Yesterday I had lunch with a good friend of mine who is, amongst other talents, an enthusiastic amateur chess player of senior club level. We discussed our different styles. Chess, like boxing, is the game of the supreme individulist. There are no team members, no clubs, balls, horses, or cars. You rely on yourself. My friend is a clever tactician, looking to control squares and construct board supremacy. He would be the first to admit he tends to sit back or, to use my boxing analogy, countpunch. My style is quite the opposite.
My favourite player was Mikhail Tal, the magician of Riga, probably the greatest attacking player of all time. He would sacrifice pieces in his relentless urge to press forward and attack his opponent’s king. He bewildered opponents who, even though they were up on material, could not maximise this and panicked into submission and resignation. His personal life was erratic: he drank too much, even attacked someone with a glass in a night club. He was frequently the wrong side of the Russian chess authorities.
His exact converse would be Tigran Petrosian, who would see the most minute tactical advantage 20 moves forward and grimly play for it.
I often say to younger aspiring players “Be true to your style”. Even if your attacking game is flawed, stay with it. If you take lessons putting it right, then your chess may diminsh in other ways and you will end up not enjoying it. Once you reach a certain level – club, county, international – it’s not that easy to go the next. So why even bother? Better to enjoy your style, and chess.