Learning From Your Wins

“Success or failure … which is the most destructive?” ~ Lao Tsu (Tao Te Ching)

“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 R Capablanca

The instructional value of failure has been very well documented, and not just by chess players. An objective analysis of one’s failings is certainly a useful way for someone to develop their game, as long as the right conclusion is reached! But I would like to warn against taking this too far because a focus on defeats can erode a player’s confidence.

Instead of this I’d like to suggest that an objective analysis of one’s victories can be far more helpful, not least because it tends to keep one’s spirits up. It can also be a better way to develop objectivity as errors tend to be glossed over by an ego in full flight. Can a player really admit to himself that his magnificent winning combination was flawed or will he try to gloss over the things that he missed? To admit that an imaginative but flawed concept was actually mistaken requires tremendous self discipline, far more than an attempt to salvage something of value from a loss with various self recriminations.

There are other things too to be learned from wins which are easier to swallow in the afterglow of victory. The degree of one’s triumphalism is something worth noting as too much of this indicates a certain imbalance in one’s emotional state. As triumphalism grows it can turn can lead to a gradual worsening of objectivity and an inevitable reversal down the line, so it needs to be nipped in the bud as early as possible.

What’s a good way to do this besides an objective analysis of the wins? Well I think it’s well worth playing through a few losses or having a significant other inform you of your deficiencies. But maybe not straight away…