Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Couple of Observations from Wetzell

I've completed my first reading of Chess Master...at any age (previous post) and the author had a couple of observations that I found to be unique in my study of chess literature. I thought I would share those with you, as I prepare my personal experiment to see if Mr. Wetzell's ideas will work to improve my results.

Wetzell is the biggest opponent of time pressure I've ever enountered--he would much rather have you make all the moves according to a schedule, knowing some will be weaker, than allow yourself to run short of time. It's a results-oriented approach, and among the several causes of time pressure he notes that I can really identify with are what I would call 'The need to understand the position' and 'The need to be artistic.'

I never thought of it this way before, but many players, including me, take a lot of time in the early middlegame to 'understand' the position and map out a grand strategy for the rest of the game--a strategy that rarely lasts for more than a few moves. Then it's back to the drawing board, and the time spent is mostly wasted.

For me the need to be artistic shows up as an aversion to 'wasting' a move, to 'tacking' about without a definite positive object for every move. I recall Nimzovich was a big proponent of this kind of play, and once wrote something about how how some players felt they had to "do something" with every move, but that sometimes waiting and consolidation were very much legitimate objects of a given move. Petrosian was a good modern example of this kind of chess. I'm not very much of a 'prophylactic' player either; the upshot is that in positions without clear stategic or attacking lines I'm liable to take a lot of time time trying to find a move that makes 'progress.' I'm not a consistent time-trouble addict, but do fall into it in certain types of position more than others.

Bottom line, the book raises a question that all tournament players should ask themselves: Are you playing to maximize the number of points you score, or for other reasons? If I'm playing to win only, or draw if that's the best result available in the position, then I need to reorient myself somewhat. I do play to win against everybody, but I'm thinking my number of points scored, and thus my rating, would improve if I took the approach that it's not the beauty, or clarity or aesthetic quality of a given game that must be the first consideration when sitting down to play a serious game, but the result. If the game takes longer, or part of it is 'boring' or less than the strongest move is played at times, that needs to be okay, if what I'm really after is to move up the rating scale.

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