Sometimes it is almost as if the human brain has a will of its own! We might convince ourselves that we are in the driver’s seat as we consciously proceed to evaluate a chess position, using the same rational, logical and well-practiced skills and tools that have served us so well over the years. But it is not always the case.
Our emotions often override the entire process. Even sabotage our best efforts. Worse still, we may not even be aware of this happening because it is all on a subconscious level.
The biggest culprit is fear. Especially fear of danger. The chess master must fight against confusing the two. A threat created by our opponent’s last move must never be feared. After all, chess is a game of threats. And the wisest amongst us knows only too well that most threats are not real, but only illusions. Attack and defence. Mere shadow boxing.
So where is the danger? Unfortunately, often in a tense and difficult game we forget all this and confuse the issues: threat, danger, fear. When fear starts to kick in, our brain instinctively goes on fight or flight mode.
Emanuel Lasker’s lines. From a poem of Richard (1612 to 1649).
Take a look at the following instructive example from the Sevilla International Open that just finished on the weekend:
gm Aroshidze,L – wgm Mohota,N
However, despite the ‘logical’ flow of play by Black, there is a fly in the ointment. What really happened is that Black’s emotions got the better of her because of the x-ray threat against her own King. This caused her to interrupt her rational calculating processes and instead react emotionally to a danger that was infact not real at all! Fear once more getting the better of us! And this is the only reason why she lost the game.
Let’s take a look at the initial position again
The lesson is obvious. Threats, dangers, fears. Don’t confuse them! Tell them apart. More importantly, try not to react emotionally when they do infact appear.
Hannak’s ‘The Life of a Chess Master’ 1952; page 153