The strategy of “nettlesomeness”

A few days ago, Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University, used the word nettlesomeness to describe Magnus Carlsen‘s chess-playing strategy during the first half of the 2013 World Chess Championship in Chennai, India between Viswanathan Anand (winner of the 2012 World Championship) and Carlsen. Here is an excerpt from Professor Cowen’s thought-provoking blog post:

I find two aspects of the [Carlsen-Anand] match notable so far.  First, in the last two endgames Carlsen has been outplaying the computer programs (and Anand), sometimes for dozens of moves in a row. * * * Second, Carlsen is demonstrating one of his most feared qualities, namely his “nettlesomeness,” to use a term coined for this purpose by Ken Regan.  Using computer analysis, you can measure which players do the most to cause their opponents to make mistakes.  Carlsen has the highest nettlesomeness score by this metric, because his creative moves pressure the other player and open up a lot of room for mistakes.  In contrast, a player such as Kramnik plays a high percentage of very accurate moves, and of course he is very strong, but those moves are in some way calmer and they are less likely to induce mistakes in response.

Can you think of other non-chess situations where “nettlesomeness” is used to frustrate or confuse an opponent?

Viswanathan Anand
Magnus Carlsen
Viswanathan Anand (IND) Magnus Carlsen (NOR)

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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2 Responses to The strategy of “nettlesomeness”

  1. The Professor's Wife says:

    Trials. Motions in limine Getting evidence thrown out that you know the opponent has based most of their case on. Sustained objections.

  2. enrique says:

    Agreed, this is one reason I find it so difficult to teach courses like evidence or civil procedure with a straight face, since in practice trial lawyers (or should I say “litigators”) appear to use these procedural and evidentiary rules to “throw off” one’s adversary … not to search for the truth

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