you will tend to make better decisions as you learn more information).

Studying will allow you to integrate fresh concepts, and playing will allow you to test out the new knowledge. In order to achieve both things, you will need to research and explore.

This is necessary in order for you to gain experience and power as a result of learning new things. If you are experimenting with new strategies, then losing is a sign that you are doing so, and your rating will have to increase over time.

When you’re increasing your knowledge, you really can’t ever go wrong.

Overcoming anxiety in chess by using it to our advantage

I’m not really into motivational speaking but I think I can slip a speech here that can make sense. You can actually make the anxiety that feel work for you, basically using it to your advantage.

Put it to work for your benefit. Your perceptions will become heightened as a result of stress, rendering you extra alert. If you mix your talent with your attentiveness, you may become a very good player.

Never forget that every single being is a hot head in some way or another, and seek for the foundation that, for you specifically, holds the key to understanding the door that leads away from where you now are.

You have to figure out how to get out of this situation so that you can switch it on and off whenever you want or need to. Find a music that’s uniquely yours and some steps to ascend.

Find a concept that you can write down and rehearse to yourself, such as “Win or lose I will give my all ” Anything that will make your mind prepared to participate in the activity.

You have to figure out what it is that compels you to rush headfirst into danger in order to succeed. Do it for your mother, your nation, or your virtue; it doesn’t matter. But you really must locate it.

If you can’t seem to find a way to get yourself motivated, consider getting a German Shepherd as a companion. Allow him or her to be your symbol of motivation.

Master the art of letting go of your vanity. You must accept the fact that no one worries about you. Your triumph is more important than whatever losses you may have had.

In any case, it is worthless in the context of our miserable life. Simply let it go. Go crazy. Consider every match to be nothing more than an educational opportunity.

Conclusion 

In order to overcome your anxiety in chess you need to overcome the anxiety that you feel from rated games. Instead of correlating your rating to your strength, you should understand that this is not your “true strength”.

Even a 2000 rated player can be rated 1700 on some website if he/she doesn’t play chess continuously. 

If you really feel like you need to have a rating of some kind then you just need to focus on having an estimate rather than a specific number. Instead of thinking you are rated 1890, you can think that you are really rated 1800-2000 for example.

Couple this up with a good dose of experience and you should be good to go. Eventually the anxiety will become significantly reduced, it will only be a matter of time. That is all, thank you. 

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