Monday, July 27, 2015

The future of the decisions you make in the present

(How Life Imitates Chess - Kasparov)
The strategist starts with a goal in the distant future and works backwards to the present. A Grandmaster makes the best moves because they are based on what he wants the board to look like ten or twenty moves in the future. This doesn't require the calculation of countless twenty-move variations. He evaluates where his fortunes lie in the position and establishes objectives. Then he works out the step-by-step moves to accomplish those aims. These intermediate objectives are essential. They are the ingredients necessary to create conditions favorable to our strategy. Without them we're trying to build a house starting with the roof. Too often we set a goal and head straight for it without considering all the steps that will be required to achieve it. What conditions must be true for our strategy to succeed? What sacrifices will be required? What must change and what can we do to induce or enable those changes?
My instincts or analysis tell me that in a given position there is potential for me to attack my opponent's king. Next, instead throwing my forces at the king, I search for objectives I must achieve in order to do this successfully, for example, to weaken the protection around the opponent's king by exchanging a key defending piece. I first must understand which strategic objectives will help me accomplish my goal of attacking the king and only then do I begin to plan exactly how to achieve them and to look at the specific moves that will lead to successful implementation. Failing to do this leads to
simplistic, single-minded plans with little hope of success.
In the second round of the 2001 Corus tournament in the Netherlands I faced one of the
tournament underdogs, Alexei Fedorov of Belarus. This was the strongest tournament he had ever played in, and the first time we had met at the board. He quickly made it clear that he did not intend to show too much respect for the august surroundings, or for his opponent.
Fedorov quickly abandoned standard opening play. If what he played against me had a name it might be called the 'Kitchen Sink Attack'. Ignoring the rest of the board he launched all his available pawns and pieces at my king right from the start. I knew that such a wild, ill-prepared attack could only succeed if I blundered. I kept an eye on my king and countered on the other side, or wing, and in the centre of the board, a critical area where he had completely ignored his development. It was soon apparent that his attack was entirely superficial and he resigned the game after only twenty-five moves.
I admit I didn't have to do anything special to score this easy victory. My opponent had played without a sound strategy and eventually reached a dead end. What Fedorov failed to do was to ask himself early on what conditions would need to be fulfilled for his attack to succeed. He decided he wanted to cross the river and walked right into the water instead of looking for a bridge. It's also worth noting that relying on the competition to make a serious mistake is not a viable strategy.

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