Integrating Chess Theory into Overwatch
With origins going back to the early 1200’s, it’s quite clear that chess is one of the most historical games of intellect the world knows. At its core principals, chess has a relation to almost any sport or esport.
I am an avid student of game theory, and ever since I was offered to coach my university’s Overwatch team, I have been fascinated in discovering the beauty that lies deep within strategical decision making in Overwatch. Initially, I never thought about comparing chess to Overwatch. But some chess theories can be used for other games, so I decided to take a more in-depth look.
In this article, I will go over the use of some chess theory in any sort of capture point maps.
In chess, every top player has a variation of an opening. They look to develop their pieces and have an initial game plan to move themselves into the mid-game. Just like chess, a structured Overwatch team will have an initial opening. We will define an opening in Overwatch as the initial team comp and path to point a team decides on. Their opening might have to change due to the other teams defensive opening, but their goal is to develop all of their players to be able to make a play on point effectively.
(image from Kingsrow.uk)
Openings can counter other openings and put a team into a bad spot for the mid-game. A great example is the recent Lunatic-Hai (attacking) vs. Kongdoo Panthera on Volskaya.
Lunatic-Hai started off with a pick, hoping to corral a three-tank from Kongdoo and use a damage boosted Widow to gain a numbers advantage. Kongdoo, knowing that Lunatic-Hai likes to play Zen on short maps with a Soldier 76 on offense, played a defensive full-dive comp with a cheeky Sombra. Lunatic-Hai lost their Widow and 76, and then switched to the dive comp.
Note: Up until the start of the initial fight, a team is in their opening. Once bullets start to get traded, the teams enter the middlegame.
Chess’ middlegame is known as the least developed portion of the game. In Overwatch, this is when a team starts to adapt to what their opponents are doing and can set up a better plan than their initial opening. Pieces and heroes will have different values at this part of the game. How can we use this theory in a situation?
(image from Kingsrow.uk)
Let’s take Reinhardt, DVA, and Lucio defending on top of hotel on Numbani. The attacking team is going up short to push top of hotel. Let’s say we know the defending Rein has more ult charge then the attacking Rein. The attacking Rein can look for a point-blank charge onto defensive Rein and get a 1 for 1 trade. The value has shifted dramatically on this trade because of three things: The defending team lost a higher valued character, the attacking Rein will gain value because he can get back to point faster, and he can gain positioning on top of hotel if he wants.
In the middlegame, a team is setting themselves up for the big attack to end the game on either the second capture point or the last payload checkpoint. This could involve strategies such as dry pushes, switching of resources, and many other examples. Once they feel they can end the game, they move to the endgame.
Just like the endgame in chess, one team is going to have more resources than the other during the final moments of the game. Chess has theoretical endings, such as rook and bishop versus rook, queen versus rook, queen versus rook and pawn, and rook and pawn versus rook. Overwatch has its own theoretical endings such as Nano-Rein with hammer, Nano-Hog, Beyblade, and literally anything with Graviton surge. After those combos have been set up in middlegame, a team proceeds to close out the game with those major resources.
(image from i.ytimg.com)
Chess theories were written regarding how the game should be played in these different phases, with the main emphasis on the opening and endgame. The concept is similar for Overwatch and very easy to understand. What should you take back to your team with this discussion on theory?
Opening: Have a game plan and a good composition.
Middlegame: Trade resources and set up to finish out the game.
Endgame: Use your ult combos you previously have set up to end the game.
Sitting down and analyzing all these phases of the game separately will improve your structured team a good amount. If your team gets snowballed, go back to your mid-game and see what could have happened differently. If you stopped a team on their initial push, go back and look at their opening compared to your defensive opening.
Theories are what form structure, a meta, and strategies to a game. When EnVyUs was running their double sniper comp on the first point of King’s Row, they had a theory that it was a strong opening and did what they needed. Meta Athena has their theory that Mei should be valued higher for her ability to create positioning value with her wall. If you have a feeling about something, come up with the theory and then play it. All theories at some point are just speculation, until you act on them.