So how does a Chess Grandmaster win?

Chess grandmaster

8th September 2015

Gavin Preston



I recently had a fascinating conversation with a man who you could describe as looking something like a cross between a red headed Viking and a mad professor. There was no doubt, however, to his incisive knowledge and skill.

Not being a chess player I was intrigued to be told that when two Chess Grand Masters play against each other there are 23 trillion possible permutations of moves. The human brain can only consciously compute 6 moves. He told me that to play chess at that level it is the unconscious mind of the Grand Masters that is in action. Two Grand Master’s subconscious minds pitted against each other often, apparently, results in a draw.

He asked me ‘when there is a victor, what is the difference between the grand master that won and the one that lost?’. My immediate response was ‘belief’.

‘Exactly’ he replied ‘but most people build belief by thinking through their plan of action and getting a sense of confidence, even certainty, that their plans will result in success. The Grand Master cannot do that with 23 trillion possible moves. So how does that Grand Master build belief in themselves?’

They have to experience the feelings of winning, of celebration in their imagination. They need to repeatedly see and more importantly feel the experience of winning.

He went onto explain there are two types of adrenalin. The adrenalin of anticipation and the adrenalin of celebration. The adrenalin of anticipation shows up in the form of excitement or worry / anxiety. Most people are good at the adrenalin of anticipation.

What we are not, however, good at is the celebration piece. Celebrating the win in our mind’s eye and feeling the feeling of winning, of success is powerful for building self belief and programming our subconscious for success. Celebrating the actual win / success is important to not only getting more enjoyment out of our lives but also to programming the nervous system that there will be reward for the effort.

What are you doing to celebrate your wins both in your mental preparation and after your actual success?

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