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  • Shreya Mukherjee

Beyond Checkmates: A Psychological Journey

Judith Polgar once said, "Chess is a mental battlefield where every move is a reflection of your inner thoughts and emotions."

Chess, an emotionally intense game, is often hailed as the ‘game of kings’. Originating years ago, this ancient game originally known as ‘Shatranj’  has become a sport played and respected worldwide for its complexity,  strategy, and competitiveness. It is not a battle of pieces but a battle of minds. Each player has an army of 16 pieces, each with unique movements and importance, leaving a player vulnerable without even one.

Chess is a sport known as the 'drosophila' of psychology, intellectual abilities, and mental strength. Studies have shown that players have a better memory and attention span than people who don't play, proving that not every intelligent individual is necessarily book-smart.

There are over 318 billion possible positions after four moves played by each player. The number of possible moves for a player in chess is far greater than the number of electrons in the entire universe!

It is a game that affects one’s mental health, brain, and psychological mindset. Chess is inherently competitive, with one player against another showcasing willpower, dedication, and intellect. The psychology of competition in chess is a rollercoaster of emotions, from experiencing the joy of victory to accepting the disappointment of defeat.

In this game of strategy, one must anticipate their opponent's moves, map out the outcomes, and decide their course of action accordingly. They must consider short-term goals, such as controlling the center of the board, trapping them with deceptive tactics, or simply waiting for them to crumble before you, while simultaneously aligning these moves with long-term strategies and calculations to try beating the opponent mentally. It is not merely a battle of wits on a board; it's a testament to the mental strength and psychological state of the player. The psychology of chess can be brutal also sometimes. Several hours of practice and dedication cause stress and strain as players navigate the complexities and surprises of the game. Breakdowns, losses, and numerous judgments are a part of any sport. It is not as easy as people think it is.

"Chess is a test of wills, not only between two players but between one player and himself."

 — Garry Kasparov

Chess is not only a test of intellect but also a measure of emotional resilience and stamina. Each move is followed by a series of emotions. Some urging you not to play one move, some insisting you play it. Throughout the calculation process, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on the player to make the right move as a single error could cost you the whole match. The psychological state of a player during a crucial game is something only the person knows, experiences, and learns from. It is what makes a person strong, as a player and as a human. 

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