Be a Six-Sigma Chess Player

The term “Six Sigma” comes from statistical quality control and refers to a quality process so robust that you can manufacture goods with only 3.4 defects per million, which is six standard deviations (sigma) from the average in a ‘normal’, or bell-shaped, distribution.  You can see a near-normal distribution on if you go here.

If your rating were 6 standard deviations from the average, you would appear out in that tiny tail region of the distribution and be in rare company indeed.  Of course, this works for both ends of the distribution, and with that in mind I will now proceed to explain how YOU can become a Six Sigma Chess Player Extraordinaire, giving you one rule per sigma.

Rule 1:  Excuse your defeats.

When you lose a game, even if your opponent was ahead by 3 full pieces and 2 pawns, inform him that you were overly tired, or sick, or distracted and not really paying attention to the game.  If you are clever, you can even make this statement sound sarcastic and condescending.  Everyone within earshot (or readshot, if you’re on the web) will understand the truth of your superiority.

Rule 2:  Always trust your instincts.

Because you are superior, there will never be any need for you to study.  Child prodigies only exist in math, music and chess.  Clearly, you fall into that last category.

Rule 3:  Talk trash at the club before you reach USCF 1000.     

If you’ve never visited a real chess club, I strongly recommend it.  Chess clubs are amazing, instructive and endlessly entertaining.  I particularly enjoy hearing the regulars talk trash to each other, and I’m not being facetious here.  The insults fly as fast as a game of speed chess, and the more creative you can be in talking trash, the more status you achieve.  Some of this banter can be extremely humorous, and while I do think I have a clever wit, I do not yet engage in this behavior because I feel I’m not a good enough chess player.  That need not stop you, however. Belittle your opponents.  Be like the 10 year old boys I once observed at the club who, in imitation of the adults they so look up to, began talking trash to each other even while making the most ludicrous, amateurish moves.

Rule 4:  Know that you are better than your rating.

We have all lost games that we knew just didn’t reflect our true playing strength.  This is a natural human instinct, in addition to a universal truth. 

Rule 5:  Confound your opponent with non-standard moves.

For example, check your opponent while placing a piece en prise and smirking loudly.  Your opponent will then fear that taking the piece will lead him into the abyss of some master-level trap, and move his King instead.  You can become extremely creative with this rule, if you only use your imagination.

Rule 6:  Mirror your opponent.

Even a six-sigma chess player may occasionally meet someone who he may suspect is a superior player.  If this happens to you, simply imitate his every move.  This can be particularly instructive in the opening. 

If you adhere to these rules, I can virtually guarantee that you will enter into that rarified region of the bell curve where few others will ever reach.  This will work not only in chess, but in your life as well.   Thus, choose your move carefully, in chess as in life.


  • 8 years ago


    Re: talking trash at the chess club. I used to belong to the Mechanic's Institute Chess Club in San Francisco. I remember one player in pariticular, universally known as Mr Morgan (I don't think he had a first name), whose trash was truly sublime. As soon as he would move his shout of "Hinky dinky", repeated every time his opponent's trembling hand hovered over a piece, was loud enough to put off every other player in the room and would literally pin his opponent to the back of his chair. Then, after his opponent's tremulous move, he would say, contempt dripping like venom from every fanged syllable, "That's the best move you ever made!" Entertaining, instructive and he had a great deal of success, even though he was a fairly weak player.

  • 9 years ago


    Nope.   I happen to know seaeagle (in fact, he used to be my boss).  I don't know cheater_1


  • 9 years ago


    I bet seaeagle, kurtgodden and cheater_1 are all the same person.
  • 9 years ago


    Well done.  But, like most humor, there's more than a grain of truth to these.

     You will seldom if ever hear a chess player:

    * admit their opponent outplayed them when they lose (rule 1) or admit their opponent played poorly/blundered when they win (rule 1 again).  "I won because I'm the better player." "He's not better than me, I just didn't play well."

    * admit their rating is accurate or even...that they're overrated. (rule 4) Q: "What's your rating?" A: "Right now it's about xx00, but I'm at least a couple hundred points stronger than that."

     And there's certainly more than just a grain of truth to Rule 3.

  • 9 years ago


    2 σ's is good enough for me.  Wink
  • 9 years ago


  • 9 years ago



     if everyone follows these rules, then we'll all become 6 sigma by the current standard

    But if we all reach that level then only1 or 2 will truly be 6 sigma.


    p.s. this is as serious as the article it pertains to.

  • 9 years ago


    Hi Erik, no I don't do 6s for GM, although one of my projects does involve quality.  I'm glad you enjoyed the post.  I had fun writing it. 

  • 9 years ago


    this was a very, very funny post! do you do six-sigma for your company? :)
  • 9 years ago


    That's the whole point, Joe. It's a joke.


  • 9 years ago


    wow. um. rule 1, 3, and 5 sound unsportsmanly and in my opinion kind of dumb. For number 1, if they out-played you, well then they out-played you. In my opinion it is better to respect your opponent. Trash talk, as you said, is for 10-year olds. And yes un-orthodox moves are good (5), but the whole smirk thing is, well, dumb. If your opponent is a good player, he will analyze your move even more thoroughly, and will make the move that is best. In my opinion these tactics will make you a six-sigma player... but on the wrong side.
  • 9 years ago


    I'm a 6sigma greenbelt (in manufacturing not chess).  That sounds as ridiculous as the real 6sigma program.

    (At my last job the fellas nicknamed it sick sigma)

    I would NEVER aspire to use sick sigma in chess even if it was a serious proposition.  The FMEA (failure mode effects analysis) would take months for one game.  That would be fine if I was only interested in playing 3 games a year, but then all the statistical analysis is irrelavent because there will never be enough games to analyze.  ...And who is the customer - sick sigma decisions are all driven by VOC - voice of the customer.  I wouldn't even know who to properly misrepresent in VOC.

    I can get nowhere fast with my own methods.

  • 9 years ago


    Good job kurt !

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