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Senior Member

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November 2005
Differential play strategies Mon, 12 October 2009 21:47
I was thinking about this today, having played some Swiss matches against good players recently.

The optimal strategy for maximizing your win rate on the Swiss map is probably significantly different when playing a high-rated player vs. playing a weak player (say, 1200ish).

The same thing occurs, but to a much lesser extent, on the US map.

First, the US map, because that is more familiar to most folks. And I'm talking 2-player here:

On the US map, I generally play CLOSE to the same strategy against a weak player as against a strong player. There are a few differences, though (if I'm paying attention and playing alertly, which is not always the case). I *think* the following are appropriate when playing a weak player:

* Be more cautious about choke points. A weak player is more likely to play Hou-NO, Atl-Nash, and/or Sea-Port early.

* Be more willing to draw oranges, blacks, greens, etc face up. A weak player will be less likely to use the inferences from such things to effectively block or grab the 6ers before you.

* Be less inclined to block based on thin evidence. I am much more likely to read a pattern of the first 3 or 4 plays of a good player, guess their tix, and try to block. Weak players may make questionable plays (including, sometimes, grabbing stuff like the 3 choke points mentioned above when they don't really need them), so one should be cautious in interpreting their moves. Of course, it does sometimes make sense to block a weak player - if they start with NY-Pit on one end, and the 6 yellows on the other, and start working from the two ends towards the middle.

Still, the above are more along the line of details - the basic strategy - complete your tix using 6ers where possible, try to get longest and go out reasonably fast, isn't all that different from playing against good players.

The Swiss map is a bit different, IMO.

There aren't that many tops playing Swiss when I try to play, so I end up playing a fair number of weaker players.

To maintain/improve a given high rating against weak players requires a win rate of roughly 90% or better. Against good players, a win rate of 60% is probably a reasonable target (and not always achieved).

Against good players, one viable strategy is to take the long routes and try to go out fast, either connecting a couple of basic tickets (probably in the South), or simply abandoning a couple of low value 2-4 point tickets.

The problem is that with this strategy, it is hard to get a win rate much above, say, 60-80% or so against weak players versus perhaps 50-70% against good players. i.e. The win rate of the strategy is acceptable against good players, but not really against weak players. There is just too much possibility for weak players to get some lucky ticket draws and beat you.

Against weak players, to get to that ~90% win rate, I think you need to either block heavily, or, more commonly for me, run a Northern route from Austria to France, picking up the big cities like Zurich, Bern, and maybe Geneva, and then draw tickets. You can usually build a better route than the weak player, with more ticket drawing possibilities. It still doesn't always win, but I think a 90%+ win rate is reasonably likely.

(Note - the Austria to France route, with subsequent ticket drawing, sometimes works against good players, too. But it's at least relatively less attractive against a player who is more likely to block you and/or end the game quickly by playing the 6ers and 5ers and such.)


Anyways, what do you all think? How significantly does your strategy vary if you are playing a 1200 rated player vs. a 1600 rated player?

[Aktualisiert am: Mon, 12 October 2009 22:06]

Junior Member

Nachrichten: 10
March 2008
Re:Differential play strategies Tue, 13 October 2009 05:18
Thanks - interesting thoughts - I usually try to play out fast with long trains whenever I get crappy tickets but I think your right - I have lost a number of games to lower level players when I use that strategy.

One more point, lower level players tend not to block so it is easier to connect long routes and safer to keep big tickets.

[Aktualisiert am: Tue, 13 October 2009 05:24]

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