Superstitions in chess

Discuss anything you like about chess related matters in this forum.
David Gilbert
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by David Gilbert » Wed Aug 19, 2020 3:02 pm

"I always used to put my right boot on first, and then obviously my right sock." Barry Venison

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MJMcCready
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by MJMcCready » Wed Aug 19, 2020 5:24 pm

In my teens if I won a league game I usually wore the same clothes for my next game.

Simon Rogers
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by Simon Rogers » Fri Aug 21, 2020 5:53 pm

I remember I had a couple of lucky pens a number of years ago. I lost one pen and the ink ran out in the other pen.

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Joey Stewart
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by Joey Stewart » Sat Aug 22, 2020 12:59 am

I used to have one when I was a country captain.
I had horrible luck on the coin and pretty much always ended up with black on my board so I used it to my advantage and put the players with the strongest white openings on opposite number boards - ha! Take that karma!
Lose one queen and it is a disaster, Lose 1000 queens and it is just a statistic.

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MJMcCready
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by MJMcCready » Sat Aug 22, 2020 6:57 am

They say if you tread in dogshit it brings you good luck. So I suppose if you did so en route to your local club, it could affect your opponent's concentration level, they may play moves with a whiff of suspicion about them more often than usual.

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Paul Robert Jackson
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by Paul Robert Jackson » Sat Aug 22, 2020 8:06 am

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Wed Aug 19, 2020 1:51 pm
Wasn't Karpov said to have an aversion to washing his hair during a match?
When working in London in the 1990's I remember having a discussion about this a "chess café" in Covent Garden.
It was compared to the likes of footballers pre match rituals, & Björn Borg not shaving during tournament's.
Paul Robert Jackson

Stewart Reuben
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by Stewart Reuben » Sun Aug 23, 2020 5:50 pm

For the 1986 match a minor sponsor provided us with two chairs. Karpov accepted his perfectly happily. Kasparov wanted to sit on a less 'majestic' chair and selected an ordinary one from the audience ones. Tolya had difficulty pushing his chair back and we put a board under the carpet.
Karpov did talk about being 'unlucky' in London 1986. I didn't argue as I flatly disagree about 'luck' in chess. If you make a bad move, so be it.

Louis de Veauce, it is said, never changed his shirt when winning in an event.
Some people insisted on the knights facing forward, or alternatively, to the side.
Kenny Harman claimed he got 18 consecutive blacks playing for Islington. I never checked whether this was just fantasy.
The British Championship always used to take place during Bill Hartston's birthday. He found he always lost that day. So he emulated the Queen and assigned an official birthday to the middle Sunday, which was always a rest day. After that he had no problem.

Naturally many of the poker or bridge players I know are much more superstitious than chessplayers.

Jonathan Rogers
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by Jonathan Rogers » Sun Aug 23, 2020 6:06 pm

Stewart Reuben wrote:
Sun Aug 23, 2020 5:50 pm

Karpov did talk about being 'unlucky' in London 1986. I didn't argue as I flatly disagree about 'luck' in chess. If you make a bad move, so be it.
...
Karpov probably thought he should have made half a point more in games seven and eight. But he did mishandle those games; and was surely lucky that Kasparov missed a simple win in two moves in game two. (I can believe there is no bad luck, but still there can be good luck).

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Sun Aug 23, 2020 6:40 pm

Stewart Reuben wrote:
Sun Aug 23, 2020 5:50 pm
Kenny Harman claimed he got 18 consecutive blacks playing for Islington. I never checked whether this was just fantasy.
In the days of "tossing for colours" such sequences were certainly possible and occasionally actually happened.
"Set up your attacks so that when the fire is out, it isn't out!" (H N Pillsbury)

Nick Grey
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by Nick Grey » Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:02 pm

We still toss for colours. I used to train for football on a monday night before chess
at the club. 6 seasons with no change of shin pads.

Alistair Campbell
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by Alistair Campbell » Fri Aug 28, 2020 5:57 pm

Nick Grey wrote:
Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:02 pm
We still toss for colours. I used to train for football on a monday night before chess
at the club. 6 seasons with no change of shin pads.
I'm tempted to ask if you also wore the shin-pads to the football...

I can’t think of many superstitions in chess. A few people like a particular set, or a particular seat – possibly because it has a good view (or no view) or because it’s near the heater. Some people are fastidious about orienting their knights.

I am aware of the concept of the lucky pen, although they can be capricious objects, subjecting you to the occasional hideous loss before inevitably spilling large quantities of indelible ink over your trousers or jacket lining.

There is, however, something to be said for a neat score-sheet (and the quality and variability of score-sheets to assist this aim may by an under-investigated topic); it may promote a sense of control or well-being.

This latter concept may be worthy of further exploration. (In reality I suspect some “superstitions” are merely misguided attempts to replicate the conditions of previous good performances).

Slightly off-topic, but I remember Colin Cowdrey claiming he batted better when he felt less than 100%. I can’t recall whether this was related to health or injury, whether “better” meant scoring better, or even if there were evidence to support this assertion. Assuming it were true, I’m further unsure about whether any improvement was due to him concentrating more, taking fewer risks, or perhaps being more carefree.

There must be analogies to chess. I can imagine that things like getting enough sleep and eating the right things at the right times may improve performance. Is there any equivalent of “beware the ill chess-player”? (I know Geoff Chandler claims that it is rare that he beats a fit and healthy opponent).

Alternatively one might have thought that being in a good frame of mind would be beneficial.

I guess related questions might be “What is form?” and as a corollary, “How can I move from being “out of form” to “in form”? Does luck exist, and does it play a part?

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JustinHorton
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by JustinHorton » Fri Aug 28, 2020 6:36 pm

Alistair Campbell wrote:
Fri Aug 28, 2020 5:57 pm
I know Geoff Chandler claims that it is rare that he beats a fit and healthy opponent
Fairly sure Henry Bird said the same
"Do you play chess?"
"Yes, but I prefer a game with a better chance of cheating."

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John Clarke
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by John Clarke » Sat Aug 29, 2020 10:08 pm

Alistair Campbell wrote:
Fri Aug 28, 2020 5:57 pm

Slightly off-topic, but I remember Colin Cowdrey claiming he batted better when he felt less than 100%.
I had a mate who once took a high place in a U-160 week-ender while nursing a recently-broken collar-bone. He insisted the injury had been of help to him in achieving this. I still don't really understand how, unless he meant that forcing himself to concentrate hard at the board took his mind off the discomfort.
"The chess-board is the world ..... the player on the other side is hidden from us ..... he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance."
(He doesn't let you resign and start again, either.)

Nick Grey
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by Nick Grey » Sat Aug 29, 2020 10:53 pm

I place knights facing inwards.
In my football days I played County Chess. SOME times no shower if lost at football. I apologise.

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MJMcCready
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Re: Superstitions in chess

Post by MJMcCready » Sun Aug 30, 2020 6:52 am

Stewart Reuben wrote:
Sun Aug 23, 2020 5:50 pm


Naturally many of the poker or bridge players I know are much more superstitious than chessplayers.
Have you ever met or seen someone play chess and bridge simultaneously, starting both superstitiously, believing that playing with a dummy hand it would allow fool's mate?

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