• jennifervallens

Good Game?

It is customary to shake hands and say “good game” at the end of a chess game. But what constitutes a “good game”?

I recently played in a club tournament. My rating is a measly 600 and my opponent was rated 1200. After what I consider a respectable hour and half, 40 move game that inevitably ended in my being checkmated, I felt I played a good game. To me a good game means that I took my time and played to the best of my own ability. But after polling several chess players of varying strengths, I found that a good game is not the same for everyone.

For many a “good game” requires good playing on both sides of the board. Many said the challenge of a hard fought battle is essential for a good game. Gabby Kay, President of Coachella Valley Chess Club compared a good chess game to that of a “great tennis rally or a close boxing match; just artful to watch.” Other factors were important to some players. Scott Hunt, a 1700 level player responded that “A professional atmosphere is absolutely needed to play a good game of chess”. Others were more specific and required a winning outcome. “winning from a losing position” makes a good game. Other comments included “A good game is one that is creative”, “A good game is one where I'm able to calculate a lot of different lines accurately and find interesting ideas/resources in each”.

When asked if winning was factored into the enjoyment of the game, most high level players responded that they did not enjoy a lost game even if the game was played well. According to one responder, “Anyone that says they played a real tough rated game at their best level, lost, and says they enjoyed that game, does not understand what a competitive spirit is. The serious chess player is out there to win just as in all professional sports. Competitiveness, along with all that passion to win can’t demand anything else but a nice 1-0 in the end.” Those rated around 1900 and under valued the loss as a learning opportunity. An 1800 female rated player says “Every chess game can be enjoyed if a lesson is being learned. It’s all about the mind-set of the player.” Ryan Polsky, rated just over 1900 responded “I do not need to win a game to enjoy it. I love playing chess, so I’m almost always happy whenever I’m playing, even if I lose!”

Money and prizes did not seem to factor in to the enjoyment of the game for many responders. Most viewed money as a bonus. Every person agreed that playing for prizes and money adds tension and anxiety to the game. The consensus is there is more pressure when money is on the line, more anxiety and more relief when the game is over. Beau Mueller, rated 1900 said “...I played in the Millionaire Open last year it (playing for money) definitely injected some extra adrenaline and excitement to the game.”

Every person said they would be willing to go over a game after it was played with their opponent, if asked. They further said that it didn’t matter who won, but most said they do not initiate the analysis because they are too focused on the next game.

Almost every player said they analyze their losing games unless they are too painful to re-live. One responder said that he rarely analyzes his games and believes this is one reason he has not been able to reach expert level or higher.

Chess is a competitive game and like all competitive games, good games are sometimes won and good games are sometimes lost. For me, I prefer the saying “sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”


Thank you to all that participated in this poll. The poll was conducted online. The following questions were asked :

What constitutes a “good game”

How does winning factor into the enjoyment of the game?

How does playing for money/prizes affect enjoyment of the game? Do you go over winning/losing games with your opponent?

Do you analyze both winning and losing games?

I received 12 responses from ratings that range from unrated to 2400 with an average rating of 1850. The average age of response was 38 years old with an average of 18 years of competitive play. 3 female responders and 9 males. Original article appeared in November 2015 OFF da ROOK newsletter found here:

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