Knowing Your Style

One common problem amongst players at club level is in a misunderstanding of what it means to have a ‘style’ of play. There is a tendency to aim for certain kinds of  positions in which there is an understandable line of action and then argue that this is their ‘style’. But there’s another explanation for this preference; they don’t know how to do anything else.

I believe this explains the popularity of openings such as the Sicilian Dragon and the Morra Gambit; the earlier stages of a player’s development will mainly feature tactics as a sudden tactical shot will always trump positional nuance and with the ‘right’ choice of early moves they can get catapulted directly into a tactical shoot out. Yet to reach higher levels a player must also have positional intuition derived from a subliminal knowledge of different patterns. Honing this skill requires moving on to more adult positions in which tactics will be less dominant.

Most people don’t want to take this step and will stick stubbornly to what they know. Growth implies change and change is scary, so their can even be a tendency for people to cover up their insecurities with a certain chess machismo. I’ve heard the Accelerated Dragon (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6) described as the ‘Gay Dragon’ by aficionados of the more violent form (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6). But doesn’t the requirement to develop new skills actually require greater courage?

So how should someone begin the process of moving on from the limits of their old models? The process needs explaining in more depth which I’ll do in one of the books I have planned. But meanwhile I think it’s worth taking some inspiration from this elephant that didn’t know painting was not its ‘style’: