The Risks of Playing Chess When You Don't Want to

Why you should never play chess when you don’t want to! And what should you do instead and save 100s of rating points? This will be a game-changer article for your chess career.

Stoics and Zen masters would be proud of me if they saw my inner peace and the level of stillness I was in.

But they would die from laughing if they saw how after a few hours I got so angry, that I threw my phone into the garbage basket.

Everything started on Monday morning at 8 AM.
I had a coffee with my favorite Rafaellos (always happy to give you ideas on what to send me ).

If you haven’t tried Rafaellos yet, you can’t die today!

And then my heart suddenly said: “I want to play chess!”

After some negotiations, me telling my heart, “It’s Monday, our day-off, no internet and no gadget day”, and my heart replying “But I want to play chess”, like a kid, we made a deal:

We turn on the laptop, play for just 1.5 hours, and immediately turn it off.

We shook each other’s hands, went to Lichess, created a 3+2 game and in a few seconds my mouse made my favorite 1.e4!

Oh, how much I love chess!

I missed playing my favorite game. More than my heart.

With a passion and love for the game, focus and a good mood, I easily won the first 2 games.
Game 1:

Game 2:

Then we played a “full of emotions” match with an Australian IM Junta Ikeda, which ended with a fighting score of 4-4!

Many interesting games, heartbreaking moments, mutual blunders, losing winning games and winning losing ones. Just like it should be when playing Blitz!
(Yeah, those rollercoasters happen at the GM-level too when it’s a blitz. So please, don’t get pissed off if you blunder and don’t win all your winning games in blitz.)

It was lots of fun!
I thanked my opponent for the nice games.

Said nice words to my heart for wanting to play chess. And with a smile on my soul, I shut down the laptop.
I was lying on the sofa. Very happy.

All my soul was filled with “I love this game!” “Wow!” “How much I miss chess” and such feelings...
I could never guess that in a few hours, I would change my mind.

Oh, how much I hate chess!

In the evening I had an appointment with my doctor. (Consequences of my skiing, that stupid app and my stupidity that I shared in the previous article.)

There is a saying “Mistakes come together.”
I guess it’s true about stupidities too.

I got there 20 minutes early.
I hate being late, so I try to show up early. And I don’t mind waiting because I always have my Kindle with me and I can read.

This time I forgot my Kindle at home.
Now I hate waiting.

Also, there was only me in the lobby, no one to talk and joke with...
So I started to get bored.

I can’t remember how, but I turned on my phone and opened the Lichess app...

I didn’t want to play chess. And I was about to make the mistake I’m warning about over and over.


This mistake I hadn’t made for many years!
But somehow my rational mind turned off. And it turned off during the games too.

I played my worse chess ever.
3 games. All against much lower-rated players. All very low quality. All awful. And not surprisingly, I lost all of them!

I had 0 fun. 100 kilograms of negative emotions. Anger and hate for my favorite game.

Grandmasters aren’t strong at all

Initially, I was shy to share the links. But I changed my mind. I’ll give them to you.

So if you think that I’m a strong player, I’ll break your whole image of me.

In the 1st game, I was crushed without a fight. Played badly in the opening, badly in the middlegame, blundered when I had chances and lost like a “Take from him his Grandmaster title”.

In the 2nd game I experimented 2.Bc4 move and could resign after move 10.

Then I realized what I was doing, and that I shouldn’t play when I don’t want to.

But anyway, I decided to play 1 good game, just 1, and then turn off my phone. You know the feeling, when you want to finish on a good note.

After 1.d4 e6 I stupidly premoved 2...f5! (My brain wasn’t fully there).
And then a second later I saw a horrible picture on the board.


You want to play a nice game before finishing the session, and you get a very ugly position from the 2nd move.

I tried to bring my mind together, but couldn’t.
Played another awful game and lost that one as well.

Don’t break your phone

I don’t understand people who break their phones when they tilt.
C’mon... You paid so much money for it, how can you break it?

I was better than them.
About 10 meters away there was a small garbage basket. A little bigger than my phone.

You should have seen how masterfully I threw it into that basket. OMG!

Michael Jordan would say ”Such a talent, and he went into chess!”


I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t mad.
I don’t know what to call that feeling.
(I typed in Google “word for very-very-very angry, and it says “irate.” Not sure if it’s the word.”)

I absolutely lost my temper. This is something that happens to me rarely.
And now it happened while I was playing my favorite game!

Because of my injured back, it took me 10 minutes to walk that 10 meters to get my phone and another few hours to calm down.

It was not only the most awful session I’ve played. It was the most awful day off I’ve ever had.

All because of 1 thing


The negative loop

The problem with playing when you don’t want to, is not just that most probably you’ll play chess badly and lose your rating.
It’s deeper.

There is a high chance you’ll enter into a negative loop. Here is what will happen.

Step 1: You play badly
Step 2: You lose rating, passion for chess, confidence, and your mood!
Step 3: With a bad mood you play another bad session the next day.
Step 4: You lose more rating points and the mood goes down even more
Step 5: Then the next day you play even worse chess
Step 6, 7, 8... And so on

These negative loops are killers. They assassinate confidence, passion, love, mood, rating, growth, and everything they see on their way.

Do this instead

If you have a very busy life, you might not have the luxury to play when you want. I’ve often heard this:
“If I play only when I want, I will never play.”

Okay. I get it.
Here are some tips.

Tip 1:
Play on your days off

Tip 2:
Play in the morning before the events of your day take over

Tip 3:
If you’re tired but want to do chess - do chess.
But instead of playing - study.

Online vs Offline

The “Don’t play when you don’t want to” advice is only for online chess.

If you’re in the middle of the OTB classic tournament and something goes wrong and you don’t want to play anymore - withdrawing from the tournament is not an option. I advise you to never do this.

Instead, you should learn how to cheer yourself up and talk to your minions before the next game.
Knowing chess and playing chess are different things.

You need to be mentally strong. And if you’re not - great! You know what you should work on.

A lesson from Poker

I learned lots of lessons during my poker career. I packed all of them into my backpack and took them with me to apply to chess and to life.

One of those lessons is this:
“It’s not about just winning. It’s also minimizing the losses. And when you minimize your losses - That’s winning.”

The same is true for chess.
You can raise your rating not only by playing good sessions but by removing all the bad ones and avoiding the negative loops.

Just as you can make your life happier when you remove the toxic people, you can have a higher rating without those toxic sessions.

If you cut the losses, those bad games, sessions and negative loops, your rating will be 50 to 200 rating points higher than you have now.

Here are a few more articles to help you to cut losses.

Raise your rating by cutting your losses
Stop playing when your body doesn’t want to
5 crucial steps to stop bad results in chess

And here is the method for getting better at chess at max speed:

Right and wrong takeaways

Don’t play chess on days off
Play chess when your heart wants. Just make an agreement and set intentions

Grandmasters are weak
Grandmasters are strong. But their performance can be very weak if their mind isn’t there

Avoid loops
Avoid negative loops. Try to get into positive ones

Break the phone when tilting
Throw the phone into a garbage basket

Don’t play chess after good sessions
Don’t play chess when you don’t want to

Are you with me?

Will you follow this advice? Will you remove those ugly sessions? Will you avoid the negative loops? Will you play chess and enjoy it, instead of hating it?

Or will you say “Oh nice article, Avetik”, but the next day you repeat this same mistake of playing when your heart doesn’t want to?

That’s your decision.
But I hope you’ll make a commitment as I did.


For your growth and fun journey,
GM Avetik

You can make this commitment out loud the comments, or on our Discord “Accountability” channel.

The article was originally published on, where you’ll find over 100 other articles written by Grandmasters, who share tips from their professional journeys and how to adopt the right mindset for this beautiful game, in order to have fun and grow at the same time.

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