Breaking Mirror Play

Mirror PlayIf you can get by most of the the 'bull' on the World RPS bullboard, one can often find some great strategic gems. Once again, Master Roshambollah, the self-proclaimed self-proclaimer has provided a must-read guide on breaking mirror play

Mirror plays or stalemates occur when two competitors reach the zone (see above) at the same time and the result can be frustrating to intermediate players. This is the one time when sheer force of will in breaking out of the zone (often referred to as "edge play") can work to your advantage. This reversal will lead your opponent into a false sense of your next move. The art is in not letting your opponent be aware of your "zone-breaking", as they technically will have the advantage at this point. Knowing after how many repeats to enter a zone-breach typically separates the advanced and championship player.

-from the World RPS Society FAQ

Rosh

Few situations in tournament play can more rattle a newcomer to the sport than repeated ties, especially when only one throw has been used. Players come to expect the familiar rush of victory or the frustration that comes with a loss. Rare is the player who can navigate the building sense of anxiety that comes after stalemating for three, four, or even five consecutive throws.

Before discussing my personal approach to handling mirror play, it might be useful to discuss the different levels of zone play, their frequency of occurence, and the effects they have on players.

The Zone A single tied round is regarded as little more than a "bump in the road" by most …READ MORE

Mirror PlayIf you can get by most of the the 'bull' on the World RPS bullboard, one can often find some great strategic gems. Once again, Master Roshambollah, the self-proclaimed self-proclaimer has provided a must-read guide on breaking mirror play

 

 

Mirror plays or stalemates occur when two competitors reach the zone (see above) at the same time and the result can be frustrating to intermediate players. This is the one time when sheer force of will in breaking out of the zone (often referred to as "edge play") can work to your advantage. This reversal will lead your opponent into a false sense of your next move. The art is in not letting your opponent be aware of your "zone-breaking", as they technically will have the advantage at this point. Knowing after how many repeats to enter a zone-breach typically separates the advanced and championship player.

-from the World RPS Society FAQ

RoshFew situations in tournament play can more rattle a newcomer to the sport than repeated ties, especially when only one throw has been used. Players come to expect the familiar rush of victory or the frustration that comes with a loss. Rare is the player who can navigate the building sense of anxiety that comes after stalemating for three, four, or even five consecutive throws.

Before discussing my personal approach to handling mirror play, it might be useful to discuss the different levels of zone play, their frequency of occurence, and the effects they have on players.

The Zone A single tied round is regarded as little more than a "bump in the road" by most competitors. Indeed, most players will experience a tied round almost one third of the time, even when not trying. A novice will shake it off and seek the next win or loss. An advanced player will realize the opportunity for extended mirror play, and accept or decline based on the situation.

Zone +1 Known to most players as a "run." Though considerably rarer than a single tied round, two consecutive ties are still fairly common, occuring in over 10% of all two-throw sequences used in tournament play over the last three years. At this point, if the first two throws have been identical, most serious players are contemplating the Triple Gambits, and deciding whether or not to follow through, as well as ascertaining their opponent's intentions. Alternately, a run can indicate that a plateau has been reached in the match. Many times, I have been down a throw in a best of three, only to discern my opponent's pattern. Playing defensively, I would allow a couple of tied rounds, in effect "synching up" with my opponent, before devastating him or her.

Zone +2 Both players have now fully entered the Zone. It takes nerves of steel and great confidence to remain locked up for three consecutive throws. This is literally where the weaker players start to fall out. In tournament play, Zone +2 situations occur in less than 5% of all three throw sequences. Spectators to a match are usually amazed at such a display, and avidly observe such a match, anxious for the outcome.

Zone +3 After four tied rounds, many players are ready to call it quits, preferring a solid defeat to spending another round "on the rack." Desperation begins to take the place of discipline, as both players begin to question their motives. If all four throws have been identical (say, four papers in a row) the tension becomes all but unbearable. It is safe to say that both players are adopting a "least obvious throw" mentality. Some referees will call a time out at this point, though I think it is preferable to let a match continue. Zone +3 situations only occur about 1% of the time.

Zone +4 Once a match reaches five tied throws the discussion tends to become more theoretical than practical. In all honesty, the differences between five tied rounds and ten tied rounds are all but indistinguishable to any player of less than Master status. Running a statistical analysis of all five-throw sequences used in tournament play over the last three years shows that this occurs in less than half a percent of all matches. In my experience, I can only recall a few occasions where Mirror Play extended past five rounds (one of which was a Zone +5 during an exhibition match I had vs. C. Urbanus.)

All of the above situations are exacerbated if the throw has remained identical (three rocks, five scissors, etc.) It becomes easier to pick up on the opponent's intentions, as well as to give one's own intentions away.

In my experience, superior players always fare better during Mirror Play than novice players. During my competitive years, I specifically trained for endurance, in order to punish unwary opponents who dared to walk too far down that path with me.

When faced with Mirror Play, a typical novice blunder is to overanalyze. Faced, say, with three consecutive scissors, a beginner will begin to wonder, "Should I stay in the Zone with another Scissors throw? Is my opponent going to throw another Scissors, meaning I should throw Rock? Can I convince my opponent that I will throw another Scissors, drawing Rock from them and making Paper the correct throw?"

As always, it is better to worry about two things than three things. All one really needs to do is properly sense when the Zone is about to be broken. One should rely not only on logic, keeping the above percentages in mind, but also on intuition. Many players will issue "false tells", shifting their feet or sighing loudly, in an attempt to convince the other player that they are switching things up.

In a situation where all repeated throws have been identical, success is a simple matter. Maintain the zone until you feel an imminent breach in the other player, then shift to the stronger of the other two throws (i.e., Urbanus and Custardchuk have just thrown three consecutive scissors. Urbanus correctly reads a physical tell of Custardchuk's indicating he will switch throws next turn. Urbanus throws Paper, as it will either win or tie.)

The situation becomes murkier when different throws have been used in extended Mirror Play. Instead of a one-dimensional, one-throw sequence, one has a complex adaptive system, that insists on maintaining equilibrium. A steady rhythm emerges, that both players can sense. The idea here is to lull the other player into a false sense of security. Make him or her feel peaceful with the emerging pattern, and perhaps a little in awe of such an occurence. When one notices a "trance like" state in one's opponent, the time has come. Correctly divine the next throw in the pattern, and break the mirror.

Whether same-throw or different-throw examples of Mirror Play are being cited, the best general advice I can give is to hang on, if you have the endurance to play in such a manner. It is hard to overestimate the value of endurance in modern competitive RPS! Many is the player who seeks a Zone Breach too early. In the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "it's safe to say that they would rather switch than fight." When facing such a player, hold the course. With diligence and endurance, victory may often be seized from the murky waters of extended Mirror Play.

________________

Master Roshambollah
International Director, Outreach Ministry
At-Large Member, Retired Veterans Committee

Posted in Best of the Bulllboards