Caïssa’s Wisdom: #4 – Attributes of a Good Chess Player

Rules and Etiquette for Chess Amateurs

Our patron goddess Caïssa visits me in my sleep and pours sage words into my ears. I am in all things her instrument. Having provided clear guidelines about how chess addicts should balance their chess playing with the rest of their personal lives (#’s 1, 2 and 3) our muse has moved on to tackle, directly and in the most unvarnished terms, the characteristics all chess amateurs should strive to display. Those of a nervous disposition should look away now.

Wilhelm Steinitz knew what it took. Needless to say having a massive beard was an important factor!

#4: What it takes

The stomach is an essential part of the chessmaster. 
–  Bent Larsen

Of course the Great Dane is not implying that eating a lot will help you to be good at chess! He is suggesting that having the stomach for a fight is a critical factor to success.

Let’s not mince words. Being good at chess demands scrupulous intellectual rigor, iron-willed discipline and indefatigable fighting spirit. There is no short cut. Talent and hard work won’t make up for a lack of these attributes. Fight for every game like your life depends upon it knowing that often, even this won’t be enough.

The first World Champion knew what it took better than anyone.

Chess is not for the faint-hearted; it absorbs a person entirely. To get to the bottom of this game, he has to give himself up into slavery. Chess is difficult, it demands work, serious reflection and zealous research. 
–  Wilhelm Steinitz


3 Responses to “Caïssa’s Wisdom: #4 – Attributes of a Good Chess Player”

  1. Spook

    Oct 28. 2012

    After losing a game or petering out to drawing a completely dominating position,we should also add to Steinitz’ wisdom –
    A predisposition to pathalogical self-criticism and a propensity to stop up late into the night brooding over the chessboard with a petulantly smug Fritz at one’s side whilst struggling with self-imposed insomniac obsession.
    (Or is it just me?).

    Reply to this comment
  2. Dave

    Oct 29. 2012

    Dear Spook,

    No, I don’t think it’s just you. Indeed I would suggest that if one does not feel some degree of physical pain after each defeat or squandered half point then one is not really trying hard enough in the first place! I also believe that it is in fact a very fine line between Steinitz’s “serious reflection” and your own “insomniac obsession”.

    Don’t despair Spook! Even if your ability can never match your aspirations no one can doubt your application. All Caissa asks is that you fight for every game like a famished stray dog after a bone :)

    Reply to this comment


  1. Caïssa’s Wisdom, Rules and Etiquette for Chess Amateurs: #7 - Yorkshire Chess - November 16, 2012

    […] relating to some of the higher virtues of our great game: mental strength and tenacity (#4); the will to win and to learn the hard lessons of your failure (#5) and the need to cast aside your […]

Leave a Reply