Why Blitz Chess is addictive – Dopamine effect of Chess Blitz
Have you ever wondered Why Blitz Chess is addictive ? Especially online Blitz and Bullet time controls? Maybe Neuroscience has an answer and can explain why Blitz Chess is addictive as any online player will testify.
Our brain records all pleasure experiences, whether they are coming from a soothing music, a good book, a mind stimulant drug, a cash reward, a tasty meal, or playing blitz or bullet chess. Blitz chess is that form of chess wherein each player has to complete the game in a time control of maximum 30 minutes or minimum 5 minutes. Bullet Chess is even faster and has a time control of lesser than 5 minutes.
Technically speaking, in the brain, pleasure has a distinct place called Nucleus Accumbens. Pleasure sensations cause the brain to release the neurotransmitter Dopamine in the Nucleus Accumbens, a group of nerve cells lying beneath the cerebral cortex . This is where the Dopamine release happens whenever we have a pleasurable experience.
Hence neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center.
Most of the intoxicants such as the famous nicotine to the infamous heroin, and blitz chess (surprise surprise!) cause a particularly powerful release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens.
Addictive drugs and Blitz Chess therefore provide a direct link to the brain’s reward system by providing the nucleus Accumbens with dopamine.
The Hippocampus creates memories of this rapid satisfaction dose, and the Amygdala creates a conditioned response to certain stimuli akin to the Pavlovian response.
So don’t be surprised when your mind craves for a blitz or two. It’s just asking for a good cup of coffee!
The effect increases manifold, the more you play – so Bullet chess is worse than Blitz because you get a dopamine dose every couple of minutes whereas a Blitz game usually lasts 10 or 20 minutes.
Suggestion: Play Blitz but don’t overdo it.
And don’t play Bullet too often either. Lest you may lose its educative aspect and get a high instead. Remember that too much of Bullet Chess or Blitz Chess may cause Adrenaline peaks that may not be good for everyone (may cause headaches for some).
Bullet doesn’t help much in understanding the strategic nuances of the game. But it helps building a pattern recognition base leading to better intuition, and to get a light feel of the opening. So all is not bad in the case of the Blitz Chess addiction.
After reading this article you will hopefully understand Why Blitz Chess is addictive and how to use it in moderation to help in your chess training.
7 Willpower Tips to Maximize winning chances in chess
Here we are not talking about percentages where 99% is considered as almost too good, to be true. In Chess even 99% is a fail mark as chess results largely depend on either checkmating your opponent or getting checkmated yourself. So how to strengthen your win-switch to 100% result? It all depends on your inner store of willpower. Here are 7 Willpower tips to Maximize winning chances in chess – When Close enough is not Good enough
The other scenario is where you can draw the game either by reaching a draw position – or agreeing to a draw. But we are not talking about that here.
Willpower is the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.
Willpower allows us to ignore unwanted thoughts, feelings or desires.
1. Commit to a goal at the outset.
Tightrope yourself with a shoestring so that you cannot have a free way with your temptations. Make sure that you are plugging all those temptation-pulls so that you are riding with your brakes released. In other words temptations and diversions are like a brake applied constantly while driving your car. Get the picture?
It won’t stop you completely, but it will make it harder to move away from your goals.
For example, buy a book instead of downloading it online. That way your conscience will not allow you to give it a pass. You will sit down to read it since you paid for it with your heard-earned cash.
Or carry only a fixed amount of cash with you when you’re on a tight rope budget, and leave your credit cards at home, thereby preventing you from making ‘that impulsive purchase’.
in my own experience as example, a relative of mine felt she was going to the movies too frequently. To counter that, I told her to calculate all the money spent on the tickets and popcorn and when she saw that they amounted to a lot she stopped going to the movies that frequently. By showing the total picture she saw the absurdity of her habits and now she is spending the saved money on useful books that are much needed to increase her expertise.
2. Meditate every day.
Preferably in the morning. It is one of the most difficult-to-start regimen, but once started it will help you so much that you begin to wonder – ‘what was I doing all these years without this essential habit’?
I know that it may seem like a waste of time which could have been spent reading the newspaper or going to sleep an extra 15 minutes but that is just your mind trying to avoid anything that tames it.
Read this tip from Headspace – an U.S. study found that people who meditated daily experienced improved willpower and focus. The researchers found that “those who practiced meditation on a daily basis persisted on tasks longer and made fewer task pullouts, as well as reducing negative feedback after task completion.”
So instead of reaching for your mobile phone or tablet, first thing in the morning and checking all your chats or messages, try spending 15 minutes meditating and reap the benefits of willpower training.
Although it looks simple, sitting still in a yogic posture like Padmasana or Sukhasana, and watching your thoughts in motion is difficult. But the benefits of meditating extend beyond the 15 minutes of quiet every morning. Meditating keeps the mind calm and focused.
3. Exercise regularly.
Cesar Milan training with a dog
If you watched Ceaser Milan’s ‘Dog Whisperer‘ where he documents his dog-training techniques (if you haven’t watched yet shame on you 🙂 ) you must have seen that he first removes all the negative pent up energy in a ferocious dog by taking him/her to a brisk walk or a run.
I remember how he even used one particular dog as a skateboard puller) and the dogs seemed to like it every bit.
What happened after that was that the dogs became calm and obedient after the exercise.
Now what transpired in this effort was that all the energy overflow was tamed by that run and the dog became submissive and calm after that exercise.
Its the same with the human mind. In fact, a study in the Netherlands has revealed that a ‘quick’ workout correlated with better self control, among other important benefits.
Going to the gym not only strengthens your body muscles but also your willpower.
4. Get a good night’s sleep.
I use a fitness tracker that comes cheap at amazon. It is called Mi fit (or Mi Band in some countries). What it does is to measure your sleep pattern and tell you how much of deep sleep and light sleep you have had every night. This helps in determining what you are missing.
A deep sleep of more than 1 hour is recommended and if you are falling short try improving it.
A good night’s sleep* provides you with the much-needed mental and physical energy to make it through the upcoming day’s events. If you miss out on your regular dosage of sleep, you’ll feel lethargic and your willpower would become weak. In fact, a lack of sleep can result in impaired reflex action speed and an inability to think clearly.
One study found that this fatigue-impaired state is equivalent to being drunk. So imagine what it can do to your chess!
“Proper rest improves our self-control power and provides a good environment for the brain to function,”
Ryan Clements writes. “Rest reduces the body’s need for glucose, and it allows the body to make better use of what we have.”
If you’re struggling to fall asleep, I suggest moving away from laptop/PC/Mobile screens and reading a paperback book. I do something different – I listen to some heavy meta-physical lectures that make me go to sleep in no time 🙂 But before doing anything make sure you are in bed and almost ready to doze off!
The light from these screens disturbs our body’s circadian rhythm, making our sub-conscious think that it’s daytime when in reality it is time for the sleep.
*A good night’s rest normally means getting seven to eight hours of shut-eye for an adult.
Low glucose levels = weaker willpower. A study revealed that participants who were not fed or did not eat well prior to starting a project gave it up halfway, much earlier than their fully-fed compatriots.
“To keep (your willpower) high, eat regular meals that are full of protein and good carbohydrates, like a sandwich of lean meat and cheese packed between two slices of whole-wheat bread,” Stephanie Booth writes in Real Simple. “And never start a challenging task on an empty stomach.”
Starting each morning with a hearty meal gives your willpower a much needed boost. Small ideas help like the consumption of dry fruit snack such as almonds, walnuts and cashews, and yogurt to maintain high energy levels. Have them either one hour before or after your meals.
It is a given that in all pursuits there will be bottlenecks with your plans. We must assume that roadblocks and diversions will come up and that your motivation may go for a toss when they do. So if you’re having such experiences remember to keep your cool and prepare for them way ahead in advance. Having a fallback makes it more likely that you’ll accomplish your aims.
7. Read books on the mind and its secrets – (especially for parents of chess playing children)
One of the most influential books about children ever published, Nurture Shock offers a radical perspective on children that tosses a library’s worth of conventional wisdom. Why are kids – even those from the best of homes – still undisciplined and aggressive? The answer is found in a rethinking of parental conflict, discipline, television’s unexpected influence, and social dominance.
The authors of Nurture Shock – Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman‘s New York Magazine articles on the science of children won the magazine journalism award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as the Clarion Award from the Association for Women in Communications. Their articles for Time Magazine won the award for outstanding journalism from the Council on Contemporary Families. Bronson has authored five books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller What Should I Do With My Life?
The author Anshu Jain is a chess coach at Golden Chess Centre, Nanganallur, Chennai. He is available for Chess training and is an expert in Digital Chess training techniques. When he is not teaching Chess he likes to learn computer languages.
Intermediate chess player study tips for improvement in chess – Part 1
What to do when playing against a master?
Last week I received an email from an old student of mine asking me on what next to study. He said – “Dear coach, I am stuck and I’ve been thinking about taking your advice on what to do to improve my game. I have been going steadily from 800 to 1300 for the last 1.5 years and now it’s been 6 months since I am able to raise my rating levels. Should I be worried that I am not doing something correctly? And if that is the case what am I doing wrong? Any resources for me to pursue?”. I knew that like him there were many intermediate chess players who were feeling lost in limbo land (and I myself was there some 13 years ago, so I know well enough what it’s like with no proper guidance).
So if your answer to the following questions –
Are you an upcoming intermediate level chess player also wanting to improve at chess after being stuck?
Do you think that there is some vital information that you are missing in your chess training?
Are you feeling guilty of wasting away your time reading or doing things that just seem to be a waste of your time?
is YES, then the answer lies in – introspection. And a new approach – Self study.
Let me explain.
This post is for intermediate chess players who want to improve their chess skills to the next stage. At this stage, most of the chess enthusiasts start losing hopes of improvement.
Why does this happen? Some of them simply do not want to do any more work. However, most of them do not have proper guidance to quality chess manuals for the needed push to the next levels.
The big question for every intermediate chess player is what to study to further improve at chess.
But to answer that correctly you need to take stock of what you know, and what you are yet to learn!
After acquainting yourself to the ideas of basic game play in your chess games, you must be now ready, to understand how long-term factors actually dictate the outcome of chess games. I will be listing some resources for you to read and understand.
Take notes and mark what you think is important from these books.
As an intermediate player, you are probably able to spot certain typical and basic tactics and defend against the same tactics. Now it’s time to develop the positional side of your game for further advancement.
Here are some resources I would suggest going through if you are really serious about improving your positional chess knowledge. I had read them many years ago and found them very useful for greater clarity and understanding from my then existing levels. I still refer to them to keep myself primed up.
So this is a kind of going back to the basics approach for improvement.
* Intermediate chess player study resource #1 –
Click on the image to know more.
Click on the image to know more.
My System and Chess Praxis
both by Aron Nimzowitsch. Two great books by a great player. These take you through important themes of positional play. The books gives concrete theory and gives proof-of-concept demonstration games. Though they are old school, the teachings still hold ground for the budding players. I consider them as a must for chess. I remember as a frustrated player having taken to these books like a fish to water. Aron Nimzowitsch was an excellent writer and an elite master. If there was some book unanimously labelled as a classic this would come pretty close to it.
On a personal note I found the Praxis book better in the long run but that was only after I understood his ‘My System’ book. You can use the Praxis book as a reference manual to better understand the concepts in the System like I did or you can read just the System book for now.
* Intermediate chess player study resource #2 –
Click on the image to know more.
Click on the image to know more.
Winning Chess Middlegames – An Essential Guide to Pawn Structures by Ivan Sokolov. This one comes as a surprise for many when I suggest taking this book seriously. In fact I am myself guilty of having sidelined this book when I first bought it. It was only when I read a few chapters that I discovered that it was a treasure trove of ideas in an area that is often neglected – viz pawn structures – doubled pawns, isolated pawns, hanging pawns and central pawn majorities.
I am sure you will find the study of this book is rewarding and will throw an added layer of understanding to your chess. One small word of caution: the book is only about 1.d4 openings, however the ideas Sokolov explains are applicable for all openings than the ones used in this book.
Chess Structures: A Grandmaster Guide by Mauricio Flores Rios – A new book that is exhaustive and is one of the best for explaining many pawn structure based themes and plans. A companion to the Sokolov book, a blog about the book, Mauricio Flores is including recent (or old) games where you can see how the theory of the book are applied, and how even sometimes GMs don’t find the best option – read his blog
How Purdy Won: 1st World Champion of Correspondence Chess – Purdy is among the best chess writers I have read at par with the likes of Dan Heisman or Irving Chernev (for beginners and intermediates).
When I first heard his name I though Purdy… who? And that is because his books are now quite old and almost forgotten. But he writes in an easy to read and understand format and his annotations are easy to follow – he writes for us. The reason I singled this book out is because it covers basic theory and examples of openings, middle games, and end games.
However if you are lingering in the 1350-1400 range try attempting this book by the same author – The Search for Chess Perfection. The reason is that he discusses in detail his thinking technique which is akin to Silman’s techniques.
Purdy’s passion and dedication to chess is seen in his writings. Very few authors are able to explain the concepts in layman terms. And most importantly, Purdy’s writing style is so wonderful that it can visited again and again; this helps to reinforce his teachings. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. And what better way to learn about chess truth than a Correspondence Chess Champion?
I suggest reading his other books too. For a detailed listing look hereat Amazon.
* Intermediate chess player study resource #4 –
How to Reassess Your Chess: Chess Mastery Through Chess Imbalances.
Reassess Your Chess Workbook.
Both these by by Jeremy Silman are worth their weight in gold. The reason I am suggesting both books is because they are connected in terms of teaching the concept and reinforcing them. However if you intend to buy only one I would suggest – How to Reassess Your Chess: Chess Mastery Through Chess Imbalances (though I am sure you will get the other books after reading this one). There is one caveat though – if initially you feel that he is way above your head despair not. do a re-run and you will see that he sinks in slowly. And one more caution – Don’t play blitz while reading these books – you will almost always lose on time as your mind grapples with Silmanesque techniques – that is what Silman does to the reader!
So do not worry about the stagnation and what an intermediate chess player study regimen is all about. When you are happy doing something without worrying about the result, then this is a moment of celebration.
Watch how the students dance to a song that they have no idea about. As Isaac Asimov said – Its all in the mind!
As usual comments and feedback are welcome. Please let me know if you found the suggestions useful!
If the books are out of stock – try buying them at the Bookdepository(with free shipping worldwide!)
When not playing or teaching chess at Golden Chess Centre, the author Kish Kumar spends time learning the fine art of cooking! Contact him at his Facebook page.
Golden Chess Centre conducts regular training sessions for upcoming chess players in Nanganallur, Madipakkam, Adambakkam, Moovarasampet, Kilkattalai, Kovilambakkam, Puzhuthivakkam, Ullagaram and Pazhavanthangal – Chennai, as well as online sessions for those players who live out of Chennai. Get in touch to know when the next batch will be starting, in case you are interested!
Recently I came across a two year old child and after observing his daily activities, I was amazed what we can learn from him. Here is the list of practical tips, that I learnt from him – the 6 Things Chess players can learn from 2 year old baby! Chess playing is a habit which once made will not be easy to quit. Because, apart from playing in tournaments you can also play online with the other players, not only from your own country, but also can the whole World.
Being a chess player is in itself a big achievement, because very few people in the world have the playing acumen and skill needed for Chess.
You can learn the tactics of Chess from your daily life activities like, say while watching TV or watching movies; all it needs is just a keen sense of observation, that is all!
6 Things Chess players can learn from 2 year old baby
1. Never ever complain.
Have you ever observed a two-year-old child going about his daily routines? If anything, he’ll never complain. Wait… you’ll say that he can cry, but that is not complaining! He is only expressing his emotions by either laughing or crying. The same thing we can do in our chess growth process – that is we can take all our responsibilities for our losses (and wins) on our shoulders. So that we never complain about any shortcomings or bad luck, for lack of success in Chess. Friends, no one is going to spoon-feed you, even a good coach will not want to do this – he will and must, guide you. The rest is your own work. So be a responsible person and keep concentrating on your goal of better chess.
2. Just One Target.
A two-year-old child has just one target – once he/she asks for anything, then come-what-may, that ‘thing’ is the most wanted object for him. When you started playing chess, what was your target and what was your dream? Remember that, all the time. There is an Indian mythological tale in the Mahabharata (a revered lore in Indian tradition), when the famous teacher Guru Dronacharaya asked his best desciple Arjuna, what he was seeing when he ordered him to attack the target with his arrow. Arjuna answered coolly – “the only thing I am seeing is the sparrow’s eye”. The same thing is also applicable for our chess pursuits. Single minded focus.
A child has the greatest bonding with his/her Mother, if he/she can feel her touch or her voice, then he is at peace. The same affection will have to be there for your Chess training! Yes, you will have to love the game if you want to succeed in your Chess. Chess is all about dedication and passion and the only person to succeed in this, is one who has the passion, minus the stress.
A child has fixed timing for getting up early in the morning, taking food at a fixed time and then sleeping at the fixed time. If you don’t have time for your chess training, then you are not going to make any progress, which you were thinking at the start of learning chess. This is all about doing the same thing daily – and – finally one day you become the expert in any field. There is one good saying – “to become an expert in any field you need to put in just 10000 hours of intense practice”. Do it daily and see the leap in your performance after 6 months.
5. One baby-step at a time.
Have you noticed how a child is always living in the present moment? The child only takes one small baby step at a time, and does not crave for immediate success in whatever he wants. If he observes a toy in the far end of the room, he does not run. He takes whatever is possible in small steps towards that toy, and goes with a one-minded focus. That is how we must be in our chess preparation and training. Small steps are needed daily. Science has proved that anything done on a daily basis for 3 days in a row becomes a habit and if you start small it is easier to create a habit.
A small child doesn’t have any worries, like when to eat or how to eat etc. You should also not have any worries whether you can achieve mastery or not. At Golden Chess Centre, we ask parents and the students, not to look at the results. The game quality is what the coach looks into, not the game points. In Chess, results depend on just the one last mistake and if the student keeps training persistently in a disciplined way, even that mistake will be removed by sheer dint of hard work. Let not success excite you, or failure pull you down.
When the players see that they are not able to win a particular opponent then they go into a QUITTING mindset. Quitting is a very easy thing. But my principal of life says – “WINNERS NEVER QUIT AND QUITTERS NEVER WIN.”
By Ashok Jain
Ashok Jain is a life coach at Golden Chess Centre, Nanganallur, in his spare time when he finds his work needs a time off.
Golden Chess Centre conducts regular training sessions for dedicated and upcoming chess players in Nanganallur, Madipakkam, Adambakkam, Moovarasampet, Kilkattalai, Kovilambakkam, Puzhuthivakkam, Ullagaram and Pazhavanthangal – Chennai, as well as online sessions for those players who live out of Chennai.