The stages of chess mastery

The reactionary player

A reactionary player has no plans of his own, and in the absence of threats will make whatever move comes to mind. When pressure builds, he typically tries to avoid attack, or makes single-move counter-attacks in response. This grade of player is highly susceptible to combinations and tactical setups, because he doesn’t look far enough ahead to avoid them.

The emotional player

When a reactionist starts forming his own ideas, and pursues them even in the presence of purposeful moves from his opponent, he will often meet with success if he psychologically outlasts his opponent.

The scientific player

The scientist is also the calculating player. He achieves tactical mastery through evaluation and analysis of the position. There is even a fair bit of strategic knowledge used here, though without the sort of ethereal cohesion the artist is able to develop.

The artistic player

The artist looks not to fulfill certain theories or guidelines, but instead seeks out an indescribable “something” which counts as most beautiful in his eyes. At this level, coordination of the pieces becomes more natural, rather than labored, and calculation is more efficient, since relevant lines are examined – rather than everything that might be possible. But overall, the artist lets his nose lead him in interesting direction, engaging the intuition far more than rational judgment.

The masterful player

The master understand chess in itself, and his own sense of right and wrong has become somehow harmonized with the game. He can tell a bad line from a good line almost from sight, without nearly the mental toll incurred by the other players. He is acutely sensitive, and able to dive very deeply into long calculation when it seems appropriate. This type of player almost never loses “the plot”, since the plot is more the game itself to him, rather than a collection of pieces that must obey certain rules. You might call this level the Zen of playing chess, since there is a certain unity of mind between the player and the game he plays. In fact, is there really so much distinction between the player and the game?