The power of suggestion in chess

Yesterday I participated in a virtual talk given by a renowned chess coach, IM David Martínez. There this coach, for whom I have always felt and will feel great esteem and respect, told a seemingly implausible anecdote. One of his students had a very poor performance doing tactical exercises, a total disaster, although he played his games not bad. So during some weeks before an important tournament, IM Martinez dedicated to "lying" to the boy (in his words, it was an experiment). He told him that his answers to the exercises were correct (actually, they were not). The tournament arrived and the boy became champion in his category (8 points/8). What do you think? Can the power of suggestion be so strong in similar cases? Do you think this could be a unique case?

this is the very definition of psychology in chess, lying to have confidence and better performance or psychologically destroying your opponent to win or draw

Just sounds like coincidence to me. And I think it's a terrible idea.

No. What he should say is just prepare the best you can and enjoy the experience. Worry about winning championships or tournaments later. If a player simply focuses on being more precise and prepared eventually the success will follow.

Every young serious player should focus on limited openings and replying to most popular counter play. Work on biggest trouble areas. And 80% study and puzzles.

Just get better week by week month by month. You are playing yourself and your ability to make good decisions. The opponent is just a mirage. Unless they do annoying things or smell like onions.

It seems to me to be a case worth analyzing. I confess that I 've never known a coach lying to a student about his performance. I wonder if this lie can be sustainable in the medium or long term.

The world is not made of atoms but of stories. Myths and sages evrywhere. If it ain’t true it’s well-invented.

@Sarg0n said in #6:
> The world is not made of atoms but of stories. Myths and sages evrywhere. If it ain’t true it’s well-invented.

Believe me, I have been wondering if IM David Martínez exaggerated some details about this anecdote.

«The power of suggestion can influence what are thought to be habitual cognitive responses. Take the well-known finding that people identify the ink color of a word more slowly when it does not match the color named by the word (Stroop, 1935). Telling highly suggestible people that the color words are meaningless symbols reduces this effect (Raz & Campbell, 2009; Raz, Kirsch, Pollard, & Nitkin-Kaner, 2006; but cf. Augustinova & Ferrand, 2012). Suggestions can even lead highly suggestible people to see color where there is only gray (Mazzoni et al., 2009). These findings fit with the idea that suggestion can lead people to adopt strategies that bring habitual responses under greater attentional control».

Extracted from "Suggestion, Cognition, and Behavior"
by Robert B. Michael, Maryanne Garry, and Irving Kirsch.

Lying to the student that their answers in the tactical exercises were correct certainly sounds dubious, both from the point of view of improving the student's tactical ability and from ethical considerations, but I can see it working in certain very specific circumstances (definitely not with all students in all circumstances).

The aim, then, was to help the student to a good performance in the tournament. Perhaps the student was already strong in positional judgment but weak in tactical motiefs, knew this, and was lacking in confidence concerning that tactical weakness. That lack of confidence might have been affecting the student's general play. The coach may have been trying to restore that confidence, knowing that the student had strong general chess judgment and that this would likely prevail in the tournament if the player calmed down and played their best without worrying about their weaknesses.

Most games above a certain level are, after all, won or lost by technique and judgment rather than by tactical shots.