Patience Pays in Chess

How Even a Losing Side Can Turn Around the Game

“Patience is a virtue”

And the game of chess requires a lot of it!

Patience can no only help you win better positions, but it can also help you turn a losing position into a winning one. The latter is where most of this article will focus.

But often in the chess world, this term is misunderstood. So here we want to share the real meaning of it, in chess terms. At the same time, you’ll discover the 3 great players (2 world champions and 1 minister) who personify the word ‘patience’ in the chess dictionary.

Who are they?

You’ll find out as you read the article. So let’s jump right into it. It’s going to change the way you associate patience and chess.

Be Patient When There’s No Hope

A lot of chess players give up when the position looks hopeless. Children are especially prone to making such mistakes, as they often make decisions based on their emotions.

But it’s extremely important to hold one’s nerves when things aren’t going as planned. Everyone can be patient when things are doing great! But only champions can keep going when things are out of control

Don’t Live a Disaster In Your Head

When children have a bad position in their game, it’s easy for most of them to look into the future, and live the disastrous outcomes in their minds.

During such situations, they might have thoughts like –

“What will my parent say?”

“I will be embarrassed if I show this game to my coach”

“My chess friends would laugh at me”

This damages their self-belief, which was their main hope in turning the game around.

What follows is that they become more nervous, lose their patience, play a rash move and lose the game quickly.

You can blame that they didn’t show any fight, but in reality, they were overwhelmed by the future and the disastrous events in their mind.

This caused them to lose patience.

The solution is simple ー Don’t look at the future and think it’s bleak. Rather, focus on playing the best moves in the given moment and think happy thoughts.

3 Great Players Whose Games Will Teach You The Meaning of Patience in Chess

At our chess academy, we show children games of chess legends. Our coaches believe that there are 3 great players whose game you should study to understand what patience translates to on the chessboard.

Two of them are former world champions ー Anatoly Karpov and Tigran Petrosian.

By studying their games(especially the latter’s!), children come to understand how these world champions would keep playing even in dead drawn positions, and eventually after 30-40 moves they would magically win the game!

Their strategy?

They would be extremely patient, keep grinding on and on, and just prolong the game without making a very terrible move or a very great move.

Sooner or later, their opponent would lose patience and make a mistake, on which these champions would pounce like a hungry wolf.

The third player is a modern-day great. He’s renowned for his ability to be extremely patient and defend the daylights out of any bad position.

His name? Sergey Karjakin.

Even strong players like Magnus Carlsen, Vishy Anand, Ian Nepomniatchchi find it difficult to break through his defenses when he has a slightly worse position.

This has earned him the nickname of being the ‘Minister of Defense’!

What patience means in chess?

Here’s what it boils down to –

  • Continuing to play the best moves that you can find even if your position is losing.
  • Having a strong belief that you can turn the tide in your favor.
  • Just prolonging a game to keep the fight going.
  • Holding your nerves, no matter what you’re faced with.

But there’s a common misconception people have when it comes to patience in chess.

Being Idle and Being Patient Are Not The Same Things

By being patient, we don’t mean that you should sit idle. Idleness is being lazy and not doing anything. It means not thinking and not foreseeing your opponent’s resources. Idleness relies on hope and luck –

  • ‘Let’s hope that the move I play will be missed by my opponent.’
  • ‘Let’s hope that this move doesn’t lose immediately’

Patience, on the other hand, is different. It’s taking active steps to be an obstacle in your opponent’s route to victory. It sounds more like –

  • ‘I know the position is difficult for me, so let me try to find a move that keeps the game going and does the least damage to my position. I’m not going to give up just yet.
  • ‘If I go in that line, my opponent will surely see my trap after which I’ll have a bad position. So let me play this line where the position is unclear.’

Read this section again because this is where the real meaning of patience lies!

The Reason Why Patience Is So Powerful and Effective

It’s because your patience builds frustration in your opponent!

How does this happen?

See once a player gets a winning position, there’s a tendency to relax and ease down. It is expected that the advantage should be more than sufficient to convert itself into a win.

But what happens when the other player just refuses to give up?

The superior side tries to break through, the weaker side holds. When this goes back and forth without any real gains for the superior side, the more frustrated they become.

Consequently, they lose their nerve, make a mistake and see their advantage evaporate into the air.

That’s why patience is such a powerful tool!


We hope you enjoyed reading the article and found useful points to implement in your games.

To summarize everything, patience is about holding your nerve and prolonging the game when things seem bleak. This will help you save losing positions. Also, you learned how this skill can often leave your opponent frustrated.

In the chess world, there are 3 players who personify patience like no others.

Studying their game will help you develop this skill in chess. Our coaches can show you the right method of learning from the games of greats players like them.

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