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Chess Psychology – Keeping Your Nerve – GM Tiberiu Georgescu

Chess psychology is as important as studying openings, endgames or tactics. If you are unable to think clearly in pressure situations, such as in important tournament games, all that training will be for nothing. We may be more reliant on chess computers nowadays, but we are still human players, prone to crack under pressure and blunder away equal positions, or worse!

It even happens to the very best players from time to time – Vassily Ivanchuk, in a game against Fabiano Caruana in 2012, found himself in a worse position, but still with fighting chances. But chess psychology played a huge role, and Ivanchuk suddenly went on a sacrificing spree, giving up a queen, a rook and a bishop for next to no compensation until Caruana put him out of his misery.

Not only do we want to avoid losing our nerve in our games, we must consider the other side of the story. Strong Grandmasters can identify their opponent’s emotional state, read their fears and predict their plans, exploit the emotional state of their competition. Being able to to so can often decide the outcome of a game. It is imporatant not to underestimate this side of the game and make sure we work on psychology.

Many blunders can be put down to the irrational decisions we make when we are under pressure, either positionally, on the clock, or elsewhere. It isn’t only to do with our skill and talent at the board.

It is easy to have the fear that others will judge us when we fail. For example, when we play a game we might ask ourselves ‘What if I lose?’. We imagine our trainer being disappointed in us, our friends deciding we aren’t as good players as they thought, perhaps we’d be letting down our teams or clubs. Already, before even one move has been played, we have mounted up the pressure on ourselves and can feel tense and nervous. In this video, Romanian GM Tiberiu Georgescu explains how fear and negative emotions can have an impact on your game, and how to discipline yourself to avoid these psychological aspects from influencing your games.

Chess Psychology – When Two Players Face Each Other

Topalov vs Kramnik - Chess PsychologyChess has a somewhat unique psychological aspect in that in a game, which can last many hours, players must remain silent, with no real breaks and great concentration required. On top of that, each player has their own goals and interests which can cause pressure and tension between the two. Sometimes this dynamic can cause players to miss even simple ideas, getting caught up in what the other is doing, or what we perceive them to be doing.

Chess Psychology - Topalov vs KramnikA great example of this comes from round 2 of the 2006 World Chess Championship match between Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik.

Take a look at the position on the right. Kramnik, as Black, misses a very simple continuation. Black could play 1…Kxf8 2. Qg6 Qe2 attacking the knight on f3, 3. Qxg4 Bg5 where if 4. Qxg5, …Qxf3 and if 4. fxg5, …Qxe3. Kramnik instead plays …Bxf8.

It is odd that one great player should miss what is generally a simple idea, but for two players, at the same time! Well, that’s exactly what happened.

White could play 2. Rxg4+ Bg7 3. Qc7 and win the game! After a few checks, Black has no way to defend against mate. But Topalov misses it and plays Qg6+!

So, how can you deal with these situations and improve your chess psychology? You’ll have to watch the video!


This video is only one aspect of chess psychology. Many top players agree that psychology is one of the most important aspects of the game. Make sure you’re mentally prepared with GM Georgescu’s course “Grandmaster Level Psychology.” Get instant access with 35% off here.

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