Psychological annihilation in Chess

I am currently playing Siemens PLM Chess tournament in Pune. This is tournament which is held annually in Siemens  to select its Team for Inter IT Chess Competitions. The event attracts some very good players working with Siemens Pune. n

In the Semi Final I was expecting a strong contest because in a Knock out tournaments only consistent winners reach the Semis. Consistent win is something which I admire in people. Australian Cricket Team in yester years, Warren Buffet in Stocks and though personally despised Shahrukh for giving hits and winning local awards.

The usual game begun and we started locking horns on the central squares. The best part about the tournament is the speed which you have to play. The first guy with 30 minutes on the clock loses. So chess becomes a high neuron rather than stretch neuron battle. While I was able to make out the motive behind his moves, I think he failed to read that I was working towards developing all my pieces simultaneously to launch a massive attack. With force concentration and build up a hole is what I was looking for. His desperate and sudden attack gave me a chance and in a blast his defence were ripped apart. I think it was rather unkind to blow away a Semi Finalist in 12 minutes straight. He resigned and ran away. I could feel how dejected he was.   This  got me thinking about the immortal  lines written by Stephen Covey. He said  – ” Besides Boxing, Chess is the most inhuman game man has ever invented ” 

The game crushes the mental confidence of the looser. He is expected to collect all his intelligence to fight and is utterly annihilated by mind power of the winner. When I reflected back on this , I was transported back to my child hood days. In a family of 50 in Calcutta Chess was a whole day engagement with not one guy playing again another but groups playing against each other.

After each move the parties discussed how to counter and it became a more participatory sport than even bull fights. As a child of of 9 yrs I had shown a good level of proficiency to beat olders and this was their way to humiliate me. Groups of 5-7 on 1 side dissecting every move of mine. Giving interpretations and then making a collective move.

On  loosing  material, resignation was not the option . The only way game could end was through Cheque-mate. To make the humiliation more killing they loved to give pawn mate ( Mating move to be done by the most worthless pawn).  The king of loosing side used to be paraded , forked, insulted by pieces . He was relegated to move only on 2 squares and with a lot of deliberations the mate used to occur. I remember having cried for those humiliations.

Those scenes let my thoughts meander to modern international Chess where a lot of psychological warfare equivalent to Sledging has percolated. I heard about non Gentlemanly behaviour by Garry Kasparov where in he bangs pieces on board, makes vicious faces towards the opponent and leaves the seat in between the game to humiliate. I started hating Garry for this and then I met my Finals opponent today. I decided that irrespective of the final to be played next week I would make human contact with him. During our discussion about the game , he told me that the bullying tactics were inflicted on Kasparov by his arch rival Karpov. Such was the pressure on Kasparov that he vomited out during the game. If the reasons for his vomiting were purely psychological then Covey’s comment is not far fetched.  

On reflection , I thought resignation is the most humanizing step done to this game.  The game continues to wreck the mental hygiene of people who play it   

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