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"Set" & "Setting" in Chess

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  • "Set" & "Setting" in Chess

    In a previous thread, I've wondered if perhaps Chess is not in some manner "psychoactively" affective upon the player.

    This question has forcefully raised itself before me yet again, due to a most interesting if slightly disturbing personal experience.

    Recently I received a well-earnt and twice-over chessic thrashing at the hands of forum member, Bluesman, who kindly stopped by at my home to visit and play chess when business had brought him to my town for several days.

    During the course of one of these games, I actually hallucinated a Rook being lined up behind a Queen and another Rook on the f-file. I saw it, as clearly as could be. Not "thought" I'd seen it, but physically saw it. I'm in no way ordinarily prone to hallucinations, having had only one in my entire life, and that due to severe fever.

    In fact, I'd only one Rook and one Queen lined up on the file in question...the psychically-misplaced Rook was on the A-file in actuality--nowhere near where I'd beleived myself to have seen it.

    Absolutely no substance abuse of any sort involved as the cause of this "hallucination" of mine. Tobacco and caffeine, perhaps, but neither to excess.

    Well, this set me pondering mightily for several days after the games, analyzing myself as well as the two lost chess games (congrats on your wins, Bluesman, BTW! An amiable visitor, a good sportsman, and a clever wit--it was indeed an honor to play chess with you!)

    Re-adopting the modelling of chess as being somehow "psychoactive", I delved a bit further into the metaphor, reviewing such of Dr. Timothy Leary's writings online as I could discover pertaining to "set" and "setting" in his entheogenic experimentation.

    The simplest/most concise of such pages I found to be not his writings, but a summation of his theories regarding set and setting found at Set and setting - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The following extracts are from there:

    " 'Set' is the mental state a person brings to the experience, like thoughts, mood and expectations. 'Setting' is the physical and social environment. "

    "Stress, fear, or a disagreeable environment, may result in an unpleasant experience (bad trip). Conversely, a relaxed, curious person in a warm, comfortable and safe place is more likely to have a pleasant experience."


    Hmmm...memories of a game I once had wherein my noticeable disintegration at the board co-incided exactly with an influx of juniors chatting loudly and running about the playing area came to mind...setting affecting set.

    I thought of Fischer and of his seeming diva-esque pettifogging regarding minutiae of conditions at the '72 World Championship. I thought of Topalov's insistence that there be no direct communications between he and Anand at the 2010 World Championships, but that all offers of a draw be submitted to an arbiter instead of directly between opponents. I thought of Korchnoi's insistence that certain "psychics" be removed from a game he was playing.

    Set and setting....

    Ok, following this metaphor, my "set" was off in that I had four dogs to tend simultaneously while trying to play chess--one locked into a back room due to unsociable tendencies, one neurotic because the aforementioned dog was unavailable, and two requiring periodic attention due to age and heat. I also had an ancient and mal-functioning "swamp cooler" requiring manual refilling of water every 20 to 40 minutes as well as pump adjustments. Several other responsibilities as well, such as cooking lunch. Stress conditions under which I'd ordinarily not attempt solving a two move checkmate, let alone play a G90 game.

    My personal "set" was out of whack, apparently to a degree sufficient to evoke an actual chessic hallucination.

    I'm realizing more and more the import of set and setting regarding one's game. I'm also realizing how much our success at chess is dependant upon not only the depth of our experience at the game, but also upon the vagaries of our psychology.

    To me, this is interesting stuff. I'd like to hear reports from anyone else who's noticed good or bad effects to their set/setting while playing. What circumstances effect your play negatively, what circumstances have had a positive effect?
    Last edited by Celadonite; 06-28-2012, 10:03 PM.
    "They work at the pace of amnesia."--M. Bloch

  • #2
    In a Waitzkin ‘lecture’ on Chessmaster, he describes a situation in which he’d rather have been fishing, literally, than playing chess. Therefore, his mind wasn’t focused on the game, entirely. Here is how the story goes:

    He’s in it, toe to toe with his adversary, who has just hung a rook. The player, when he noticed his blunder, left so fast he forgot his coat. I believe he had intended to leave altogether.

    Josh thought and thought for something like 30 minutes on the move, and eventually moved his queen – the very queen that could have taken the clear rook! He never realized what he’d done until after the game.

    The player came back for his coat, noticed his rook still on the table, and sat back down.

    Chess psychology is very real.
    Alexander Alekhine is my chess hero.

    An eerie chess short story: The Empty Chair

    My newest chess story: Gamble: A Supernatural Chess Tale

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Skwerly View Post
      In a Waitzkin ‘lecture’ on Chessmaster, he describes a situation in which he’d rather have been fishing, literally, than playing chess. Therefore, his mind wasn’t focused on the game, entirely. Here is how the story goes:

      He’s in it, toe to toe with his adversary, who has just hung a rook. The player, when he noticed his blunder, left so fast he forgot his coat. I believe he had intended to leave altogether.

      Josh thought and thought for something like 30 minutes on the move, and eventually moved his queen – the very queen that could have taken the clear rook! He never realized what he’d done until after the game.

      The player came back for his coat, noticed his rook still on the table, and sat back down.

      Chess psychology is very real.
      He never noticed. I believe in the same lecture he said it would've been tough psychologically had he noticed his oversight during the game. Ignorance is bliss, sometimes at least
      Have you read the Forum rules?

      Queeg: Pawn to King Four. Holly: Horsie to King Bish Three.
      Rimmer: It's called a "knight," actually, Holly...
      Queeg: Knight to King Bishop three. Holly: Queen to Rook Eight. Checkmate.
      Queeg: That's an illegal move. Holly: Oh, sorry. Queens don't move like that. I was thinking of poker.
      Holly: Cleudo? You could be Colonel Mustard.
      Cat: If it's any help, I've been studying his tactics and there's a pattern emerging: Every time you make a move, he makes one too. *Winks to Holly*
      Holly: *Winks back* Thanks, Cat.
      --Red Dwarf

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