Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Styles

Although I have less and less spare time, I can really enjoy kibitzing. Following live games as spectator is a very different experience. There is no stress and you can jump unlimited to any game. As today often games are broadcast via a server, it is possible to get at any moment a pretty accurate verdict of the position.

If we exclude pseudo-kibitzing while playing - as that is often nothing more than glancing to the positions of competition or friends - today 99% of kibitzing happens at home from the arm chair. Arranging bus-transport to visit the tournament of Wijk aan Zee - as chessclub Oude God Mortsel already did a few times, is a rare exception. In most tournament you see barely any spectators resulting often in a special allotted room for the audience remaining completely empty.

Only for top-level-chess between professionals we notice on the internet many kibitzers. However it is too optimistic to state that every player is also a potential kibitzer. While chatting with players, I remark that many of them never follow live any game from top-tournaments or even the world-championship. I even have the impression that only a minority of players kibitz on regular base games from other players.

I wrote the introduction to proof what we already in fact know. Chess is an individual affair. Some fans exist but you play for yourself. Besides I am also convinced that we play chess in first instance to win. A loss can be surely an interesting experience but nobody keeps playing if he loses every game. The decisions we make in a game are always connected with the goal of winning the game. So I consider the reaction of the Anonymous IM a bit too simplified as there are 3 types of players: sportsmen, artists and scientists. Except some strange cases, nobody will choose for a beautiful but complicated queen-sacrifice when another simple move can win the game at once. Nobody will choose a complex win if there is a more simple win just to shorten the game with a few moves and play more scientifically.

There exist no different styles? Of course there are but in different domains. First every player will try to exploit its assets and camouflage their weaknesses. Somebody knowing a lot of an opening (learned from books, analysis or practice) will use this knowledge in his games. Somebody discovering easily good moves in unorthodox positions will exactly try to strive for such positions (e.g.  the flamboyant Dutch IM Manuel Bosboom). Somebody calculating quickly and accurately will try to strive for positions full of tactics. Finally somebody strong in the endgame will agree quicker to exchanges.

Maybe some choices seem artistic or scientific but in reality the sporting aspect is always dominant. Now this doesn't end the story as besides conscious choices also character plays a role of which we have little control. I am often astonished how different people impulsively react on certain risks. While one player sees all kind of big dangers, another player thinks everything is under control. Such difference in style was magnified in my games against Lacrosse and Beukema.

After the move-order mistake at move 20 Marc told me afterwards that he already contemplated resignation. The position is indeed not pleasant for black but resigning is too pessimistic as the position is surely still defensible.

A big difference with Stefan which afterwards told me that he felt the whole game was more or less balanced while objectively he often stood worse than Marc was in our mutual game. Even about the final position in which Stefan is still worse, Stefan remarked that he could've won if I avoided the repetition of moves.

The evaluation-profiles for both games show objectively well how similar the size of the advantage was in both games for me and so how big the gap in perception was between both opponents. Readers interested in knowing more about evaluation profiles, must read the article on Chessbase from Roger Vermeir.
Evaluation profile game Brabo - Lacrosse since move 20

Evaluation profile game Brabo - Beukema since move 18
Of course a valid remark is that a similar judgement of the same engine in totally different positions may not automatically let us conclude that similar practical chances are existing. I am not making such silly claim. However what I do demonstrate with the evaluation-profiles is that Marc was too pessimistic while Stefan too optimistic. Maybe this was a coincidence for those specific games but I have a strong feeling that you will find this behavior also in their other games.

The behavior of both players neither is exceptional. I often detect players with a strong tendency to pessimism or optimism. Without willing to call names but in my club we have a player always believing after the opening that we will win with a big margin, only to be surprised by the much lower score after the match ended. Some of those optimists are also active in other domains in which luck plays a bigger role: poker, gambling in a casino,...

I personally find those different styles making chess more appealing. By the way if we look to the different former-worldchampions then it seems that different styles are possible for getting excellent results. Forcing upon yourself some style, doesn't sound to me the right solution.

Brabo

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