An unexamined life is not worth living.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Persistence in Chess

When I started to study chess seriously,I would typically like the quality of my play in the beginning of a tournament – until losing a game to a stronger player, or making a blunder. Confidence in good preparation and ability to find reasonable moves is re-enforced by playing several decent games, but a loss would destroy this sense of control. As a result, during the rest of the tournament – I would be
- less thorough while looking for a move, since I have less faith in “my system” of logically evaluating the position to find the move
- getting into time trouble due to lack of confidence
- lose motivation, since the “good tournament” is ruined
- start to think how to prepare better for the “next tournament”

Some of these points, especially the first one, are typical for players with “analytical approach”, among which, according to Mark Dvoretsky, are such players as Rubinstein, Botvinnik and Kasparov. Once the analytical apparatus reveals a flaw, the perfect machine is no longer so perfect.

A different attitude is typical for players with the “intuitive, or practical approach”, such as Anatoly Karpov. For me one of the most useful ideas about tournament play came from Karpov’s book where he talks about how

“Some chess players, would give up after a loss or two, but a real player would realize that a series of defeats has to be followed by better luck, and wait for his chance”.

image Anatoly Karpov – waiting for opponent’s mistakes

This patient waiting for your chance is what I consider persistence in chess. Even if you are not going to win a tournament – each game counts towards your ELO rating the same way, so previous losses should not affect one’s motivation, which I wrote about in an earlier post. Moreover – in the end of the tournament – your opponents get more tired and more likely to make a mistake!

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