Tuesday, July 2, 2013

League and Chess 1: What the Position Demands

Chess holds some incredibly valuable lessons for League players, from struggling low level players, to bleeding edge competitive teams, there are many difficulties and interesting thoughts that have already been chewed over by absolutely brilliant minds in the chess world. It's my goal to take some of these thoughts, pull them apart, and reassemble them into ideas that help me improve both my LoL play, and my perception of the game. 

For this first part I want to talk about a quote by the great Magnus Carlsen, 22 year old Norwegian prodigy and currently the world's highest Elo at 2872. The quote is from an interview done with Magnus, and the interviewer is asking him about his chess style.
So you can’t call yourself a tactician or a strategist?
I’d call myself an optimist! In actual fact I don’t have any clear preferences in chess. I do what I think circumstances require of me – I attack, defend or go into the endgame. Having preferences means having weaknesses.
This is actually a very common response from Super GM level players, something along the line of playing not what style dictates, but finding what the position demands they play. They are at the mercy of the board to show them the path to victory, and their job as a player is not to shoe horn their ideals onto the position but rather find and execute whatever the best strategy is. 

Having preferences means having weaknesses.

I absolutely love this outlook, it makes perfect sense, it is seemingly only a slight tweak in outlook, and yet completely shifts the goal and process of playing the game. What the position demands be played is quite poetic to me. 

This opened up, to me, a huge hole in my game. One of my major problems is that I am an incredibly streaky player. Many players have streaks in their win/loss, but I seem to almost exclusively have had streaks in my play, 80%+ win and loss rates are not particularly emotionally stable and effective in practicing. I'm not good at losing. I'm terrible at losing. I take it personally, I am determined to never lose again, I know that if only I had played better I could have won virtually all of these games. This is the point that I throw away the concept of playing as the position demands, the point where I turn a few losses into a solid losing streak.

First I decide, before so much as a queue pop, that I need to play aggressive. I need to just crush these newbs in laning phase, carry the game, and move on with my life. They won't be able to handle my aggression, they will make mistakes, I will punish them and become so overwhelming strong that my team cannot possibly hold me down.

Of course I lose.

Forget that, I don't even need to win laning phase! I'll just pick a late game monster, and passively farm my way there. No matter what my team does in the laning phase I will emerge as a golden god of destruction by the end game.

Of course I lose.

The problem is trying to shoe horn my preconceived notions of what a win looks like on to the game. I am only 1 player out of 10, and I am trying to force my own personal will on the game. The fact is that no one player has enough influence to force their will on the game. You are at the mercy of the game in the same way a chess player is at the mercy of the position. One player cannot dictate the game, however 1 player is absolutely capable of working within the demands of the game to carry it. It's just a matter of finding what you actually need to do, rather than base it on predetermined assumptions.

I really cannot stress enough how much this change of perception has made my games feel so much more consistent. Finding out how best to play each game is so much more rewarding than trying to force yourself on the game. This requires the player, or the team, to be able to execute on whatever the game demands, which is of course much more difficult, but if the goal is to actual master the game, it's worth it.
Don't get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.
Bruce Lee

Next time on League and Chess - Making a Plan

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