Lessons learned 1

9 June 2017

Chris Tatham writes: I’m a newbie chess club member having just completed my first season of competitive chess. Whilst I’ve reached an age where I’ve reconciled myself to never becoming a Grandmaster, I’m still keen to improve. The season’s end seemed a timely opportunity to summarise some of the key lessons I’ve learned from the games I’ve played. They are all very personal but shared in case they might be helpful to others..

My end of season grade is a heady 115 so as you can see there is a lot to learn……

Play the board and the position not the opponent or the grade

This is probably the most important lesson I received, it came from a fellow club member after he had soundly beaten me in a game in an individual tournament.

A quick look at my performance over the competitive season analysed by opponent type and grade shows the problem:

I’ve focused too much on whom I am playing…

In games I’ve played against friends (ie fellow club members) I’ve lacked a competitive spirit that hasn’t been evident against non-club members.

Performance Against non-club
Against club opponents

% score



Rating achieved



Against lower rated players, I’ve felt under pressure to win (especially within a team context), whilst against higher rated opponents there has been no expectation and no pressure.

Performance Against higher-rated
Against lower-rated opponents

% score



Rating achieved



Half the battle is recognising the problem, so now:
~ If I come across an opponent I don’t know, I don’t look up their grade or their recent performance (of course, if I’m tipped off about their favourite opening that is something I’m keen to know!).
~ I ‘depersonalise’ the game and focus on the board rarely looking at my opponent – I’m consciously trying to play the position to the exclusion of all else.