A Method For Winning Games
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It's nice to win games by playing amazing moves, surprising tactics, and slashing attacks, but we all know that those are rare and that we can't expect a steady diet of brilliant wins. It's like the lottery. It would be nice to win once in a while (or ever!), but we need a reliable source of income. But how do we produce a steady income of winning chess games? We can't always force things with crazy attacks, but then shifting pieces around endlessly waiting for blunders won't work either. What we need is a method for generating a constant flow of winning chances. Not winning moves, winning chances. And what exactly are "winning chances"? Well, as the term suggests, they are points in the game where you have a chance of winning. Not the lucky, praying for a blunder chance, but the chance that your opponent will misplay a move and make his position a little worse and give you some sort of weakness to work on. Then, while defending that weakness, he will slip again and give you another advantage to work with. Depending on the severity of his errors, it may take one or two slips or it may take four or five to make the game irretrievably lost. The reason these are called "winning chances" is that there is no guarantee of winning. Your opponent may make one error and then recover and play good chess the rest of the way and render his earlier error inconsequential and arrive at an equal position. Even GM's make errors and get into tough positions, but they pull themselves together and draw the game.
So what is the "method" for generating winning chances? You need to ask your opponent questions. Not out loud, of course, but with your moves on the board. What do I mean by "questions"? A question is when you make a move and your opponent has to make a decision. It can be as serious as threatening mate in one or as common as a capture after which he has two ways of recapturing. Any series of poor decisions can lead to a lost position or they can lead to a poor, but defendable position. The point is that you must, as often as possible (it's not possible to make every one of your moves into a tough question), make your opponent answer a question about how to continue. This means your focus on each move must be on generating IDEAS. Ideas about how to create some sort of plan to gain some kind of advantage. It can be as simple as pinning a knight and threatening to double his pawns. It can be a plan to open a file and then double your rooks on it. The main thing is to never run out of IDEAS. As soon as you run out of ideas, either propose a draw or resign. Ideas are how you generate questions for your oppnent to answer, questions that he can get wrong. And every wrong answer adds to your increasing advantage until the position is too far gone to hold, at which point there are no correct answers and all moves lose.
Where do we get ideas? From playing over master games, both old and new. After a while, you will find yourself thinking during a game: "I remember a game by Morphy where he had a position like this and he did such-and-such and ended up with a big attack." After checking for particular neccessary similarities in your position, you try it, and it works! Just as it did in the Morphy game. Sometimes you can synthesize two or three ideas from two or three different games into one grand plan in your own game. Master games are a goldmine of great ideas.
In this game you should notice that White didn't play any incredible, wininning-on-the-spot moves. He just made moves that made his opponent make decisions, and he made a number of bad ones. But at each point, until near the end, he could have played better and recovered. The point is he was CHALLENGED to hold the game. White constantly came up with IDEAS to force Black to ANSWER A QUESTION. White didn't always play the "computer move" that was 0.03 points better than the move in the game, or the "book" move that all of the GM's play. Maybe computers and GM's can see through all of your threats, but can your opponent? You have to ask him the questions. He can't give the wrong answer to questions you don't ask. The reason GM's are GM's is that they ask tougher questions and when asked, give better answers than you or I. But even at our level, we can concentrate on forcing our opponents to earn a draw or a win, not just hand it to them by making aimless moves.