Hacking the Cortex: The Other Mantra

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“Slow down and keep winning” is the first mantra that I’ve drilled into my mind for tournaments. It’s designed to stop the jitters and The Fear from making me make rash decisions or go for assassinations when I’m already safely winning on attrition.

The other is the one more likely to be written on the back of my hand, and perhaps more likely to lose me games if I ignore it.

That mantra is “CCLD” – Confident, Cocky, Lazy, Dead.

Confidence is a great and powerful thing, and is positively correlated with all kinds of success – work, hobbies, money, dating, happiness… the works. It is, however, a slippery slope. While you keep yourself at stage 1 (Confident) you’re insulated against The Fear, and likely to think and act at a steady pace. It is a good place to be.

But it is all too easy to begin to slip into Cocky. That said, level 2 has its advantages as well, as it still lives in the realm of confidence. It will make you all but immune to the fear, and you will go through the motions of your army smoothly and quickly. You won’t doubt your decisions.

Sometimes this is good. Sometimes, Cocky is just expertise at work. You know your stuff, so why worry? Why overthink? You’ve been training all this time to make your autopilot a trustworthy guy behind the wheel. But Cocky is that point where the autopilot can be dangerous, where you fail to see unusual board states or combinations and fail to react to them appropriately. As we’ve talked about before, automaticity is the downside of expertise – a lack of flexible performance.

The next step is Lazy – in which your confidence has bloomed to the point where you are doing a whole lot of things that are Not Good. You’re underestimating your opponent, you’re not actively taking in relevant information, and worst of all – you’re getting greedy. When it’s all going so well, why not send your caster in to take a few more shots? Why worry too much about exact placement over here? You’ve got him on the run! You let little things slide that you absolutely would not if you were playing an obviously close and nail biting game.

But if you want to win tournaments, you have to treat Every Single Game as if it’s against the best possible opponent, as if you could lose to a single tiny error. As if the momentum in the game is a dead heat between the two players.

Because in WMH, you can lose a game to a tiny oversight. I lose as many games that I’m solidly winning due to stupid errors as I do games that were last-minute score nail biters. And that’s why Stage 4 speaks for itself.

Like so many things in psychology, there is a fine balancing act to being confident, but not so confident that it damages your performance. Much like the balance between automaticity and flexibility for effective play. It can be a tough one to find, because you don’t want to self analyse to the point of self doubt (another fine balancing act). But armed with some knowledge and some self knowledge, you can learn to walk the wire.

You can learn to stay at Stage 1, and never let yourself slide down into the dark depths of Stage 4.



2 thoughts on “Hacking the Cortex: The Other Mantra

  1. Good advice! Now what’s your trick for keep your brain from shutting down about 8 hours into the tourney?

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