One of the interesting properties of chess is in the way it reflects our physical and emotional well being. This is not surprising when we consider that everything that affects our minds affects our thinking and that this will necessarily come out on the board. So our mental and emotional well being is an essential prerequisite for good chess.
This presents some remarkably direct and dramatic ways for someone to improve their chess. If we are not playing under optimal conditions for calm concentration then what can be done to improve them?
For most amateurs an obvious source of difficulty will be to play after a stressful day at work. Of course matters are evened out if the opposition has been equally or more stressed, but that’s only the case for half of us! If you are in this situation that there can be an immediate gain by switching one’s playing activities to weekends, family permitting, and there are other options too such as tweaking work commitments. Of course this might not be very convenient but the damage wrought by stress and tiredness should not to be underestimated.
It does not help to be the playing captain of a team or provide transport for the rest of the players. Neither does it help to argue with one’s boss or significant other before a game. This seems like common sense yet it’s amazing how often such considerations are ignored.
Are there other steps that can be taken to ensure the kind of inner harmony that produces good chess? Well I think it’s well worth giving up red meat and caffeine and taking up tai chi or zen meditation, though only a small minority of people will be willing to go this far regardless of the general benefits.