My next serious chess, the Reno CC Championship qualifier begins tomorrow night, and the format is different than last year, and presents an opportunity to reflect on "tournament strategy."
Back in the good old days of the Interzonals, players had to consider this sort of thing all the time--while a Robert Fischer simply gave every ounce of energy and effort to win each and every game, most of the players were calculating if "+3" (say, 9 of 15 points in a 16-player round robin) would likely make it into the top 5 or whatever number would move them into the Candidates round. Then they'd try to draw against the top-rated guys and beat the bottom few in order to get in. Not very inspiring, but "professional."
Last year in the Reno qualifiers the top 12 rated players were put into two roughly equal (by rating) groups of six, with the top three from each group advancing to the matchplay phase. Meanwhile, the other eight or nine players (basically, under 1600) played a Swiss, with the winner qualifying to play the reigning club champion.
This year, with exactly 20 entrants, it was decided to have four groups of five, roughly equal in average rating, with the top two in each group to qualify. So I find myself in the middle of my pack, with a 1970 and a 1900, me (1608) and a 1430 and 1250.
It's obvious on rating that the top two ought to qualify, but mathematically if I were able to defeat the guys below me in rating, and get one point in my two games with the +1900 set, I'd be assured of no worse than a tie for second. One could calculate various scenarios...
Oh, to hell with that. I'm going to do it Fischer-style--I'm not taking the guys below me for granted, and I'm not going to play the top two any differently, or more carefully. I'm going to play my best chess consistently through each and every game to the best of my ability, regardless of the opponent or his rating.
That felt good. Look out world, here I come!