Are you a chess mummy?

I came across this amusing quote on the internet from Axel Smith’s book “Pump Up Your Rating”:
“In Lund we have an expression for a player who never improves: a mummy. It is not said in a negative sense; the mummy enjoys chess. The romanticizing of the expression has even gone so far that The Mummy (SK Mumien) is the name of a chess club! Many mummies actually see themselves as quite ambitious players. This could be a typical chess diary of a mummy:
  • Monday: Playing blitz for two hours on the internet.
  • Tuesday: Watching live games from a super-tournament for the whole evening, while checking the games with an engine.
  • Wednesday: Warming up with some blitz games, before watching a DVD.
  • Thursday: Planning to prepare for the weekend’s game by reading a chess book, but running out of time after reading chess news on the internet.
  • Friday: Reading a book about great players from the past. Looking at the diagrams, but concentrating mostly on the great stories in the text. The book is read in bed, thirty minutes before falling asleep.
  • Saturday: Losing a tight game in the league, and afterwards claiming that a single mistake decided the game. Checking the game quickly with an engine.
  • Sunday: No chess; impossible to be motivated after such an unfair loss!
Our mummy spends a lot of time on chess, but he won’t improve much. 
The key to learning a foreign language is to try to speak it. Without any doubt, it’s also good to listen, but it’s when sentences are first formulated that improvement really starts.
It is the same in chess, and active learning is my hobbyhorse as a coach. This means questioning statements in books (maybe I should have mentioned that earlier!), forming your own opinions, and using training methods that activate your brain.
With only some small changes, our mummy can come alive!”
Hmmm. I think I may be a mummy. I bought half a dozen middlegame strategy and endgame books when I joined the Nomads yet nearly 2 years later they remain largely unread. And partly that is down to work and family commitments but also it is easier to watch a DVD at the end of a day or play some blitz than study chess. But this pandemic is not going away so the “new normal” might as well include some chess study. Anyone else got that book on their shelf they always meant to study? Can we help each other to improve? Now is the  time. I turn 57 next week, can I be a better player at 60?


  1. Your article is very timely, and so much of it resonates with me. Often I find myself bashing out blitz games without actually learning much about chess. Because of lockdown I had a four month break from the gym. On my return I was able to get rid of a lot of bad habits and train harder and smarter. I would love to be able do the same with chess. While I know it is possible, my old bad chess habits are deeply ingrained. With no prospect of competitive OTB chess any time soon, the silver lining of the Covid cloud is a time for chess reflection and improvement. Of course this may not deliver more victories as I suspect many of us will come back stronger when normality returns.

Leave a comment

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