Lion Tamer Ambitions

Even quite strong chess players can have a remarkable lack of objectivity about their own play. Usually it will reflect an unrealistic self image, for example a lot of players would like to see themselves as a miniature version of Tal or Shirov. And this in turn can prevent them from improving their game.

I’m reminded a bit of the Monty Python lion tamer sketch in which a timid accountant goes to see a vocational guidance councillor about a new career option. He wants to become a lion tamer but without really having much aptitude for it or even knowing what’s involved:

In the end Mr. Anchovy makes a choice which will suit him much better, similarly we need to play to our strengths rather than our fantasies. But for this we need a high degree self knowledge and objectivity, are there any good ways of achieving this?

One method is to experiment with various types of positions on one of the servers and then keep a note of the results. After having recorded 10 consecutive losses with the King’s Gambit it may be more difficult to imagine oneself as a latter day Rudolf Spielmann.

Another way is to consult a strong player and ask them to look over your games. But choose your vocational chess guidance councillor carefully as they may lack either the objectivity or knowledge to give you the right advice. And setting off in the wrong direction can cost a lot of time.