rubber duck

The Duck Method

ChessStrategyOver the board
A modification towards behavioral mechanisms


Like In Chess, there are many activities, that contain behavioral patterns that we can easily lose awareness of, and therefore have to find strategies to regain such, in order cope with eventual negative emotions we use to face and actions we tend to take. Deducted from the rubber-duck-debugging-method I only recently came up with what to me looked promising enough regarding a relevant problem of mine, to keep calm and also, to stay with the topic, to find solutions for chess problems. This method though I think can also be adapted for many more cases one either needs to talk off or find a solution by talking out their ideas.
I call it: The Duck-Method


Now starting off, one may ask why it could be helpful to learn some duck science. Here's the deal:

Like in life, like in chess the human being is constantly facing some kind of distress and tends to develop coping mechanisms, whether it is to destroy an entire hotel room, accuse your opponent that he has been cheating, or for example letting his*her time run down (which by the way is a fair play violation here on lichess) some of which turn out to be pretty unhealthy, socially unacceptable or just not very soothing. I am writing all of that with the awareness that I did not always manage to keep cool myself, yet another reason that brought me here.

It all started last year, around the time lichess came up with lichess-flairs and I accidentally stumbled across different programmer symbols, one of which, the duck was: Quickly I identified with this little rubber duck and read the linked above article. Then something happened that I can not exactly reproduce but I eventually ended up sitting in front of a little rubber duck I still had lying around and telling her all the things I’d normally either wouldn’t say out loud or that I do say out loud but regret how I said them, which of course would be totally inappropriate in front of an innocent cute little duckling. And there it was, the idea to turn the Rubber-Duck-Debugging Method, into a behavioral pattern to overcome anger and distress, and furthermore to outscore existing calculating skills of mine.
Here are the two main conclusions that can be drawn from my little experiment:


The very basic concept of the rubber-duck-debugging method is to tell all the things that you’d normally just skip in your head because they seem obvious to you to the duck that is sitting next to your desktop. Since this little guy does not know any of your advanced skills you gotta keep it simple, and by doing so you eventually detect your mistakes. Programmers read their code, by reading it out loud, one by one they notice things they’d normally oversee and finally identify their mistake:
Likewise one can do that with chess. It may not be that helpful to talk about every move sitting in an OTB tournament since you won’t be allowed to talk there most of the time, yet it is a powerful tool when it comes to online chess, where you can talk as much as you want since your opponent can't hear you. Additionally, one can use his*her inner voice as much as they want even at an OTB event. So you might really try that one out to spot critical moves. And if you argue you don’t need that one because you are already a calculation expert, here’s the real game-changer:

Anger Management

This theme combines psychological, being precise, behavioral aspects or classical conditioning if you will, and the idea of a healthy expression of ones emotional experience. Why is that important? I only recently stumbled across a suggestion that went into an entirely opposite direction and proposed to just "swallow" all your anger, all your negative emotions. This, however, I am not a big fan of, as it only transposes the stress one already faces, or may even mere it.
Whereas the idea of the duck method is simple:

Be a duck, talk to ducks. Ducks are chattering all the time, and in contrast to the post addressed above I want you to aim towards chattering! But, make clear, that you are only ever allowed to talk to fellow ducks to avoid misunderstandings.

Basic concept:

To do that you must first find out your stressor, and your typical answer to that stress. A stressor can be seen in blundering, losing a game, or just not finding that one good move earlier. The given reaction may be cussing, sighing, floundering, you name it. The only thing that is now left to do is reprograming yourself to the new answer to that very stressor, for instance blundering a piece.
By replacing your old reaction with the new one, the duckish chattering you accomplish two things, firstly you will tend to be less activated or upset just by becoming aware that something is stressing you and secondly you may find yourself laughing at your mistakes instead of constantly overthinking it and eventually get even more irritated. With the words of the Pavlovian dog: You train yourself to salivate when the bell is ringing.

How to talk duckish

What do you have to do? Simple: Talk to the Rubber Duck!
This, of course, can be represented by any symbol of the addressee, to get involved completely with this method I suggest getting yourself such a yellow companion though.
Quack Quack!

Benefits of the quack!

By talking to this little guy you can gain control over your emotions, and may spot things you otherwise would possibly miss out on.
Also by talking duckish, whether talking out loud sitting in front of your PC, or talking silently at an OTB-tournament for example you can keep track of your stress level and actively control it. What's more, as your opponent is of a different species, they won’t understand you when you talk duckish, which you may find helpful either to not tell them what your plan is or to just be able to call them a dingbat without letting them know. And finally, it is quite amusing to make these sounds, so you will definitely get the opportunity to enjoy yourself instead of raging about a stupid mistake.

To sum it up: it's all laid out right there, and I welcome you to try some Duck-Science.

And as I do hope that some of you might find that helpful, I want to add a personal note here, as I am quite pleased to find myself in the nice position being able to tell you that since I started writing this very article some time ago, I already noticed the resounding positive impacts this little experiment had on me and the accomplishments I’ve made so far. Not only I was able to outscore my calculating skills by far, but furthermore, I can quite happily state that I cussed a lot less and overall enjoyed my chess games a lot more than before.

Feel free to comment on whether this had some similar effects on you or whether you may have had an even better working idea for yourself.

Yours sincerely, wishing you all the best and a happy quack quack!

Bonus: For those of you who got deeply involved and want to show your new lifestyle to the whole wide world you can here get yourself a custom-designed profile-banner!