“Fear is the mind killer!” — this famous incantation used by the Bene Gesserit in Dune, turns out to also be helpful in chess. (oh, while I’m thinking of Dune and chess: wouldn’t it be nice if I could use some spice to be Precient?)
Fear of the opponent plays a significant role in the psychology of chess. This fear typically manifests itself as belief that the opponent is “better” given his rating, age, height or even looks. Then, when you make a mistake or reach a position where your opponent has the advantage, all these fears come up again, leading to even more mistakes and blunders.
Naturally, this fear is common with kids but it exists at any age or level of play. With adult players, fear is subtler, but it’s still there. It’s not easy to recognize this fear and overcome it, but sometimes it’s crucial to your success.
This type of fear is common in many other competitive situations, from personal achievement to business success. Take the movie The Karate Kid – Can Daniel LaRusso overcome his fear of Johnny Lawrence (who is larger and better trained) and beat him in the final round of the karate tournament?
The Bene Gesserit‘s incantation continues with “I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.” Try that the next time you sense fear creeping in and holding you back from being successful — in chess or in anything else you do.