“When angry, count to 10 before you speak. If very angry, up to hundred!” is a very apt technique in anger management. However when I say “count till 10” to my students, it is not for anger, but for impulsive chess playing habits. And I have been finding a huge improvement in the way the children respond to their opponent’s move. Training beginners in Chess – Count till Ten is my idea of super imposing a conscious task-repetition to a sub-conscious task and making it a conscious effort.
This way it makes the mind to be here and now.
Among chess players especially when you are a beginner (whether child or adult, doesn’t matter) the biggest problem that all trainers face is that, the players do not understand the importance of giving a second thought to the move that they are about to play.
They play impulsively and instinctively.And that is innate in all of us unless we are trained differently.
It has to do a lot with the way our body responds to external stimulus – known as the flight or fight syndrome.
The Training regimen for children (especially for those who are beginners) must focus on this aspect before going deep into theoretical domains.
What is fight or flight syndrome?
This is the body’s response to any perceptible threat or danger. During this reaction, some hormones like Adrenalin and Cortisol are released by the body to cope with contingencies. This results in faster heart rate and various other autonomic nervous functional changes, providing the body with a burst of energy and strength.
This response prepares the body to either fight or flee from the critical situation.
The person’s body is getting ready to do one of two things in such a scenario:
- Confront the threat and deal with it, or
- Get as far away from the threat as quickly as possible.
This fight or flight response can actually be life saving when there is an actual and real physical threat. For example, when driving, if you see someone cross the road in front, you suddenly slam the brakes as you need to react quickly in order to prevent an accident.
What is strange is that the response can be triggered due to both real and imaginary threats.
The fight-or-flight response, also known as the acute stress response, refers to a psychological reaction that occurs in the presence of something that is terrifying, either mentally or physically. The fight-or-flight response was first described in the 1920s by American physiologist Walter Cannon. Cannon realised that a chain of rapidly occurring reactions inside the body help mobilise the body’s resources to deal with threatening circumstances – source
We have fear and stress in non-critical threats situations too (like in a game of chess) because of the way we understand these situations.
Our body cannot always tell the difference between real and imagined threat.
Therefore, when we interpret a situation as critical on the chess board, our body is going to respond as though that situation is dangerous and threatening, even if it really isn’t in actuality.
Training beginners in Chess – Count till Ten
This is my idea of making a chess move – a conscious effort.
This makes the mind to be in the here and now.
So how do we get about doing this?
Simple. By asking the child to count till 10 before making a move, however forced and obvious it may be. They will be irritated by your advice, initially. Let them be. Over time they will understand why this drilling took place and they will thank you for this.
Once the child has grasped the importance of this training he/she is free to play without counting.
Suggested reading for coaches and parents:
- Three Steps to Chess Mastery by A. Seutin – 1st Edition
- Chess Training for Post-beginners: A Basic Course in Positional Understanding
- Reaching the Top?!: A Practical Guide to Playing Master-Level Chess
Kish Kumar is a chess coach and a passionate blogger who teaches Chess at Golden Chess Centre, Nanganallur. When he has time he is usually assembling something unsuccessfully :). Connect with him on Facebook and give your feedback/thoughts and criticisms.