Gamesmanship Winning Through Intimidation

A chess match is a war of attrition, and the struggle does not always confine itself to the movements on the board. Strategists seek advantages wherever they may be found, hi kendo, for example, many kata begin with a move known as asahi, "the rising sun." The sword is drawn and raised, and the blade is rotated so that it catches the sun's rays and reflects them into the eyes of the opponent. When he blinks, the swordsman surges forward and cuts him down. One of the earliest chess theorists, a sixteenth-century Spanish priest named Ruy Lopez, suggested so arranging the pieces and board before the game that the sunlight shines into the opponent's eyes.

Mikhail Botvinnik, the father of the modern Soviet dynasty, who became World Champion in 1948, greatly influenced the trend to prematch preparation. His researches were so immense, and his training sessions so thorough/that, detesting tobacco, he acclimatized himself in training games by encouraging opponents to blow smoke into his eyes. (Smoking is now banned dur ing tournaments.) He relinquished the title for the last time in 1963, when lie lost to Tigran Petrosian, the wily Armenian.

Gamesmanship, or psychological warfare, first became a major factor in the World Championship match between Boris Spassky, Petrosian's conqueror, and Bobby Fischer in Reykjavik in 1972. In an atmosphere heightened by political as much as by sporting tension, Fischer demanded exclusive use of his hotel swimming pool and insisted that the size of the official chessboard should be reduced by 3 millimeters. In retaliation the Soviet delegation alleged that electronic or chemical equipment was distracting Spassky, and demanded a search of the playing hall, including an X-ray examination of the players' chairs. The sum total of the search was two dead flies.

When Fischer surrendered the championship by default, the title was awarded to Anatoly Karpov, the brilliant young Russian. But the return of the championship behind the Iron Curtain did not bring the end of political intrigue. It has been suggested that, in his later matches with Garry Kasparov, Karpov had the benefit of a "dirty tricks" campaign conducted by the KGB.

Musashi focused on the environment in a part of his text titled "Depending on the Place":

Stand in the sun; that is, take up an attitude with the sun behind you. If the situation does not allow this, you must try to keep the sun on your right side. In buildings, you must stand with the entrance behind you or to your right, Make sure that your rear is unobstructed, and that there is free space on your left, your right side being occupied with your sword attitude. At night, if the enemy can be seen, keep the fire behind you and the entrance to your right, and otherwise take up your attitude as above. You must look down on the enemy, and take up your attitude on slightly higher places.

Even though most modern tournaments are held indoors, glaring examples of gamesmanship can be seen regularly. Your good breeding may lead you to reject these ploys, but at the very feast you must be prepared when an opponent springs one on you.

Remember Musashi s words: "In duels of strategy you must move the opponent's attitude. Attack where his spirit is lax, throw him into confusion, irritate and terrify him. lake advantage of the enemy's rhythm when he is unsettled and you can win."

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