Chess is a game of substitute war, so you will win more chess games by taking advantage of the ancient wisdom distilled from the art of military strategies. This includes a collection of strategies compiled in China at least 1,500 years ago.
These strategies are taught to school children all over China, Japan and probably much of the rest of Asia even today.
If you think Chinese children learn the 36 Strategies as “classic literature” the same way American children must read Mark Twain . . . you are too foolish and naive to be allowed near a serious chess tournament.
You also should never try to do business in Asia, but that’s another article.
You must first of all understand that the essence of warfare is deceit. This is challenging in chess, because both players can see the entire board and all the pieces.
You must learn to make moves that advance your strategies and tactics without revealing them to your opponent until it’s too late. Of course, this is easier to write than to pull off in an actual chess game.
And it does require you to work, study and plan.
Your opponent can see the chessboard — but not what’s going on inside your mind.
You must learn to use that to your advantage. It requires a mental attitude and preparation which studying the 36 Strategies can help you acquire.
Some of the strategies to adapt to your chess game include:
Surrounding Wei to Rescue Zao — do not attack your enemy where and when he is strong. Avoid direct confrontation. Aim for their weak points.
Make the Enemy Work While You Wait at Leisure — when you are in a weak position, delay the confrontation.
Watch the Fire Burning Across the River — Exercise patience and allow favorable events to progress.
The Plum Tree Sacrifices for the Peach Tree — this is an ancient stress tactic. Sacrifice a piece for the greater good of your game.
Walk the Sheep Home Just Because It Is There — take advantage of all opportunities to gain an advantage.
Trade Your Brick for a Piece of Jade — if you want to trade pieces to your advantage, convince your opponent your brick is worth more than their piece of jade.
Pretend to Be a Pig to Eat the Tiger — make your enemy believe you are weak so they will attack and fall into your trap.
Be Wise But Play the Fool — make your enemy underestimate you.
Provoke Strong Emotion — upsetting or angering your opponent can encourage them to make mistakes. You must learn to remain calm so that you don’t fall into this trap.
The Empty City — when you are in a weak position, emphasize your vulnerability, to confuse your opponent.
Chain Links — this simply refers to using a chain of interlinked strategies to attain your goal.
Of course, real chess masters apply tactics against their enemies away from as well as on the chess board. Boris Spassky was reportedly a master at keeping a poker face during games, so that his opponents didn’t know whether he was feeling good or bad about his moves, his position or his plans.
However, Bobby Fischer made so many demands during their famous tournament that he was able to Provoke Strong Emotion.
In MORTAL GAMES: THE TURBULENT GENIUS OF GARRY KASPAROV Fred Waitzkin relates how during one of his world championship tournaments against Anatoly Karpov, Kasparov’s business partner Andrew Page played a “dirty trick” to upset Karpov.
They were all flying from New York City to Lyon France. The tournament organizers had given First Class tickets to both Kasparov and Karpov and Economy class tickets to their trainers. Page bought Business Class tickets for Garry’s grandmaster trainers, paying for them out of his own pocket. Karpov’s group was made to feel angry and resentful of their inferior accomodations.
Later, Karpov may have gotten a blow of his own in. Gata Kamsky proposed that their chess organization change the rules so that defending world championships would have to compete to play in the world championship tournament just like all other contenders, instead of simply defending their title against the winner of the playoffs.
It was designed to make defending champion Kasparov angry, and one of his people told Waitzkin the idea probably came from Karpov who was friends with Kamsky. Gata was a teenager at the time and not likely to propose such a major rule change on his own. But if Karpov had proposed it directly, it would just have made him look bad, since he was the world’s number two player and would therefore most benefit from it.
Bottom line: learn the 36 Strategies if only to recognize when your opponent tries to use one of them against you.