17

What to do after losing a game?

I think that this question is on everyones' minds after a loss. I am guessing that everyone has their own way of coping with a loss. The best way to cope with a loss can turn out to vary from person to person. Yet, I think that it should be possible to find some sort of "best practice" procedure to draw wisdom from a loss and cope with it in a productive manner. Most chess players I know, including myself, feel terrible after a loss. One of the first negative thoughts that arises is

What is the point? I trained and competed so much and I still lost!

Today, I know that there are (at least) three ways of losing a game.

  1. Become completely outplayed with virtually no counterplay.
  2. Blunder (e.g. during time trouble).
  3. Enter a position with chances for both sides, do your best and still lose.

It is clear that whatever level of skill you have, you can still lose. So what to do afterwards? Is there a best practice?

  • 1
    This seems relevant: chessquotes.com/topic-losing – Rauan Sagit Feb 19 '14 at 7:38
  • 2
    Throw your pieces at him. – SmallChess Dec 21 '14 at 0:34
  • 1
    Cry, that's what I do – ganders Dec 23 '14 at 21:51
  • Chess is played, most times for "fun". It doesn't matter to win or lose. Just put up a fight and enjoy :) – pbu Jul 1 '15 at 11:45
  • 1
    Meditate under a tree for 15 minutes. Help you observe those negative emotions with equanimity. – Inertial Ignorance Jan 8 at 2:35
14

The best practice would be to thoroughly analyze the game and also your thought process before, during and after the game. Besides, if after sincere hard efforts you still lose, it's important to have an attitude like this -

“I haven't failed, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work” - Thomas Edison

In chess, that would mean -

I haven't failed, I have discovered that this strategy/opening/tactic/etc. doesn't work.

In my personal experience, you often learn more from the games you lose than from the games you win. So use that to your advantage. Analyze the game thoroughly (of course with the help of an engine) and see where you went wrong. Also, identify faulty patterns of thinking during the game. For example -

"this position was objectively equal, but during the game I thought I was worse and so I got demotivated and played badly".

Gary Kasparov suggested the following after winning (but I suppose it applies all the more after losing) -

"Even the game we won always contained mistakes; inaccuracies. It's inevitable. I can hardly find one brilliant game with no mistakes."

"If we won, it is most likely because our opponent made the last mistake. But, he made the last mistake and he is definitely analyzing the game; he'll find what we did wrong in the previous stage of the game. So what is important is to find it first."

I found some other interesting quotes on this page. Some of the more interesting quotes are -

Losing can persuade you to change what doesn't need to be changed, and winning can convince you everything is fine even if you are on the brink of disaster. - Garry Kasparov

Don't be afraid of losing, be afraid of playing a game and not learning something. - Dan Heisman

I prefer to lose a really good game than to win a bad one. - David Levy

Setbacks and losses are both inevitable and essential if you're going to improve and become a good, even great, competitor. The art is in avoiding catastrophic losses in the key battles. - Garry Kasparov

You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player. - Jose Capablanca

Most players ... do not like losing, and consider defeat as something shameful. This is a wrong attitude. Those who wish to perfect themselves must regard their losses as lessons and learn from them what sorts of things to avoid in the future. - Jose Capablanca

  • I'd like to share this on my Facebook status.. thanks.. – Ahmad Azwar Anas Feb 20 '14 at 4:31
  • I like Dan Heisman's quote. I think it defines very well the necessary kind of actitude in order to minimize the harmful psychological effects of loosing a game. – lodebari Mar 7 '15 at 18:46
12

Don't forget to be a good sport. Smile, shake hands with the winner, and congratulate them on a good game. Then later, when you've calmed down, when you're in a more focused frame of mind, analyze your game. (Keep a notebook of the moves).

1) Look for obvious blunders - hanging pieces, bad trades

2) Look for tactical mistakes - forks, pins, etc.

3) Look for strategic mistakes - pieces becoming cramped, weak pawn structure.

4) Decide if one section of the game gave you more trouble than others. (Opening, middle, endgame)

5) Create your practice plan. Review topics that gave you trouble. Do some practice puzzles. Play against yourself. Play against a computer.

More tips:

  • Practice focusing on only the board, shut everything else out. Getting angry, sad, or even happy during a game can make you lose focus.

  • Don't pay attention to your opponent. Just play against the board. Don't rely on him to make mistakes, or move in a certain way. Assume that every move he makes will be the best one he can, and you do the same. If you know what his best move is, and he makes a different one, that's a clue that you have an opportunity to gain an advantage.

  • Ultimately, a lot of openings in chess will result in black losing, if both players play perfectly. It might not be your fault, just that black starts off one tempo behind. Play both sides, often.

  • I'd be interested to know which openings result in black losing. My understanding is that it's just a little bit harder for black to equalize in some openings, but does this mean that black is lost? – Ralph Feb 20 '14 at 8:14
  • @Ralph How big of an edge do the white pieces offer against the black pieces? That would be an excellent question indeed that deserves its own discussion. – Rauan Sagit Feb 20 '14 at 9:19
  • 1
    "a lot of openings in chess will result in black losing" isn't an accurate statement. Black can indeed get a slightly worse position after the opening (where black has failed to equalize). Yet, this is not the same as being "objectively lost". As long as there is room for play, there is room for all three possible results (in practical play between two human opponents). – Rauan Sagit Feb 20 '14 at 12:15
  • I like this answer, it's very practical. I do not consider white to start a game with tempo though. Having tempo means the opponent is on the back foot, and the opponent's choice of next move is limited to countering your previous move. This is simply not true of any opening move white can make. I mean, having tempo is only an advantage if you can maintain it. – Lee Kowalkowski May 8 '14 at 10:32
  • Well, yes, that's the point - if white can't maintain the tempo advantage then they've made a mistake somewhere. Albeit probably quite a small one. – BarrySW19 Dec 21 '14 at 10:23
4

Embrace improving at chess. Make it your primary goal. Get set in your mind that winning is secondary.

Take action on the new goal. Analyze all your games. Analyze with your opponent whenever possible. Try to play longer games you can record, and leave blitz for online play (where the computer records your games)

Take some time before you resign to get your mind straight, so you can be a good sport.

If rating is important to you, recognize that rating is a trailing indicator. Rating will rise as you get better. Rating goes up with wins and down with losses, but it will not reliably increase without becoming a stronger player.

3

World champion Jose Raul Capablanca once said, "From few of my won games have I learned as much as most of my losses."

So look upon a lost game as learning experience. They're usually easier to remember than your wins. To this day, I remember how someone beat me forty years ago with a $450 hotel on Baltic avenue because I had mortgaged everything getting both the green and the maroon monopolies. (All right, that's a different game, but you get the point.) Because the lost games are easy to remember, it's also easy to identify, and hopefully correct your mistakes. (The hardest mistakes to identify are those that should have cost you the game, but didn't.)

In Capablanca's case, most of his lost games came from making the wrong decision at a critical turning point. He even saw the fork in the road ahead of time, but lost his caution when it was time to pull the trigger. Ultimately, his opponent's threats were larger than they seemed at the time, and he lost by misjudging them. When he went back, he worked through how the better choice could have allowed him to draw, or even win the game. That made him good at making the "better choice" in the future.

  • 1
    Actually I think Capablance mostly lost, because his opponents played absolutely brilliant chess that day. Just go over his losses (there aren't that many), it is really a collection of quite extraordinary games. – BlindKungFuMaster Dec 22 '14 at 11:37
  • @BlindKungFuMaster: In "Chess Fundamentals," he discussed a loss to Lasker in which he said, "I would like nothing more than to have this position again." He lost to Marshall in 1909 in which he showed an alternate line in which "Black gets an excellent game." He lost to Chajes in which he "sought complications but this is by not a losing move by any means." In his loss to Janowski, he said, "Unfortunately, Black did not carry out his original plan." (The same was true of his loss to Lasker. His loss to Rubenstein was "a sad [endgame] exhibition for two masters." – Tom Au Dec 22 '14 at 14:45
  • I don't really understand your comment. I said Capablanca lost a lot of beautiful games. Now you try to show that he was a rather sore loser? Where is the connection? – BlindKungFuMaster Dec 22 '14 at 16:34
  • @BlindKungFuMaster: He pointed out his own mistakes in his lost (and won) games. There were some games (e.g. against Mieses), that he won, that he felt he should have lost. And for just about every game he lost, he pointed out a winning (or drawing) line for himself "after the fact."He was among the first chess writers to do this. – Tom Au Dec 22 '14 at 17:32
1

Analyze and find out why you'd lost the game. It might probably be the cause of a simple blunder or just a small mistake. In each case, find out exactly what went wrong, whether it's time pressure or other factors.

1

What you should do particularly when you have just lost to a stronger player is ask them if they will go over the game with you. This normally means going to a separate room if you are playing a tournament but I have had strong players silently play over a few variations showing me where I went wrong without attracting the ire of the arbiters. The "silent" part, though, is vital and if you actually want to discus the game you will have to go to the analysis room or get thrown out.

Losing to much stronger players and having them analyze with you afterwards is absolutely invaluable. I have learned a lot this way. You should take every chance you get to do this.

1

I humbly believe the best way to learn chess is to learn from lost games. Analyse all your games, especially those that were not successful. - You will learn a lot from own mistakes, and you will most likely remember that "breaking point" when you enounter it again, and think "no, I will not fall for that again".

0

I do not necessarily endorse this opinion, but I once heard an IM say, that for amateurs, excessively analysing lost games can be counterproductive. Amateurs make so many mistakes even in won games, that they will learn just as much from analysing won or drawn games. The difference is that this will be much more enjoyable. And wallowing in misery is probably not the ideal mindset to learn and improve.

My take on this is, that you should definitely analyse lost games, if the way you lost, or the opening or type of position you lost in, is typical for you. Otherwise it might often be better to just let it go. If you made a bad blunder, beating yourself up about it, will not make you a better player. On the contrary, it might just wreck the necessary confidence to play well.

0

With regard to Blindkungfumaster’s comment, I agree that over analyzing losses as a novice might be counterproductive. Sometimes the reasons for losing the game are so obvious that analysis is unnecessary. Such as leaving pieces hanging, which I do!

  • 1
    But sometimes you think you know the reason, and you don't. I had a recent win where my opponent wasn't losing quite as soon as I thought he was; he could have saved the game. There's no way to know without analyzing it in some way! – D M Jan 7 at 22:11

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