Nerves of steel while playing chess

Comments: 1528

How not to feel nervous while playing chess? People usually avoid discussing this topic, although it’s very important. Let’s be real: we are not machines. Our general (psychological) condition bears influence on our chess results.

Probably you’ve noticed that sometimes you play worse than usual. Obviously, it’s not because of your chess knowledge, which is still the same as previously. When you are afraid of your opponent and worry about the final result – you start playing much worse than usual.
chess nervousAgain, this is completely normal and natural – we are human beings and we have emotions. This problem relates to ALL chess players, including top GMs. Look at modern 2700+ players, and you will easily find some games, where those great players played terribly.

You may check the World Chess Championship 2016 games where both Carlsen and Karjakin missed their chances.

Some people even say that Bobby Fischer abandoned chess because of his fear of losing. Thus every chess player experiences this problem at some stage. This brings us to the main question:

How to solve this problem?

First, let me give you a dictum:

“Emotions control a weak person.
A strong person controls his emotions.”

Next, I’ll give you a piece of advice, which will help you to direct your emotions on the right track. Here is a very important and wise idea:

You are NOT responsible for the result of your games

Maybe this sounds strange, so let me explain it. Imagine that Kasparov is going to play against an amateur player. Can Kasparov guarantee that he will win? NO, he can’t. He is not God; he can’t predict his future and define his destiny. Kasparov can guarantee that he will try to win, that he will use all his chess knowledge and skills. BUT still, he can’t give a 100% guarantee of his future win.

You are responsible for your play. BUT you are not responsible for the result. Therefore it makes no sense to think and to worry about the result.
vassily smyslov chess quote

Do you know what V. Smyslov said to himself before playing a game? Here’s what:


“My goal is to make 40 good moves.
If my opponent makes a mistake, I’ll win.
If my opponent will also be able to make 40 good moves, there will be a draw.
If my opponent plays like a genius, I’ll lose.” 


(Note: 40 moves is just the average game duration, don’t stick to a specific number.)



Now it’ll be interesting for you to compare it with saying of an Olympic Champion in running:

“After a certain round, look into the mirror and say: “I was running as good as I could.” Be happy and satisfied with your result, and then keep training. Don’t put pressure on yourself (as you don’t want that someone else put pressure on you).Your efforts are the most valuable thing in life, not even the final result…”break


While playing chess, your goal is to use all your chess knowledge and skills; to follow the correct system of thinking and to the make the best moves according to this system.

  • If this will be enough for a win – that’s great.
    • If not – it only means that you need to keep training and raise your general chess level.
    • In the next issue, I’ll give you some more advice. In the end, I’d like to give you a task:

      It is Black’s turn. Your task is to find the best move and calculate all associated lines. In the next issue I’ll give you the answer and you’ll be able to check it for yourself. 🙂

      P.S. Your chess-playing friends will love this so spread the word with the sharing buttons below.

      Quick success in chess

      Comments: 1528

      Comments 40

      1. wow again an amazing free lesson , thank u my master GM Igor Smirnov happy holidays, and a blessed Christmas for u and Ur family 🙂

      2. thanks a lot , i am trying to follow your lessons and so are my children. they are 11 and 14 years and they play for their school. keep up the good work and have a nice and pleasant holidays.

      3. 100% Thankyou for your valuble advice Igor Sir! and Please give any Meditational Techniques such as How to get Alfa Stage like..

      4. Briefly magnificence, the most expensive tips in this topic, thank you very much to our teacher GM Igor Smirnov for this lesson.

      5. you are right sir,, often times when i play against stronger player,my heart beats faster than normal, until i felt cold, all over my body and so headaches follow, though i manage to win, but it was so tiring.. i have been trying to manage this weakness but its not easy, thank you sir for the great lesson

      6. yes Mr. GM Igorsmirnov we Indians too taught by these moral booster words by THE GREAT SWAMI VIVEKANANDA SWAMY in early 19th centuary. To win any war or battle one must have stell of nerves and iron will then only they can fight till the end and win the game.


      7. Yeah,,RAjashekar, everybody knows the themes. But as Igor said, its the thought process to implement in the given situation is a must. Thnx Igor foo gr8 guidance.Everybody should be practical in thinking.

      8. Thanks Gm Smirnov,this is a nice article. By the way with the “GM Secrets” course my rating increased by 200 points in 3 months. Thanks again GM Smirnov!! =)

      9. I’m a good player already but even your free lessons are great.. 🙂 I’m broke today … but I’ll be bying your “GM Secret in the future..:) God bless…:)

      10. Thank for the lessons, your advices hare very instructive. You hare the best of all teachers !!!!!!!

        Hi Mariano mancin

        1. well when i registered for fide 2 years ago i forgot my fide id because due to lack of training i stop playing for fide .now i will play again i have registered of fide arena an online app for playing fide official tournaments.

          1. dear ayush

            oh ok sir. can you at least tell me your birth year if that’s okay? it will be easier to find your specific profile since there are more people with the same name as you?

            thanks sir

            1. dear jakov 5-04-1994 it is my date of birth i am engineer also.but i leave it because i love chess and want to become gm asap.tomorrow on icc i play a lot of titled players and able to draw with them and beat them in 5 min game.

      11. dear igor sir fantastic article outstanding advice thankyou so much for this kind advice i feel a lot of presurre when i play against higher rated opponents yesterday i play against 2281 players a national master i am able to beat them and draw with 2072 player.i also played with 2790 rated super gm .

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