By Ian King
Amid all the jabber of theory, calculation and what not, it is commonly underemphasized, if not under-appreciated, that self-confidence is just about as important to chess growth as technical training. But if that assertion gets you a little crazy at the moment, just take a moment to think about it. Before you got to, say, 1800 rating, you probably had long ago believed yourself capable of getting there, hadn’t you?
And isn’t it curious still, that that remained the case for each successive jump in playing strength? Now, pay particular attention to that observation; for it is that observation that is the focus of this article.
I must, however, confess that, like many great correlations, this is hardly secret finding, or borne especially of my own unique analysis; plenty has been written on this connection between self-faith and improved ability before. And if you’re familiar with books such as Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich’ and/or George S. Clason’s ‘Richest Man in Babylon’, then you’re probably already privy of the power of inner faith in regard to expanding one’s faculties to new levels of achievement.
The concept is simple. Your mind rises to the task of whatever needs to be done when fueled by earnest confidence. If you repetitively affirm to your conscious and subconscious mind whatever level of skill you want to attain, in deep clarity and in firm faith of achieving it, it readily expands in itself and does its best to help you achieve it. All you’d have to do next is fill up on theory and up your practice. (In essence, you need to stretch your perception of what is possible for you to stretch your limits).
If it must be emphasized still, I’m not out to say that self-confidence alone will in itself make you a great player, or that it is the most important aspect to being a great player; there are several other factors. Instead, I purpose to ring it across that it goes a long way in elevating one’s mindset to that of the advanced level.
In other words: “No amount of training will ever make you a truly superior player if you hold yourself capable of only so much” Believe in yourself, and in your ability to play good chess.
Also, do not limit yourself in your thinking. Paul Morphy travelled the world to prove he could beat every master existent in his time. Bobby Fischer (rightly) believed himself the greatest player alive in his day, second only to Paul Morphy in history (this was before he even had a plus score against the then World Champion Boris Spassky). Magnus Carlsen gave himself less than a year to become Grandmaster (GM) after he became an International Master (IM).
Equally important to note is this: “No training whatsoever is complete without a marked bump in confidence as regard the trained matter; if your confidence in a trained aspect isn’t markedly higher after a particular session, it’s a sign you should go through it again.”
Do not settle for partial mastery, or half-baked knowledge. That hampers your confidence, which hampers your play.
Also, be a lot careful not to hold yourself more skilled than you truly are; for that will make you a lazy practice of the sport, and predispose you to shunning new info pertinent to further growth. As in any endeavor in life, it is far much worse to be overconfident in chess than it is to be under-confident.
I shall conclude with a quote the Kenyan Blitz Champion Joseph Methu maintains as his WhatsApp profile picture: “Every master was once a beginner”
Catch the drift?