Benitosimies wrote:Alright thanks. I've never played chess or anything (only D&D) so I don't know how my brain is supposed to work.
OK then, I'll tell you the very basic principles behind playing strategy games well. Including chess, checkers and go.
First, you must plan on the other person playing well. What I mean by that is do not rely on your opponent blundering. In short play as if the other person sees everything that you do. Yes, it is true that people do blunder. But if you rely on it and they don't, then you're stuck.
Secondly you need to understand is the difference between tactical thinking and strategic thinking. Tactics is the "tit for tat" thinking out of chains of "I do this, he does that, I respond like so...". Strategy is the higher level understanding of what is likely to happen without thinking things through in detail. The general rule is that to be good you need to be consistent on tactics and improve on strategy. Remember that your ability to do tactics is limited by the fact that you can only look at a limited number of positions, and there are diminishing returns from looking at more. (Computers use tactics more heavily, but they can look at more positions. Even so they hit diminishing returns in go.) However there is no limit to how good you can become at strategy.
There are a number of basic principles for tactical thinking. The biggest is to try to find moves that do 2 things. If your move does 2 things, it is hard for your opponent to deal with both of them. For instance in go there are a lot of ways to connect up groups of stones. It is important to know about these different ways because sometimes one way of connecting will accomplish some other goal. It will connect up to another stone, threaten something, claim territory, whatever.
The second principle is to look at forcing moves. Forcing moves are moves that your opponent has to respond to or else something bad happens. The reason to look at forcing moves is that you can figure out those sequences several moves out. And the end result may be very good or very bad for you.
The third principle is to never make plans based on your opponent's mistake. Those plans aren't tactical thinking, they are wishful thinking. It may seem natural to think, "I do this, he thinks I am doing that so he responds over there then I trap him over here!" But if he's as good as you are, he'll probably see the trap and not fall into it. And then you'll have made bad moves for no gain.
And the fourth principle is to recognize the difference between an urgent threat and an important one. For instance in chess if your opponent threatens to take your pawn now and your queen in 2 moves, protect the pawn now then the queen next turn. Doing it the other way around loses you a pawn for no good reason. But be careful that when you put off an important move that you don't forget to play it later! (People make a lot of mistakes where they see a threat, put it off, then forget about it later.)
Strategic thinking involves recognizing general principles that pertain to the game. For instance in chess if I can trade my bishop for my opponent's rook, it is probably a good thing to do. I don't have to work out the exact sequence of moves which proves this, it suffices to know that rooks are generally more useful than bishops.
Now strategy gets more complicated than that, very quickly. For instance in chess if it is easy for me to move all of my pieces to an area, then it is natural for me to try to attack there and I should think about targets. Likewise my opponent should think about defense. (It may suffice for him to decide, "Yeah, I can handle that" then do something else.) Neither of us may know whether an attack there is really a good idea, and neither of us can work out all of the possible combinations that may happen, but we should both know .
The two are connected. Because without strategic thinking you'll never have tactical opportunities. Conversely all the strategy in the world won't help you if you can't take advantage of the tactical opportunities that your strategy gives you. And frequently the goal of a tactical combination is some strategic advantage.
For example in go an important decision to make is about whether a group of stones is worth defending or not. Generally if you spend energy defending a group, your opponent is free to spend an equal amount of energy attacking it. If the group can't survive, the end result is that you spend a lot of energy strengthening your opponent. By contrast the strategic decision to stop defending and instead focus elsewhere draws your opponent to other parts of the board. Now your abandoned group of pieces is a potential weakness inside your opponent's position. If you can work another group close enough to the abandoned group, you may find tactics where your opponent is forced to choose between letting you rescue the group, or else doing damage elsewhere.
So you made a strategic decision to abandon the group. Based on strategy you knew that working back towards that group. You used tactics to help accomplish that strategy. And then the strategy resulted in a good tactical combination.
Oh, and one final point. The reason why we do this is that it is fun to challenge ourselves. It is not really about winning and losing. It is about playing your best. (Else we wouldn't hand out handicap stones.)