Perhaps the best overall statement on the psychology of the chess player is found in a small
book published in Moscow in 1926:
The Psychology of Chess Play by D’yakov, Petrovsky and Rudik.

A summary is provided in the 1965 book
Soviet Chess by D.J. Richards.

The object of a study cited in both books was the extraordinary group of grandmasters –
including Jose Capablanca, Emanuel Lasker, Akiba Rubinstein, Carlos Torre, Richard Reti, Savielly
Tartakower, Frank Marshall and Efim Bogoljubov – competing in the 1925 Moscow International
Tournament.

The findings, using a battery of tests, didn’t discover a special chess aptitude per se.
Surprisingly, the ability to calculate wasn’t mentioned. Equally surprising, the study observed
that “The masters’ memories were generally not exceptional.”

But the psychologists found that “The master must possess a considerable number of abilities and
qualities rarely found in one individual.”

Among the 16 qualities listed were the ability to distribute attention over many factors, a
contemplative mind, powers of synthetic thought and imagination, the ability to think concretely
and objectively and an active intellect.

 

Shelby Lyman is a Basic Chess Features columnist.