Tilt is a Traitor

How to stop frustration destroying your progress.

Australia had a tennis star a little while ago who looked likely to be a future world number 1.

He was promising from his earliest days of holding a racquet.

He became the youngest player ever to receive direct entry into the Australian Open at only 14!

He was Australia’s highest ranked player at only 18 years old.

He even beat beloved Aussie icon, Lleyton Hewitt.

He reached 17th in the world in Tennis!

A true talent that drew international acclaim.

But now he’s fallen into obscurity, and many would say “disgraced”.


He would get really tilted.

REALLY tilted.

Really easily.

He became known for throwing games when he was losing.

He gave up at the earliest sign of trouble.

And he did very little to disguise it.

This showed up from a young age and many saw the writing on the wall for his career then.

In a state-wide event as a teenager, he was thrown out for “not trying” after a particularly frustrating loss.

When he made the big leagues, he got frustrated again in a difficult match with a rival.

He lost his cool, and asked for his father to be removed from the stadium as he was “annoying”.

His issues with temper and tantrums continued as his talent and notoriety grew.

In the 2012 US Open, he gave up in a match against USA’s Andy Roddick and lost very convincingly.

All through that tournament, crowds booed him for his lack of effort.

Legendary Tennis commentator, John McEnroe, stated that “it looks like a tank job.. You hate to see it.”

In the next year of the same tournament, the Aussie set a World Record…

… for losing the shortest ever match in Masters history.

And it was all because he couldn’t cut it mentally.

He let tilt get the better of him time and again.

It undid all his good work and betrayed his talent.

The Aussie was Bernard Tomic.

His complete lack of effort and very public tantrums got worldwide attention.

He became the laughing stock of the Tennis world.

In the next few years he became a meme for holding his racquet backwards in a game, intentionally failing to return a serve.

He was fined tens of thousands of pounds for unsportsmanlike conduct with referees.

And was discovered to have faked an injury to get out of a tournament he was “bored with”.

He’d destroyed his career.

Thankfully, you and I don’t have the world watching us.

But there is something very critical to learn from Bernard’s tale.

We MUST get the better of tilt.

Or it will undo any results we achieve.

It doesn’t matter how good we get at visualization or how much our rating improves…

… if we get tilted and lose it all in a single frustrated night of Chess.

If you have issues with tilt (most of us do) you need to protect your rating and progress from it.

There are 4 main things you can do:

First, start accounts on more than one Chess website.

I have accounts on Chess.com and Lichess.

When I’m at the top of my game and ready to go, I play on Lichess.

I don’t care too much about my Chess.com rating, so if I’m tilted but don’t want to stop playing, I play there.

If I want to try new things, I play on Chess.com.

I recently started playing bullet, so I’m practicing on Chess.com.

Lichess is where I go only when I’m ready to play my best.

If I start to get tilted there, I switch back to Chess.com.

I recommend you do something like that too.

Second, analyse EVERY game.

Yes, every game.

Take 30 seconds to a minute and look each game over with an engine.

Even if it was an easy win or painful loss.

The ritual has three major benefits:

  1. You identify and learn from your mistakes
  2. You get to review and celebrate your wins and brilliancies
  3. You create a buffer of time between games so your emotions don’t flow from one game to the next.

Point 3 is actually more important than the other two.

The only exception to this is a rematch with the same opponent again.

But if you do that, you NEED to follow the next rule.

Third, stop and take a break when you lose twice in a row.

Even if you feel ok after your second loss, close your app or browser and take a walk.

Or do some pushups.

Or go eat dinner.

Do something to change your state and interrupt the pattern of loss and frustration.

Then, if you want to, return to Chess.

But if you lose your first game back – stop for the day.

Or switch to your secondary Chess website like in tip #1 😉

Lastly, control your self-talk.

How we talk to ourselves is the most important thing in our life.

When we lose a game of Chess, it’s easy to tell ourselves we’re stupid.

Or that we suck.

Or that we’ll never get better.

But those thoughts are unhelpful and hurt us on a very deep level.

On a level that goes far beyond Chess.

If there is one tip I can give you that will help your Chess and improve your life as well it’s this:

The way we talk to ourselves IS our reality.

If you tell yourself you suck…

Congratulations! Now you do suck.

If you say instead, “I’m proud of my effort.”

Or “I’m getting better.”

Or “I will learn from this.”

Then you’ll improve.

And you’ll ENJOY the process.

Your self-talk is your reality.

Keep it positive 🙂

Remember to tell yourself:

“I believe in myself. I’ve got this!”

And if you struggle to tell yourself that sometimes, I’ll tell you instead.

I believe in you.

You’ve got this.

About the author

Aiden Rayner writes about how to make the adult brain better at Chess. Using science-backed insights, he works to change the narratives around adult improvement, and help adults discover the power of their Chess brains.

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