What Is T.B.W.E.M.P.L.(S.) And How It Can Help You!

T.B.W.E.M.P.L.(S.) is an acronym. Each individual letter is the first of a sin, a chess sin. Have you ever heard of “The Seven Deadly Chess Sins”? No? Well, now you will.

“The Seven Deadly Chess Sins” is a book by Scottish grandmaster, philosopher and psychologist Jonathan Rowson. In it he addresses the psychological side of playing chess. He states that chess mistakes, apart from being technical in nature, often can be contributed to a certain state of mind that causes the error. I quote from the back cover of the book:

“Everyone loses chess games occasionally, but all too often we lose a game due to moves that, deep down, we knew were flawed. Why do we commit these chess-board sins? Are they the result of general misconceptions about chess and how it should be played? And how can we recognize the warning signs better?”

I read his book several years ago, found it very interesting and highly recommend it. Rowson gives in-depth descriptions of the human psyche and plenty of practical examples to illuminate his ideas. I started thinking how I could use his ideas to my benefit. But first let’s look at the seven deadly chess sins in a bit more detail.

1: Thinking
Rowson states that (too much) thinking can be unnecessary or erroneous, and in fact can harm your ability to make practical and healthy decisions.

2: Blinking
Rowson refers to missing opportunities and lack of resolution.

3: Wanting
Rowson warns for the state of mind in which you are too much concerned with the result of the game. For instance, if you have been better throughout the game, it “only makes sense” that you dismiss variations that lead to a draw – since you want to win – only to find out that the chosen variation was indeed not drawing, but… loosing! This sin makes you dangerously narrow-minded.

4: Egoïsm
Don’t we all know this one! I have already written about it in 6 tips on how to improve your chess (2nd commandment). Rowson very correctly states that it is a sin to have insufficient awareness of your opponent and his ideas.

5: Materialism
This state of mind gives precedence to material over dynamic factors and constitutes a narrow-minded outlook on things.

6: Perfectionism
Rowson states that it is a sin to always strive for playing the best move. It is simply impossible to do so and takes up a lot of your allotted time. One of the inevitable results is time trouble. Being practical is a virtue.

7: Looseness
Rowson states that it is a sin to “lose the plot”, to drift, or to have poor concentration. This is especially the case in time trouble. Either you don’t get in time trouble or if you do, you stay focused and concentrated!

(8): Staticism
later on I added my own “sin”. In a way this sin is similar to the fifth sin of Materialism. Since I am good at breaking down a position, I am inclined to judge a position from a standpoint of visual and static characteristics, thereby overlooking or underestimating the value of the initiative, threats, attacking chances and other non-visual dynamic factors.

What does this bring you?
Now here are two things I suggest you do:

  1. Go through some of your games, preferably your losses, and try to figure out if any of the mistakes you made was based on one of the above mentioned sins. This is a very useful exercise, because it can help you find your weaknesses and address them from a different angle.
  2. Use T.B.W.E.M.P.L.(S.) while playing! Run through all the letters, remember their respective sins, and ask yourself if one of them is applicable to you at the moment. If so, take precautionary measures! I have been doing so for a number of years now, and it has helped me a lot!

Do you recognize any sins?
If you recognize any of this, or if you have found out more about your psychological weak spots, I’m interested to read about it in the comments!


Buy “The Seven Deadly Chess Sins” through Amazon.com


  1. kaguvkov August 16, 2008

    Hi! can we xlink with my chess blog which features daily chess updates and news? just let me know and i’ll add you..thank you.

  2. Waldemar August 17, 2008

    Hi Kaguvkov,

    Sure, I’ve added a link to your blog on my blog.
    Nice pictures!



Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>