I read lots about chess on the internet, some of which I agree with and some of which I disagree with, but virtually all of which stimulates me. I follow US senior chess coach Dan Heisman on Twitter and I've used a number of his ideas (de-Americanised, of course) in my own chess teachings. He is excellent at finding things which average level players and beginners need to think about. But I saw a tweet by him yesterday linking to an article that suggested that luck exists in chess. This is something which I personally disagree with, and I try to avoid using luck as an influencing factor in life generally.
Heisman suggests that chess authors use luck to mean that there is no randomness in chess in the selection of moves. There are no dice or other random elements at play and it is only the choice and effort of the players which determines the moves made. He goes on to state that choosing moves is only one aspect of the game, and others may be affected by luck. He then goes on to talk about good move and games played by low rated players which could be considered lucky, and weak moves and games played by high rated players which may be considered unlucky. This use of luck in chess I strongly disagree with as it takes away a players responsibility for his actions and gives a person excuses to rationalise a bad loss or a good win. I take a much more down to earth view. If I play badly and lose to a lower rated player than me, then that isn't anything to do with luck, the best man won on the day. To avoid this happening in the future, I need to ask some hard questions about my play, and my preparation for the game. On the other hand, if I beat a player much higher rated than me, rather than saying I was lucky that they didn't play their best chess, I can turn around and rightly be proud of my achievement.
Another issue he talks about is luck of the draw in a tournament. Sometimes draws seem to be favourable to players, while sometimes they are really bad. However, again, this seems to me to be an excuse players make when results don't necessarily go with them. I remember playing in a weekend tournament in the UK and arriving for the first round where my opponent hadn't turned up. The rules were that players without a first round opponent could be re-paired up to 30 minutes after the start of the round. After 20 minutes I had no opponent to play and was thinking in terms of getting a full point bye when IM Chris Baker walked in the door and asked of it was to late to join the tournament. I was asked if it would be ok to play with Chris, I said yes, no problems, we played, I lost and turned a full point bye into a first round loss. As a player in the top half of the draw, it was also a first round point dropped. Now you could say I was unlucky in that instance, but I wouldn't say that. Those were the rules, and that was the draw. Simple as!
While I use a lot of ideas from a lot of coaches in my lessons (including Dan Heisman), I try to make my students take responsibility for their mistakes and their victories. I am working hard towards making a future generation of chess players accountable for their actions, and to take charge of improving their play. I now have kids coming up to me telling me about their blunders, about how they didn't work hard enough before a tournament or didn't get enough sleep due to parties so tired through the day, things which they intend to put right in the future. They are not making excuses, they are analysing their mistakes in playing and preparing for events which they can then attempt to remedy. I get immense satisfaction when kids have turned the corner from just wanting to win every game they play to realising that losing isn't a bad thing as long as things are taken from the game.