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As an amateur chess player, I have been pondering this question for quite a bit now:

In case of an amateur playing against a Grandmaster, what strategy would lengthen inevitable defeat?

I am assuming that a Grandmaster will always beat an amateur; I suppose that it is possible to find exceptions, but they will be so rare as to be negligible. My question is partly constrained by the following observations:

  1. The amateur will have a significantly higher chance of not choosing the best possible move in any given situation.

  2. The Grandmaster is playing as if they were playing against a Master or another Grandmaster.

In this case, will the amateur be able to lengthen their defeat by always playing what they believe is the best possible move (which the Grandmaster is likely to anticipate with experience), or by using strategies that are not encouraged but objectively make the game more difficult for the Grandmaster (eg. always going for the kill regardless of piece value, a queen for a queen)?

Or would it benefit the amateur to play an entirely random move every turn, since it would prevent the amateur from taking the bait/accepting the gambit?

23

It really depends on what you mean by "lengthen".

I am not a GM, but as an "ordinary" Master, I have played 1700s before, who were lost by move 10, but the game still took 50 moves to finish. If you are trying to stay equal longer, that is a harder question to address.

If you are just taking about purely lengthening the game, then you are looking to trade material. Endgames naturally take longer to play out. Again, they may still be lost for many moves, but they can take 40-50 more moves to execute the opponent.

In reality, if you want a shot at being one of those statistical upsets, you want a complicated position, possibly at the cost of a pawn, where you are the aggressor. You are still likely to lose, but at least you have a "puncher's chance".

P.S. I do not recommend playing randomly. That is a recipe for making MUCH WORSE moves, which will be punished that much more severely. Unless it is an actual good move that is buried deeply, and that a strong player overlooked, a "random move" is really just a move that we discounted already, usually for good reasons. Playing moves that strong players do not consider strong, is not a good recipe for success. When I encounter such a random move, it is usually just bad, and I try to adjust to take advantage of whatever new weakness was created.

P.P.S. Based on your comment, and clarification, in the comment below, there is probably nothing you can do that will guarantee that you will stay equal longer other than if you have prepared the game with a chess database, and guess the line that the GM ultimately will play. A GM is going to be MUCH stronger positionally, and tactically. They simply analyze and understand much better.

That leads me back to my last comment above, and that is you want a complicated position. They will probably outplay you there too, but that is the only way you have a prayer.

  • I suppose that I was unclear with my definition of 'lengthen'. What I mean is how I would go about delaying the endgame, or delaying falling into a purely disadvantageous position from which there is no return. In short, I am talking about extending the middlegame for as long as possible. – Naman Kumar Feb 27 at 16:16
  • I added a couple of paragraphs to my answer. Let me know if you have any additional questions. – PhishMaster Feb 27 at 16:21
  • 2
    For the record, this weekend, 2/29/2020, I took my own advice. After going 2-0 the first couple of rounds, including the best game I have ever played, I faced a GM on board one. I normally am more positional, but I TRIED to go at him in a Pirc, but he just knew MUCH more than I did about those structures, and I was much worse out of the opening. I did fight hard, and thought I might salvage the game for a bit, including when he missed a Bxf7 shot, but it was not enough. – PhishMaster Mar 1 at 11:11
  • @PhishMaster - In your comment, you seem to be implying that had you tried a more traditional opening yesterday, you might hypothetically arrive at a disadvantageous position sooner (compared to the Pirc) from your opponent's perspective, but maybe later from the perspective of your our ability to recognize the non-tactical position's hypothetical minute weaknesses? – Jirka Hanika Mar 1 at 15:52
  • Maybe not sooner, but more assuredly. The fact is that the GM did miss a tactical shot that kept me in the game. Maybe if I hadn't been so outplayed in the opening, and wasn't so much worse already, and he missed one, I might have won. – PhishMaster Mar 1 at 16:19
10

If you want to last as long as possible against a much stronger player, whether GM or not, then you have to do the same kind of things a GM would do playing against another GM, with one minor amendment.

First, a GM would prepare for his opponent. You should do the same. Go to chess-db.com (or your favourite chess database) and download a pgn file of all their games. A gm would also try to play on his territory not his opponent's. If you know what colour you will be then see what the GM plays against your repertoire. Look through all his games against your favourite line(s) and prepare so you can at least reach an equal middlegame.

Second, in the game once you reach the end of your preparation change your approach from what you normally do and do something which stronger players do all the time, play prophylactically.

Whenever it is your turn ask yourself first what the point of your opponent's last move was. What is he trying to do? What are his plans? Rather than try and think up plans of your own try and stop your opponent's plans. Here is where you appreciate the second reason for preparing and fighting the battle of familiar ground.You should be familiar with the plans for both sides. This should help you frustrate your opponent's plans.

Third, if you don't see a way to stop your opponent's plan, because it is not clear what that is, then look for moves which strengthen your position, which make your position more solid, harder for your opponent to attack.

Finally, suppose you reach not only an equal endgame but one in which you can't see any way your opponent can win, maybe something like a fortress. Don't lose sight of the objective! Your objective is not to win. It is to make the game last so long that it ends up in a draw.

If there really is no way for your opponent to break through then he will try and tempt you. He will apparently weaken his position to try and lure you into giving up defence and going on to the attack. Don't be fooled! Don't start thinking you might win. You won't, but you might easily find a way to lose. Keep on defending. You are happy to repeat. You are happy to shuffle back and forth in your defensive position. Be patient. In his other games the GM is much more patient than you. Match him for patience.

3

I'm interpreting the question as "how to last as many moves as possible before the computer eval breaches [some high number]". In this scenario, try:

  • Preparing and memorizing some long opening line, the longer the better. After all, each move in your home preparation also counts!
  • Watch for tactics. Blundering a piece is the easiest way to lose (positional blunders are not usually as devastating). Make sure you defend all your pieces, make luft early to forestall back rank mates, and look at all the captures & checks at your opponent's disposal.

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