Don't Get Discouraged!


A weekly question and answer column by FIDE Master Andy Lee.

Q: What do I do when I feel discouraged about my chess results?

-- Marie, Omaha, NE

A: It's a fact of life that everyone is going to lose chess games.  Some people seem to be blessed with natural ability and rarely lose, but for most of us, improving in chess requires hard work, dedication, and a lot of lost games.

Some chess players take losing harder than others.  As a youth, Garry Kasparov once cried after a particularly tough loss.  I've had opponents who have thrown pieces and stormed off rather than resigning with a handshake or by tipping over their king.

As good as it feels to win, it's important to remember that we learn a lot more from our losses.  It's easier said than done, but the best way to think of your losses is that they are the same as getting a lesson in strategy or tactics from your opponent.  In fact, many great chess players have said that you must lose at least one thousand(!) games before you can compete at the highest levels.

My worst tournament happened back in 1996 when I was 15 years old and playing in a strong tournament for the first time.  I lost all five of my games.  By the last round, I was so sick of losing that I never wanted to see a chessboard again.  Nevertheless, after taking a break from tournaments for a couple of months, I found that I had regained my love of chess and that the losses didn't hurt so much anymore.

That doesn't mean that losing is fun.  Here's an example of one of my toughest losses:


I had played well the whole game against one of my good friends and closest rivals, only to throw the game away with one silly move.  Needless to say, I was very upset.  But although I was discouraged, I kept playing in tournaments, and became a National Master just two years later!