What goes through a player's mind when he/she loses a game? How best do you try to cope with the loss?
Different players deal handle defeat differently.
My worst instance of losing was in a rapid game. Upon resignation, I shook my opponent's hand but stormed out of the playing hall not because I was angry at my opponent but because I was extremely disgusted with my play. In fact, I headed for the washroom to calm myself down for a couple of minutes.
Which brings me to my subject on handling losses.
I've had 2 very bad losses this year which kept me awake at night after the game. One of the problems with playing games in the evening is that your brain is still on a huge "high" after the game. That makes getting to bed an extremely arduous task (forcing your brain to relax) and couple that with a loss punctuated by poor gameplay and your brain is in overdrive mode.
How does one properly cope with losses?
Take Vladimir Kramnik. His loss comes no bigger than the biggest prize in chess. He lost a huge chance to regain his title against Vishy Anand in Bonn, Germany. So how does he deal with such a much publicised defeat?
During the post-match conference, Chess.FM filmed the following proceedings. You can see it at Blip.tv here:
Alternatively, you can download the .FLV file directly from here (you'll need a compatible video player like VideoLan's VLC media player to play it):
The most important things to take away from Kramnik's comments IMHO were the following:
1. "Life is like this. It is not always that you win."
One has to acknowledge the fact that playing chess means that you have to be ready to come to terms with both the winning and losing aspects that comes with the royal game. No one can win all the time, not even World Champions.
2. "I clearly made certain mistakes in my preparation and which I already understood and probably after analysing the match, I would understand (them) even more what I should I do better. And I'm very much eager to improve. I think I would have quite serious changes in my ways of preparing for tournaments, for chess games; even maybe, even in my way of playing. It was a harsh lesson but I'm sure it would be a very useful one."
Acknowledging your own mistakes and faults and actively seeking to rectify them is the hallmark of a good player. Any player seeking to improve the quality of their play needs to admit to his/her own mistakes and identifying their mistakes and make a conscious effort to fix these mistakes. This holds true not just in chess but also for other sports.
Every chess game takes with it a lesson, even more so when you lose. Less one forgets, one should always perform post-mortem analysis on one's own games.
3. "....because I am still very interested in playing chess..... For the moment, I still enjoy it. "
In other words, one has to have continuous interest in chess to learn and recover from the painful loss/experience. If you do not enjoy chess, then chess is not going to be fun for you for long.
4. "I'm also happy to play against such an opponent. Vishy is a really great player."
This is one thing that is missing from some chess players. The ability to lose graciously and to pay tribute to your opponent. When one loses, one should not seek excuses nor alternative explanations to explain away the defeat. Rather, one should own up and admit that your opponent was better than you.
5. The last quote from Kramnik needs no explanation and one that I feel is the most important point.
"You don't feel very well after losing a game ........ but it's only a game, not a reason to be depressed. I take it as a test.... I try to do my best... this is the motto in my life. You're responsible for the quality of your work but you're not responsible for the result of it.... So I'm responsible for doing my best. But if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. What can I do? .... I don't see a reason to shout at everyone because of this."