Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Importance of Confidence and Audacity

Extreme confidence is essential for any champion; a champion's confidence is so high that it can seem irrational to an outsider but a champion's unshakeable belief in his skill/destiny enables him to overcome any form of adversity. A selection of 10 Great Chess Quotes reinforces this point: Bobby FischerGarry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen each have distinctive personalities and playing styles but one thing that they have in common is enormous confidence. Carlsen explains, "Self-confidence is very important. If you don’t think you can win, you will take cowardly decisions in the crucial moments, out of sheer respect for your opponent. You see the opportunity but also greater limitations than you should. I have always believed in what I do on the chessboard, even when I had no objective reason to. It is better to overestimate your prospects than underestimate them." A confident player is audacious and unabashed, willing to take risks regardless of the situation.

In an article that primarily focuses on tennis player Andy Murray, Dominic Lawson explains why A true champion won't accept defeat:

Martina Navratilova has frequently said that "tennis is like chess" and so I feel justified in producing further analogies with that purely cerebral form of sporting conflict. Bobby Fischer eventually took the world championship from Boris Spassky in 1972, but for years he had found the Russian unbeatable. He gave as one of his reasons that "Spassky always has exactly the same expression on his face, whether he is winning or losing." This greatly disconcerted the American genius, who was used to seeing opponents visibly quail under the force of his attacks; but with Spassky there was nothing for Fischer to feed off, to boost his own confidence.

Some of the very greatest tennis champions have had exactly the same disconcerting inscrutability--Bjorn Borg springs to mind--and the good news for Murray is that this is something which can be developed: Borg was much more expressive as a teenager but learned to keep his emotions (and therefore vulnerability) hidden from the opponent.

It is one thing to hide psychological frailty: it is quite another to eliminate it. Perhaps Murray will always be incapable of that. If so, he can never be a true champion. That sounds tough, but it is the essential truth about sport at the supreme level. The great champions have reserves of self-belief that those not so endowed (the rest of us) find very hard even to comprehend. This is something quite different from technical ability; and there is no reason why the two should go hand in hand. It explains why some of the most naturally gifted sportsmen never fulfil the potential which everyone else sees in them.

Borg is one of the toughest and most confident performers in sports history. He declared, "My greatest point is my persistence. I never give up in a match. However down I am, I fight until the last ball. My list of matches shows that I have turned a great many so-called irretrievable defeats into victories." Although Borg could hit the ball with power, his default approach was to simply keep getting the ball back over the net; he was confident that he could do so 1000 times in a row if necessary and he was also confident that his opponents could not do so. Borg knew that just by staying in each point, each game and each set he could wear down anyone both mentally and physically. In the 1980 Wimbledon Final, Borg lost the fourth set tiebreaker 18-16 to John McEnroe; McEnroe said that he thought that he had broken Borg's spirit--but, as Borg noted, the fifth set is what counted the most and Borg played almost flawless tennis, dispatching McEnroe 8-6 to claim his record fifth straight Wimbledon title. Borg dropped his first two service points in the final set before winning 28 of his last 29 service points.

Carlsen plays chess the way that Borg played tennis; his individual moves are not always spectacular at first glance but Carlsen just keeps "getting the ball over the net" until his opponents crack under the pressure of doing likewise. It takes confidence, energy and steady nerves to play any sport in that fashion.

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