Can You Beat Yourself at Chess?

Chess Guides / By Andrew Hercules
can you beat yourself at chess

Chess is a very interesting board game because it is one of the few sports that allow you to compete against yourself. At first, it seems crazy when someone tells you that you can play against yourself.

However, given the way chess is set up, it is possible to compete professionally against yourself and come up with viable results. A chess board has two sides with pieces of different colors.

You can therefore set up your board, arrange the pieces on each side and play for both. In this article, we answer the question as to whether or not you can beat yourself at chess.

Can You Beat Yourself at Chess?

Yes, you can beat yourself at chess. Even though most veterans believe that a match against yourself should always end in a draw, there have been viable scenarios where people have beaten themselves genuinely.

We analyze possible situations where a player can beat himself at chess below:

1. When You Make Errors

As a skilled chess player, you have plenty of moves in your repertoire. You have both starting and finishing moves. After arranging your chess pieces on your chess board, you pick a side and make your first move. You then shift to the other side and make a move as an opponent would do in normal scenarios.

As you keep playing, you may reach a point where you spot a genuine mistake from the other side. When you capitalize on the mistake and you go on to checkmate the losing side, we can say that you have actually beaten yourself.

2. Your Develop New Ideas Throughout the Game

Just like when playing with an opponent, you gain new ideas when you play alone. The beauty about chess is that it has very many possibilities. Possibilities that even the toughest chess engines have not been able to explore. This means that after playing for one side, you can think of a new idea to explore.

The idea will then turn out to be good or bad depending on the end result. If the idea is good, the side that you used for the experiment should go on and win the game.

However, if the idea was not so good, the other side should win the game. Either way, you will have beaten yourself at chess in the end.

3. Chess Engines Have Beaten Themselves Before

Chess engines are technological tools used to analyze the possibilities of a chess game. Normally, they come up with moves that a normal human brain would find hard to figure out.

In the past, experiments have been done to see whether chess engines can outdo themselves. The results turned out positive as it was determined that one side of the game always won and very few matches resulted as draws.

In the same spirit, humans can beat themselves at chess! If a computer software with all its prowess can find a winner, the grandmasters should be able to do that as well. Beginners on the other hand should not struggle with this at all.

4. Perfect Play is Not Possible

Perfect play in chess is not possible, at least not yet. Grandmasters in chess have their ratings. Even though the rating system is not perfect, it still gets the job done somehow.

So let’s take a case example of a player with a rating of 2200 with a margin of error of + or – 100 who decides to play against himself. By the end of the game, the chances that both sides will play the same exact rating or 2100 or 2300 is very small.

If anything, if there was perfect play in chess, the game would have been “solved” by now. There would be a specific path to victory. However, as it stands, none has been established. Chess continues to be a game of high possibilities. In that case, if you are genuine about playing against yourself, there should always be a winning side, unless you decide to forfeit.

How to Play Chess Against Yourself Perfectly

For you to come up with genuine results when playing against yourself, consider the following tips:

1. Always use the right chess set

Avoid chess sets that are flimsy or those that can fall easily when playing. The perfect chess sets should have the right dimensions, weight and quality chess pieces.

2. Get comfortable first

Before you start playing chess against yourself, make yourself comfortable. Adjust the seat to your preference, wear the right clothes, and be in the right state of mind. Just do everything to make yourself comfortable before the game.

3. Think the moves out

Before making a move for any side, think critically. Assume that you are playing against a real opponent. Allocate equal time for solving moves for each side. In short, avoid any form of bias.

4. Avoid copying moves

Just like when playing against a real opponent, avoid copying moves from either side when possible. Copying moves will get you stuck at some point and force a draw.

5. Find a way to keep tabs on the game

In some instances, you might have to abandon a chess move in the middle to attend to other things. Therefore, you need to have a marker that will tell you which side should make the next move. This boosts efficiency.

6. Always try to win

No matter what chess color you play with, always aim for a victory. When playing the game alone, give it as much seriousness as when playing with a real opponent.

Other factors to consider include avoiding bias, using a chess clock, take notes when playing and know when to pause the game. When you start to get frustrated, it is probably the best time to leave the game for some other time.


If you are a serious chess player, beating yourself is possible. With very many possibilities in the game, it is almost impossible to have a perfect play. There is always a chance that you can make a blunder from one side, which you can notice later while playing for the other side.

Andrew Hercules

Hercules Chess, launched in 2020, is a website that teaches you about chess. We started as a chess blog and became a chess training platform in early 2022.

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