I woke up unusually early yesterday, and had some time to burn. I sat down to play Chess.
I had a game that I'd basically sewn up, I had the win in hand. Then, I made a mistake. A significant mistake, but I was still in the driver's seat... yet, at that point, I stopped calculating and planning, and I was just moving the pieces around the board. I lost about 10 moves later.
Aggravated as hell, I went to have some breakfast and a coffee, do some light reading, and then fired Chess back up (with some of the aggravation waning).
A couple games in, I had a similar situation. I was up a bishop on the opponent, but made a blunder in a really complicated mess in the middle of the board. I was going to lose my bishop advantage in two moves regardless.
I stopped, took a whole minute, and looked for what I could do about it. Well, it was a no-good set of moves on my part, but I was able to grab another pawn, tempo, and position. Still wholly in the driver's seat just by focusing and not worrying about the mistake.
Even if it had equalized our positions, I still could have borne down instead of broken and given up, and won the game. I did win that one.
Life's like that, isn't it? A lot of times you'll make a mistake or your position will get worse. The question then is, are you going to let the first mistake set off a cascade of them, or are you going to shrug it off, bear down, and keep moving towards what you want?
From Sebastian: I was really honored and thrilled when Jason Shen offered to write a guest post here at SebastianMarshall.com - he's an incredibly bright guy with broad knowledge and skillset, writes well and clearly, and is an all-around good guy. So I'm really excited to be able to bring you a guest post by him - I imagine you'll want to read more by him afterwards, and you can reach him at his website - www.jasonshen.com.
Here's Jason -
I read Sebastian's blog because I'm interested in winning and he writes honest, insightful and sometimes provocative stuff about victory. Recently, I've been thinking about ways to win that are less commonly employed - one, because it's interesting and two, because I think there is a lot we can learn from unorthodox methods that work.
That's what this blog post is about: strategies that are nontraditional, that are beyond "do your best and learn from your mistakes" type advice, yet are undeniably ways that help you win.You might find them strange, but that's ok because winning isn't normal.
Some people find the pursuit of winning distasteful or even silly. Others get juiced by the idea of winning, of kicking ass and taking names, of being the best. I have a feeling that many of you SebatianMarshall.com readers fall into the second category. This post is for you.
At the time of writing, I'm playing a game of chess online. All I know about my opponent is gleaned from his profile; we have had no direct communication. He is an 84-year old man from Israel, and he wins more games than he loses. The game is almost over.
I am going to win, and we both know this, but it takes 4-5 moves for me to make a single step of progress. He threatens and obstructs me every step of the way and I know he won't submit. The man only makes one move a day. Given his age, I am hoping to beat him before he dies.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about this man. The life he's lived, the things he's seen, and his approach to chess. He's captured my imagination. I can see him walking through the streets, stopping in a cafe for a coffee, conversing with the locals. Maybe he plays chess there too. He is stubborn and relentless, even now in his diminished strength. He contemplates every move and will not be hurried (not that I have tried to hurry him). Earlier, when the field of play was more level, I considered making small mistakes to give the elderly gent an upper hand. I figured he would enjoy the victory more than I. After talking it over (yes, I talk these crazy things over with others) it was decided that the best thing to do was to play my best. He didn't come here for allowances or special treatment, he came here for the challenge and a realistic measure of his ability. I hope youngsters will afford me the same treatment when I am older.