Monday, March 13, 2006

"Why give him what he wants?"


Black to play and win.

I annotated some of 2005 and 2006 Kenilworth Chess Club Champion Steve Stoyko's games from the 2nd Bergen Futurity International Tournament of 1985 (mentioned in a previous post), where Steve took clear second behind Aviv Friedman. In looking closely at them (and reflecting on some of the contemporary notes by FM Charles Adelman in the Atlantic Chess News), I couldn't help but recall a favorite phrase of Steve's which I have often heard as we go over my games: "Why give him what he wants?" It strikes me that this phrase has at its heart some good psychological advice to help guide your choices over the board. I remember, for example, someone telling me the story of how he had asked Steve what was the best way for Black to meet the Wing Gambit against the Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.b4!?) and was shocked when Steve replied, "How about 2...b6?" "You mean you wouldn't take the pawn?" the fellow demanded, to which Steve replied, "Why give him what he wants?"
The phrase reminds me of the old joke about what the sadist said to the masochist: "Why should I give you what you want?" And there is a touch of sadism in the idea that you might make choices specifically to frustrate your opponent. But maybe a sadistic streak is what it takes to play like Fischer, who famously said "I like to see ‘em squirm." Take a look at Steve's games and be the judge.

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