The psychology of choking

Discuss anything you like about chess related matters in this forum.
User avatar
Christopher Kreuzer
Posts: 7480
Joined: Fri Aug 06, 2010 2:34 am
Location: London

The psychology of choking

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Tue Apr 26, 2011 12:56 am

BBC article on 'The psychology of choking':

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/front_page/13185266.stm

Was wondering if that can apply to chess? Have there been instances of chess players freezing mentally and playing really badly at crucial moments? Or is this kind of thing peculiar to physical sports rather than mental ones?

LozCooper

Re: The psychology of choking

Post by LozCooper » Tue Apr 26, 2011 9:58 am

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:BBC article on 'The psychology of choking':

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/front_page/13185266.stm

Was wondering if that can apply to chess? Have there been instances of chess players freezing mentally and playing really badly at crucial moments? Or is this kind of thing peculiar to physical sports rather than mental ones?
Very true in chess, when playing for a prize, norm, title etc

Richard Thursby
Posts: 184
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2009 11:25 am
Location: origin + pathname + search + hash

Re: The psychology of choking

Post by Richard Thursby » Tue Apr 26, 2011 10:21 am

Possibly not quite what you're looking for, but Karpov in his first match against Kasparov springs to mind.

Roger de Coverly
Posts: 18515
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 2:51 pm

Re: The psychology of choking

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Apr 26, 2011 10:39 am

Christopher Kreuzer wrote: Have there been instances of chess players freezing mentally and playing really badly at crucial moments?

There have been stories of well-known Grandmasters who needed to play a move or a couple of moves to reach a time control just freezing and losing on time.

The name Hort springs to mind
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlastimil_Hort

from which
The penultimate game of the match was rather bizarre in its conclusion, as Hort had established a clearly winning position, but inexplicably forgot about the factor of time, and he sat thinking until his time elapsed, making Spassky the winner of the game.

Jon D'Souza-Eva

Re: The psychology of choking

Post by Jon D'Souza-Eva » Tue Apr 26, 2011 10:50 am

Warren Kingston wrote:Christopher, when I represent the club I suffer, but when I play tournaments, representing myself I am like a free man. Can not beat a 96 in League but have beaten 171, 168 and160 in tournaments.
I didn't realise that FIDE ratings went down that far.

William Metcalfe
Posts: 585
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2007 3:12 pm
Location: Darlington

Re: The psychology of choking

Post by William Metcalfe » Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:44 am

Choking can happen in league chess also i have had to drop 1 of my players this season they lost every game when they were the last player to finish and they needed a win or a draw for my team to either win or draw the match.They just could not handle the preasure there hands would shake and they would break out in a sweat ect.
But i also have players that score better than expected in the same situation and thrive on the preasure
I am speaking here for myself and not the NCCU which i am now president of

Jon D'Souza-Eva

Re: The psychology of choking

Post by Jon D'Souza-Eva » Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:58 am

One strong player in my team gets so nervous in time pressure that he starts violently shaking and has difficulty writing down his moves and even pressing the clock. Last time he was holding his pen in one hand and using the other hand to dampen the shaking and move the pen in roughly the right direction, taking about twenty seconds or so to write down one move. Fortunately his nervousness doesn't seem to affect his ability to find good moves and he rarely throws away winning positions under time pressure.

William Metcalfe
Posts: 585
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2007 3:12 pm
Location: Darlington

Re: The psychology of choking

Post by William Metcalfe » Tue Apr 26, 2011 12:18 pm

We have a local player whos hands and body shake but it only happens when he thinks he is winning.
Its a good job he does not play poker with tells like that lmao
I am speaking here for myself and not the NCCU which i am now president of

Jonathan Rogers
Posts: 4027
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2008 9:26 pm

Re: The psychology of choking

Post by Jonathan Rogers » Tue Apr 26, 2011 1:08 pm

Choking is so commonplace that it is hard to imagine a player who can honestly say that he has never lost/drawn a game that he would otherwise definitely have drawn/won had it not been for the competitive circumstances/significance of the result. I won't bore you with my experiences but they are certainly numerous, even though I don't particularly think of myself as a choker by character, and could give counter-examples too.

If it is as commonplace as that, such that we all do it or have done it, it is not surprising that there should be a number of players lower down the grading list who seem to do it all the time.

In fact, perhaps this is one reason why Kasparov might be the greatest ever - I can't ever think of him choking. Even when he lost to Kramnik, or had the odd tournament when he ceded first place by not winning the last round, it was always clear that he was out of form or the opponent on very good form, and so the failure was not to do with choking. The Deep Blue debacle was part of a wider psychological problem, I think.

But is there anyone else? Even Carlsen went through a stage a couple of years ago of losing crucial last rounds, thus promoting Forumite Leonard Barden to speculate on whether he might prove to be a choker. (Lasker maybe?! Botvinnik?)

Richard Bates
Posts: 3048
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2008 8:27 pm

Re: The psychology of choking

Post by Richard Bates » Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:24 pm

Lost the crucial game that got my team relegated in the 4NCL on at least 3 occasions, can recite dozens if not scores of occasions when i've failed to win in the last round of a tournament with prizes at stake, yep it's definitely me.

The strange thing is that i don't think i choke 'conventionally' in a Chuky like collapse due to a bundle of nerves. If anything it's the complete opposite - the more the result matters the more i seem to take an approach of "c'est la vie", "what will be will be" and basically stop playing at my real strength, in favour of deliberately seeking out often forcing lines which i barely attempt to analyse but which *might* bring about the desired result. In other words, rather than folding under the pressure, i actively seek to avoid the possibility of experiencing the pressure at all!

User avatar
Christopher Kreuzer
Posts: 7480
Joined: Fri Aug 06, 2010 2:34 am
Location: London

Re: The psychology of choking

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:59 pm

Richard Bates wrote:Lost the crucial game that got my team relegated in the 4NCL on at least 3 occasions, can recite dozens if not scores of occasions when i've failed to win in the last round of a tournament with prizes at stake, yep it's definitely me.

The strange thing is that i don't think i choke 'conventionally' in a Chuky like collapse due to a bundle of nerves. If anything it's the complete opposite - the more the result matters the more i seem to take an approach of "c'est la vie", "what will be will be" and basically stop playing at my real strength, in favour of deliberately seeking out often forcing lines which i barely attempt to analyse but which *might* bring about the desired result. In other words, rather than folding under the pressure, i actively seek to avoid the possibility of experiencing the pressure at all!
Lowering your expectations? Wimping out? :D (Have you found a way to get round this? One way would be to finish before the last game.)

EDIT: To be fair, I suffer from calculating permutations in scores in the last round (and sometimes in the penultimate round as well), when I should be concentrating on being in the right frame of mind for the game of chess that is about to be played.

Peter Constantinou
Posts: 20
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:17 pm

Re: The psychology of choking

Post by Peter Constantinou » Tue Apr 26, 2011 9:05 pm

I think people blunder for many different reasons. I tend to fall victim to Kotov's "dizziness due to success", although my success is often only imagined!

User avatar
Christopher Kreuzer
Posts: 7480
Joined: Fri Aug 06, 2010 2:34 am
Location: London

Re: The psychology of choking

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:44 pm

Not about choking, but blundering in general, I think many of my blunders come from playing too quickly in "winning" positions. I do break out in a cold sweat sometimes when I remember some of the moves I nearly played before noticing the blunder. Even worse is when you play a move, and then notice a refutation that means your opponent will be winning, and then have to try and avoid any body language that will communicate this fact to him or her. Sometimes the relief that comes when they don't play that move can be distracting enough to lead to further mistakes. Possibly worse of all is playing a move, and then realising that another move would have won material. Trying to think about the position on the board after that sort of realisation can be very difficult.

Alex Holowczak
Posts: 9085
Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 5:18 pm
Location: Oldbury, Worcestershire
Contact:

Re: The psychology of choking

Post by Alex Holowczak » Thu Apr 28, 2011 12:13 am

We had a relegation playoff tonight against two other clubs. Only lost 1 BDCL game all season, and then in the playoff, I mess up the opening, and blunder a piece for no reason on about move 15. Does this count as choking? :(

Paul Robson
Posts: 47
Joined: Tue Mar 30, 2010 1:23 pm

Re: The psychology of choking

Post by Paul Robson » Thu Apr 28, 2011 1:45 pm

Jon D'Souza-Eva wrote:One strong player in my team gets so nervous in time pressure that he starts violently shaking and has difficulty writing down his moves and even pressing the clock. Last time he was holding his pen in one hand and using the other hand to dampen the shaking and move the pen in roughly the right direction, taking about twenty seconds or so to write down one move. Fortunately his nervousness doesn't seem to affect his ability to find good moves and he rarely throws away winning positions under time pressure.
I think if I was playing such a player I would ask him to stop shaking ,(AS I HAVE DONE ), shaking can be off putting to others.Sometimes the whole table shakes and they really need to calm down. Often my polite request means they falter and blunder. If I got up and starting dancing around, (now theres a vision) ,on my opponents move this would be considered poor form. Often their legs are boucing up and down - really need to go to frontline IRAQ, then they can shake for real.
Please try to remain calm under pressure unless its Monopoly of course ! :wink:

Post Reply