Tip of the Day - Should You Stick With Your Best Shot If It Is Missing?

By Larry Hodges | Dec. 04, 2013, 9 a.m. (ET)

Theresa Kraft

Theresa Kraft (GER) at the 2013 World Junior Championships


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Larry Hodges

Should You Stick With Your Best Shot If It Is Missing?

The situation: Your best shot is missing, and you are losing because of this. Should you keep using it, or abandon it?

It takes years of tournament experience and hard thinking before a player can consistently make a sound judgment in a situation like this as to whether to change his strategy, or keep using the shot that is missing in order to get it going again.

There are three possible reasons why you are missing your best shot: You are nervous, your opponent is doing something to throw you off, or you are simply off.

Psychologically, you have to learn to be calm during a match. That's mostly separate from the tactical side. If you do get nervous, that's a good time to take a one-minute timeout, or at least take your time to get yourself together. Nervousness is the most common reason for a player’s best shot to start missing.

The majority of players, even at the advanced levels, do not recognize when an opponent is doing something that is throwing them off. Those that don't recognize these strategies often talk and think strategy quite a bit - but only from their point of view, forgetting to take the opponent's strategy into account. Ideally, you neutralize your opponent's strategy by dominating with your own - but to do so, you need to know what the opponent is doing, or is capable of doing. So the first thing to do is figure out whether you are missing because you are really off, or because your opponent is doing something to throw you off. If the latter, then you have to find a way to counter it.

Finally, there are those times when, for inexplicable reasons, you are simply "off," and your best shot keeps missing. That’s when the judgment of years of play can pay off as you judge whether to keep using the shot, in the hopes that it will come back, or switch to other shots and strategies.

A good general rule is that you have to get your best shot going in any competitive match, or you'll probably lose. Most often you should go down with your best shot, since you are also likely to end up winning with it. But if you see a way to win without your best shot usually be taking away your opponent’s best shot, so both of you are going with your "B" games then you should take it.

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