Unless you’re playing a simultaneous exhibition, you’re most likely only going to be playing one person at a time. That’s assuming that you don’t have to beat yourself as well as your opponent.
How many times have you sat down to play an opponent who has a higher rating and thought, "I’m going to lose," or "I don’t have a chance"? Don’t worry if your answer is, “too many.” We’ve all felt that way.
However, if you believe you can’t win, you now have two opponents: your own thoughts (that have little to do with the game you’re about to play) and the person you’ll be playing.
How can you expect to beat a better player? The first thing you have to do is believe that it’s possible. That should be easy because history shows us that weaker players have beaten better players at virtually every chess tournament that’s ever been played. It’s happening somewhere in the world right now. Have you ever beaten anyone you thought was a better player than yourself? If so, you’ve proven that you can do it. That means it can happen again.
But what if you’ve never beaten a better player? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. That’s because you can actually tell yourself that you’ve beaten higher-ranked players numerous times, and your subconscious mind will believe it because it doesn’t know the difference between truth and fiction. It takes everything you state as fact. In other words, fake it until you make it.
Henry Ford said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Translated for our usage, when you sit down to play a game of chess, and you think you’re beaten before you even start, you are.
Remember, the harder you fight and the longer you stay in a game against a superior opponent, the greater the pressure on them to win. This mounting pressure can cause them to make a mistake, and that may be all that you need to win if you’re thinking clearly. That’s because the difference between winning and losing a chess game will often come down to just one move. Tell yourself that you’ll be the one to find the winning move.
You won’t win every game; no one does. However, I guarantee you will win more often when you’re armed with the belief that you will succeed. You’ll play your best game when you play with confidence, and I believe you’ll gain even if you lose. That’s because your opponent will know they were in a fight, and if they play you again, they’ll know it won’t be easy. That will also increase the pressure they experience.
The next time you sit down to play a superior opponent, expect to win, because playing one opponent at a time is usually enough.
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