Chess is like Business

There is an old adage in business that goes “Ideas are worthless”. IOW, it’s all about execution.

What amazes me so much from playing lots of opponents on the internet is how well that most players are able to spot the “killer idea” in a position. Then the difference between the win and loss usually turns into who pulls off their ideas better. Preparation, should I prepare the idea, should I not, or should I look it off entirely? Or even, is this the right idea given other circumstances that have taken place on the board? Will this idea essentially override other factors at the end of the day?

If we just read chess books for ideas, how much would our rating really improve? Probably not much, because the execution of the ideas are nearly a separate issue. Ideawise, I can learn just as much from a B player at times as from an Expert. I don’t think higher-rating = more idea-savvy, I think it simply means better execution. Sometimes, say at the GM brilliancy level, the execution is so much better that the ideas also become better.

When I was a totally weak chessplayer, I loved that I was always learning new ideas. I would not even calculate something because I did not think such an idea was possible. Now it’s like, okay, me and my opponents are seeing the (same) ideas, but who is calculating them better? The “video-game” element of chess becomes lessened and it becomes more about who wants to do their “homework” on the position more. Playing the Black pieces definitely seems to require more of this “homework” at the board. Luckily, both players usually miss the finer elements of attack/defense tactical possibilities and rather focus in on the key elements. I’m still appalled at how many of my games are ultimately decided by tactical accuracy, not ideas, regardless of whether the position was winning or losing at the time.

What it means is that playing against better players can actually be more boring because they are simply going to calculate it accurately. You could just about save your money and play Fritz. hehe.

I mean, I still remember the time I put some of Alekhine’s games against Crafty and on one game by like move 38 he had a .25 advantage or something against “Joe the Plumber”. Joe blunders and the rest of the game is history. Of course Alekhine was brilliant in bamboozling his opponents with tactics and such, but sometimes I think it’s naive that we are always going to find “better ideas” from their games, rather than mostly better execution. Of course the super GMs are brilliant and have these amazing games that we can all appreciate and think to ourselves “Wow, I could never have done that!” and yes, that is what makes them so fun.

I just played a game on FICS against an 1860 level player. After the game I studied the position and came up with the correct idea. Interestingly, Crafty thought it was dead even (my idea) until a couple moves into it, when it suddenly became winning. So I figured out the correct idea after a long think after the game, but Crafty can out-execute me, seemingly effortlessly.

My judgment relies on execution, but also intuition because there are so many response lines to look at that you would have to visualize quickly like Crafty to see so many of these side-lines. Incidentally, in my last game against ksv, the right idea was Bd3 followed by f5 threatening f6, a stock idea in that position with Bg7 and Ne7, but it’s calculating the execution of it is theoretically dense in terms of move lines. The hard part is determining the right stock-idea, and then calculating out why it should work. For example, someone might try to use the stock idea of Qd2, then Bh6 in that position, but that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere; the emphasis should be on the light-squares insted.


7 thoughts on “Chess is like Business

  1. I think you are on something here. I remember my 2 Benko games with the guys rated 100 higher than me. I played well, got better position, made right “Benko” moves, but then in one game missed winning a piece, and in another a pawn. They both ended in a draw.
    Same in another game – I get him into time trouble, sacrifice a piece and he makes mistake that gives me a forced win – I don’t see it.
    Another case, when good ideas were not followed by a good execution.

  2. You may call me a nitpicking idiot but instead of ideas i would call it plans. 😉

    Secondly, plans point towards calculation. With other words, the better you learn to calculate the better player you are.

    It’s as simple as that. NOT!
    The bigest problem is that one has to find the best plan and i doubt one can find always the best plan by brute calculation. Sometimes intuition plays a part aswell.

  3. I agree with you, Chesstiger.

    Rollingpawns, yes, that is what I mean. Actually, that Benko looks like a “precise” opening. I tried a Benoni the other day as Black and was like Wow, you’ve got to play it right as Black, so cramped, it’s not a highly-fluid sort of opening, no wonder Tal sacked his knights to get some play.

    The thing is it’s okay if we blunder and stuff on FICS, it’s just that OTB stronger players tend to blitz their moves more because there is an intimidation factor OTB, possibly, that just about everyone really, tries to put in play (even though it rarely seems to work unless they move rapidly constantly). So we have to see the tactics almost faster than the other guy, even though the other guy may be sorry positionally and all that, just can’t let them outwork us tactically.

  4. I think in a lot of games,it’s not so much making the best plan but having a better plan than your opponent.
    In a given position we might find and make a GM move,but do/would we really understand the follow on?
    I think thats the beauty of chess, a couple of moves and it’s all change on the board.

    Have you moved yet?

  5. Yeah, I was thinking plan was too general as well. There is a military adage that goes something like a plan hardly survives the first shot, which implies that plans change a lot and are theoretical in their value.

    The right idea can be strong regardless of what the opponent does, it has an objective worth in isolation, it should hold up against Fritz, Ribka or whoever. There is something objective and exact about it, more than a plan. A plan is anything that makes progress, could be equal, but does not lose – there are more of those, does not imply best. Maybe most times, in theory, all there is is a plan because nothing is winning per se, but some plans are often a little stronger than others, and that can make a difference. Not saying that we have time to play postal chess over the board, but in regards to choosing theoretically best play the chessboard does not know that we have time-controls to play against.

    Haven’t moved yet. I’ve run into all kinds of snags there. My car needs work anyway and probably needs a stiffer suspension to haul. But like I say, I was denied the house by the seller because of supposed errors in the forms. I think it’s more about going there because I would want to.

  6. I left a comment on Ivan’s blog.

    I notice that I am taking from the rating-point rich and giving to the poor, on FICS lately. Tactically, I am too inconsistent, and the time-control, say 15 0, exaggerates this effect.

    I am starting to play more aggressively with tactical play. My style used to be keep it safe, and I switched to close openings more over the years, because at one time that was my big weakness. Chess is so tactical, even when you aren’t winning material or mating, it justifies so much in the move dept.

    Incidentally, I feel the real problem with “learning your openings” is that a person can feel unsure unless they are playing the “safe” line. If you mess up and play tactical, it is easier to lose, but there are more learning possibilities in each game, and the point differential during the game can swing more wildly. A game that is initially messed-up has more potential to become very unique.

    This is how a chess game goes:
    I survived the opening, missed a bunch of tactics but book/DB/previous play knowledge carried me through.
    I made it through the middlegame, opponent turned the QG into a French, but I had superior knowledge which carried the day for an advantage, and it backfired on him/her. Missed a bunch of tactics.
    The ending is now even or I’m slightly down (because I missed a bunch of tactics), but my superior endgame knowledge will win the day!
    Superior endgame knowledge wins the day, barring such knowledge advantage it’s a draw. Missed a lot of winning tactics.

    I am going to try and stay off of FICS now. If I need a puzzle, I can study chess tactics puzzle book, but I am going to try and avoid looking at a computer screen when it comes to chess. That will be part of my New Year’s resolution.

  7. You are right, I should be careful, though. You can’t see what you don’t know. That is in your blind spot. You can only find out what is in your blindspot in an indirect way.

    It happens often that when I win, my opponent thinks he has had the upperhand all the game. While he was actually worse all the time. But he cannot see that without knowing the ideas I know. Usually people cannot imagine that there can be something that they don’t see. They always come up with some nonsensical reason like “I shouldn’t have played Nf6”. But that is shortsighted. You must always ask your opponent what he thinks why he has won. Even if you made a blunder, since there might be a reason why that specific position is so blunderprone. Maybe he knows why.

    I always take some time to interview my opponents after a game.

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