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Friday
Oct242008

The Attackers

Chess Player: Frank Marshall, The Attacker (1877-1944)

Marshall was from an earlier era in Chess history than Petrosian, the so-called romantic era. Marshall, like all romantics, lived for the brilliant combination and the fiery excitement of battle. He played for complicated positions with little regard for defense so he could pull out an amazing brilliancy for the win. His ability to trick his way out of troubles on board earned him the title “the Great Swindler.” He played at least as much for the crowd and for the thrill of the attack as for actually winning. Marshall held the US Championship from 1909 to 1935.

I have always liked a wide open game and tried to knock out my opponent with a checkmate as quickly as possible. I subscribe to the old belief that offense is the best form of defense.
—Frank Marshall
Some of Marshall’s most sparkling moves look at first like typographical errors.
—William Napier, Chess Player
Probably no American champion took more pleasure out of playing chess, as opposed to winning games, than did Frank Marshall. He would rather lose the game than lose the chance for brilliancy.
—Andy Soltis, Chess Grandmaster

Street Fighter Player: Alex Valle, The Attacker

Valle is a formidable man in every sense of the word. Of Peruvian descent, he is strong, carries himself with confidence, and can be physically intimidating. Valle is known for his offensive style, often “rushing down” turtles and overwhelming them with pressure. His style has also proven impossible for other players to copy; things that work for Valle work incredibly well for him, but they often only work for him. He does a lot of unusual things at unusual times and it can be very uncomfortable to face that in a match. He is renowned for his reflex speed and willingness to take risks often. You never know what is going to come out of him next, or when it will come. Even the technique he uses to physically press the buttons is intimidating and disconcerting. Valle’s play style and physical presence often allow him to psychologically beat opponents long before the game is over—sometimes before it starts.

But I will now reveal what I believe to be Valle’s great secret: his offense and his risk-taking are often illusions. This is no slight on him at all—in fact, it is a compliment. While Ortiz shamelessly avoids fighting, Valle appears to be doing quite a bit. He does lots of moves and he maneuvers around close to the opponent. It feels like he is attacking, but often he is merely doing an elaborate dance that keeps him mostly safe and lures the opponent into attacking. While he certainly does take more risks than most players and has better reflexes than most, many of his apparent risks are nearly a “sure thing,” because he has conditioned his opponent to respond in a certain way at a certain time. One does not need fast reflexes or excessive risks if one can be virtually sure that the opponent will do (or fail to do) a certain thing at a certain moment.

Valle cleverly mixes his “fake attacking” with actual attacking. He mixes real risk-taking with simply capitalizing on people’s bad habits. His unpredictability gives him one of the strongest “fear auras” of any fighting game player.