Müller/ Engel: Player types – a review

Review: “Player Types” by Müller and Engel

I know almost no other grandmaster who is as interested in passing on his knowledge and sharing it with others as Karsten Müller. His ChessBase courses on the widest range of endgame types are legendary and have earned him the reputation of being one of the greatest endgame experts. In recent years, however, he has also focused on topics such as opening theory and chess philosophy. In 2020 his book “The Human Factor in Chess” was published, which he wrote together with the young German grandmaster Luis Engel. In this book, Engel and Müller classify the playing styles of top players, distinguishing between four types of players, and now publish their findings in a ChessBase course.

Who has not experienced this? The next round of an open or team match is coming up, you know your opponent’s name and the database spits out a handful of his or her games. Now the question arises: how do you play most effectively against this particular type of player? How do you recognize their strengths and weaknesses, do you play risk-free or risk-free?

It is exactly this question that Müller and Engel answered in the aforementioned book and with this ChessBace course of 7 hours of playtime, they form an ideal digital supplement to the book, which can, however, be used wonderfully independently of each other.

In their “player types” model, Müller and Engel follow the Danish grandmaster Lars Bo Hansen, who first presented his concept of “player types” in his 2005 book “Foundations of Chess Strategy”. Hansen divided chess players into so-called “player types”. “Activists”, “Reflectors”, “Pragmatists” and “Theoreticians” He was the first to intensively examine the extent to which individual playing style influences our decision-making in the board. One of the questions that has always interested me!

Hansen called this “The Role of the Human Factor in Chess” and asked his readers to define their chess style based on personal characteristics and preferences analogous to his guidelines. These attributes were filled with concrete content according to the respective player types in the chapters, so that one could finally assign oneself to a particular player type. I liked this concept back then and still find it very useful today.

The following quote from Grandmaster Vincent Keymer, currently Germany’s strongest player, shows that professionals also find such an approach useful:

“As part of preparing for my opponents, I often try to research their typical player characteristics in the shortest possible time using a database. When I try to assign certain significant character traits to them, my main starting point is to answer typical questions like the Next: Do they like dynamic positions or do they plan their game as strategically as possible? – How do they react when pressed for time or under other pressure? – Do they like going into endgames? – How high is their willingness to take risks? – In this regard can It would be useful to draw conclusions about the type of player, and thus strengths and weaknesses, by looking at the openings they play – or to use the characteristics of certain players to determine the probability of which opening sentences they might choose. “

Müller and Engel extend the concept presented by Hansen with examples from the work of top players such as Kasparov, Carlsen, Kramnik, Anand, etc.

Once you’ve established what type of player you are, you’ll want to know:

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of each type of player?
  • How and against whom do I emphasize my strengths or how do I best hide my weaknesses?
  • How do I ideally play against representatives of other styles or against representatives of my own style?
  • How can I focus more on my strengths and become an overall chess “all-rounder”?

Here, Müller and Engel do pioneering work and provide numerous practical examples and valuable tips to guide you.

The chapters contain descriptions of the numerous strengths and weaknesses of the four player types. Müller and Engel clearly explain why certain players tend towards certain positions and what advantages and disadvantages this can have.

The numerous illustrative games include old and well-known gems such as Karpov-Unzicker 1974 with the move 24.Ba7! right next to the more recent ones like Carlsen-Caruana, Sao Paulo/Bilbao 2012.

I also liked the division of labor between the two authors: Müller and Engel each discuss different chapters and player types. Müller focuses on the “theorists” and “activists”, while Engel focuses on the “reflectors” and “pragmatists”. This brings variety to the presentation and gives the presentation a more personal ‘touch’. This is especially true when Müller and Engel present their own games, such as Engel-Albornoz Cabrera, in which an incredibly “pragmatic” rook sacrifice saved the game for the co-author.

If you want to make your game more perfect at all levels, you should take the new course from Müller and Engel. You will find the theoretical tools that will allow you to question the efficiency of your own style, and you will certainly be able to turn weakness into strength! I am sure that buying this course is much more rewarding than viewing the latest opening monograph!

I close with a quote from GM Vincent Keymer that could hardly be more appropriate:

“I find it interesting and educational to gain insight into the mindset of other types of players. Studying the different approaches and the resulting strong and effective qualities of others is certainly useful for any chess player and can help broaden one’s own spectrum. From my point of view, one of the important messages of this book is the idea that you can actually influence or change your player characteristics through insight, willpower and training.”

Buy the course in store…

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