Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Pre-Match Rituals, Superstitions And All That

Okay, own up.... how many of you chess players have a pre-match ritual or a keepsake that you bring along for every game for good luck?

Do you carry any items of good luck such as lucky charms ("They're always after me Lucky Charms!" - okay, I can't resist that line), any special pre-match rituals (see inset), that has no link whatsoever to chess at all?

What about my pre-match ritual?

Before I head down to the club:
1. Empty my bowels of all solids 1-2 hours before
2. Eat lightly from lunch onwards and a small dinner - Just enough to half-fill my stomach
3. Drink water in moderate amounts
4. Wear something that doesn't make me look like I haven't showered in months and comb my hair (if need be).
4. Pick a nice sweater to wear to ensure I'm nice and warm

10-20 minutes before the game:

1. Relieve the water pressure buildup in the body
2. Wipe hands dry after toilet business (hygiene, people! you don't want to look like one of those who hasn't bathed in months, do you? :) )
3. Switch off mobile phone

Well, unfortunately, due to the massive brain functions (or malfunctions) in the course of my job during the day, having a brain meltdown is not uncommon in my case like last week, where I gave away a free bishop.

And no, I don't have a good luck charm - I've never believed in it.

I can understand why chess players can be superstitious, much like athletes/players in some of other sports. Some people swear by rituals, lucky items and for me, I'm okay with that.

The idea is to put your mind at ease (having a placebo like effect) so that you start your game on the "right foot" as they say (and I don't mean a rabbit's foot).


  1. I find if my mind is at ease during a chess game, I play worse! I think being rushed, late, stressed and aggro is better way to launch into a game.

  2. 1. Empty my bowels of all solids 1-2 hours before

    You can do this on command?

    My pre-game ritual is to walk around nervously in the general vicinity of the playing area, but at least 10m away.

    In the summers, I also sacrifice an egg by frying it on the sidewalk.

  3. i get a coffee, then i go back to the room and i have 4 games i play through before i head down to the tournament hall each round..

  4. As long as you're not emptying your bowels during the game you're fine.

    Serious, you can do this on command??

  5. I wish my bowels would be so cooperative. LOL Though that's not quite the issue it was when I first started playing. I couldn't eat much of anything during the course of a tournament. Now I only get nervous if thre's something at stake.

  6. tom chivers: mine is just the reverse. i think in order to get into the "mood", it's usually good to "warm up". my problem with aggression is that i know i must temper it with logic. i have a problem of making rash decisions... usually fatally.

    liquideggproduct,wang, polly: yes. actually, it's more of a routine rather than doing it on command. i find that eating small meals at regular times with enough fibre in the diet results in more regular bowel visits. my games always starts at 7.30pm so having a regular bowel timing helps a lot. my stomach also has a weakness for Coca-Cola. So if I don't head for the loo between 4pm and 5pm, one can of the drink is enough to do the relevant "damage".

    chessloser: very interesting idea of "warming up". i might try it but I usually just play a couple of lightning/blitz games just to get comfy in moving the pieces and getting my brain into gear.

  7. A follow-up question: Do you adjust the pieces before your first move, and if so, how do you set up the knights? Facing the enemy, looking in opposite directions, at each other, away from each other, or both facing the right- or left-hand side of the board?

  8. christian: that's a very interesting question! i didn't realise till now but yes, you're right. i do adjust my pieces to the middle of their squares with the Knights facing my opponents before each game.

    somehow, the idea of arranging my "army" neatly in preparation of battle seems to be the norm among many players at my club now that you mention it.

  9. Most of the players I've played against didn't bother to adjust their pieces, much to my dismay! And it drives me absolutely nuts when people have their knights' snouts (or whatever you call a horse's nose) point in opposite directions. *gnashes teeth at the very thought of it!*

  10. Christian: That is an excellent question. Often when I play kids they'll adjust all the pieces after the game has started. They'll say "adjust, adjust, adjust..." until they've done every piece.

    I make it a point to do all the adjusting and centering before I even shake hands. That way it's clear that the game has not commenced. I find when I do that, the chronic adjusting kid will do the same thing before starting.

    Regarding the knights, somebody had posted on a blog how they like to face the knights backwards. The opponent would adjust it forwards or sideways and the person would switch it back. I had never really thought about knight placement until I read that post.

  11. christian: what you can do is before your opponent arrives, you set up all of the pieces before he gets a chance to do it. in this way, it doesn't irk you as much. :)

    polly: lol. kids do the funniest things some times.