Playing Against Patzers

playing patzers

The origin of the word ‘Patzer’ in chess is uncertain. Patzer is the German word for ‘goof’ or ‘error, so this is one possibility. Others say its origins are Yiddish, although there is no similar Yiddish word I can find to back that up.

Whatever its origin, ‘Patzer’ is a word used by chess players to describe bad chess players,

Do you ever find yourself, a relatively decent chess player, losing against total patzers? Do you leave those games thinking, “Man, I know I’m WAY better than they are – how did I manage to lose?!” Ah, this is a well-known phenomenon! For some reason, playing against weaker opponents has a way of bringing out the worst in one’s own play.

For this reason, a lot of chess players recommend NOT playing against weaker opponents. In general, I think this is good advice, since playing against better opponents will push you to improve your game. However, it would still be nice to be able to beat weaker opponents on those occasions when you do play them! Here are a few pieces of advice for this which might help.

First of all, I notice that when I play against weaker opponents, I foolishly assume that I am going to beat them without any problem. As a result, I don’t play carefully enough and I end up making stupid mistakes. For example, I don’t take the time to look carefully at all of my opponent’s threats. Or I just plain hang a piece, allowing my opponent to capture it free and clear. The key to overcoming this problem is to force yourself to play as carefully as you would against Kasparov: no matter how bad your opponents are, always assume that they will play the best moves.

Second, significantly weaker players often make moves which are so bad that they make no sense! As a result, they create positions on the board which defy the pattern-recognition skills which you, as a sophisticated chess player, have developed. Such positions put you in “uncharted territory,” in a manner of speaking; since you can’t rely on your pattern-recognition skills in these sorts of situations, you have to interpret the position right there and then over-the-board. In general, strategic understanding is less helpful here than tactical skill, since the position may make very little strategic sense, and since the main dangers of such positions are usually tactical (especially since many “bad” players like to launch all-out attacks against their opponents, whether such an attack is justified or not). The remedy for this is tactical ability: practice your tactics religiously, and look for tactical opportunities for both you and your opponent after every move.

Third, as a “good” chess player (take that with a grain of salt . . . ), I have a tendency to want to “punish” weaker opponents immediately for every bad move they make, and as a result, I tend to over-extend myself, leaving severe weaknesses in my position. For example, let’s say I’m playing a game against a patzer who likes to develop his/her queen too early. I, as a “good” player, know that it is usually a mistake to develop the queen early in the game. Therefore, I set out to “punish” my opponent for this mistake by doing everything possible to threaten his/her queen, including developing my pieces to awkward squares, pushing pawns and creating structural weaknesses, etc.

The result, more often than not, is that I end up incurring more weaknesses than my opponent! So when this sort of thing happens to you, rather than immediately trying to punish your opponent for his / her mistakes, you should instead calmly develop your pieces to good squares, castle to safety, create a solid yet active middlegame position, and only THEN set out to “punish” your opponent, who by then will very likely have a significantly poorer position than you.

So keep these points in mind whenever you play patzers! Perhaps then you’ll avoid the terrible shame and humiliation which comes from losing to them!