Surviving Success

My son Sam had his best win on Sunday scoring 7 out of 7 in the inaugural Bradford Junior Knights event. But en route to this result he had to survive one of the chess player’s greatest threats, that of mind numbing success! Success can be very disorientating, especially for those who aren’t used to it. So much so that disaster can follow shortly thereafter. As the Indian proverb goes, the elephant first lifts a man into the air before dashing him to the ground.

So what I needed to do between games was get him to try and calm down rather than join in the wild celebrations. Taking some long, slow breaths is a good start in this process as are reminders that every one of our opponents can beat us, given the opportunity. One small slip in a chess game can be fatal, and slips are more likely when the mind isn’t in balance and focused.

As usual I had to learn this lesson the hard way. In my youth I once managed to put together a long series of games without a loss and this suddenly propelled me to being the number 5 rated player in the UK. This event seemed to annoy many people and there were criticisms of both the rating system and how players in the north must be much weaker than their ratings in order for this run to possible. Of course none of this helped the equanimity of my young mind and a reaction set in before I climbed up again.

Of course such events are part of the process by which chess helps us learn about ourselves and these lessons can be tough.

Here’s a game I played in the first tournament I played after making my first GM norm. Actually it could have been worse as overall my result wasn’t too bad, and I learned that success needs to be survived.

Nigel Davies

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.