5

I am very curious as to how stronger players react to encountering weaker players in a tournament (say, more than 200 rating points below themselves).

Specific questions that come to mind:

  • Is it typically an indication that you will have an easy win? Or do you worry that you will have a tough game nevertheless, and lose an opportunity for an easy win / rating, etc?
  • Does the stage of the tournament make a difference in the above? E.g. encountering a lower rated player towards the end of a tournament may mean that they are particularly on form.
  • What is your strategy to get the most out of these games? Do you vary your style (say, switch from calm to aggressive, or play safely for a sure win / draw, or do you just try to stay with your normal style)?

I'd be interested in answers regardless of your actual rating (it is the relative difference in rating which is important), although it would be useful to give an indication of the broad range that your rating occupies (say, e.g. 1700 to 1900, or 2200 to 2400).

Update:

Thanks for the answers so far, everyone. It's given a pretty good insight into the psychology of the situation, and I will accept one of the answers soon.

Update 2:

Just to clarify the question a bit, judging from the comment and some of the answers, it wasn't too clear. The intention was to find out what goes through the mind of a player when they are paired with someone who is considered weaker than them (with the example being a difference of > 200 rating points). Do they anticipate an easy win and relax, or feel stressed that they are encountering someone who's on fire, and will be playing their best against them? How does this affect their game plan, and specifically, what would they do (on the board) to ensure a good outcome (preferably a win?).

Most of the answers seem to be along the lines of "do not underestimate the opponent" and "play your usual game", with a bit of "experiment with different play styles", which does actually answer my question. Thanks to everyone for contributing.

closed as not constructive by ETD Jul 30 '12 at 19:44

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    what kind of a question is this? – MozenRath Jul 27 '12 at 17:39
  • 1
    @MozenRath - I am interested in the psychology and strategy of tournament play. Recently, we had a question regarding how to play against much stronger opponents than yourself, my question was intended to draw out answers from the other side of the equation. Do you prepare differently, how is your psyche affected for the game, etc. – Daniel B Jul 30 '12 at 6:01
  • I hope you would like to agree that this question is too subjective and is not related to facts and the answers would be based on perspective. SE sites do not welcome such questions as they are not very constructive – MozenRath Jul 30 '12 at 17:09
  • 1
    Thanks to Daniel for the question, and to everyone else as well for the interesting discussion in response. But since this question can potentially be answered by nearly every chess player that exists, each in a distinct and perfectly valid way (as the question only asks for what one's personal psychological response to a certain kind of situation is), the moderators have decided to close the question to any further posts. – ETD Jul 30 '12 at 19:43
  • @EdDean I agree, in retrospect, this was a bit of a "poll" style question, so closing it is fair. – Daniel B Aug 1 '12 at 11:01
9

I think the best thing you can do when playing a player that is rated below you is forget about the ratings, and play the person across from you, not their rating.

The last thing you want to do is this:

Hmmm.... If i make this not very strong move, my weak opponent has an opportunity to make this blunder (and I am sure that they will), and I get to win a game right way with a pretty tactic, and if he or she plays properly I'll outplay him or her later anyway because I am stronger. So I will go for it.

The above is a recipe for disaster. I know from experience.

Also, I don't think that 200 point gap is very big. I believe that the weaker player is expected to score 25% (one win in four games or two draws in four games).

  • +1. and when played in online chess, lost of connection does not see the rating of the player. (another disaster).. ^^. – Ahmad Azwar Anas Jun 24 '13 at 3:23
6

You never want to under-estimate an opponent - you only have to drop a piece to lose to someone 300 or 400 points lower. That being said, I don't mind playing weakies and getting an easy kill because the next round... I'm probably going to be the weakie. So it all comes out in the wash.

I have to admit I experiment on C players. Not to see what I can get away with as such, but to try new things, be uncommonly aggressive, or sac a piece when it would be fatal to do so against a peer. I have nearly been up-ended more than once, of course, but that's the risk and frankly half the fun.

5

I'm not a strong player (1850), but to me one of the more intimidating circumstances is meeting a 'lower ranked' junior towards the end of the tournament with say 3.5/4.

Clearly they deserve respect, and are very much of an unknown. Juniors also tend to be very keen on the latest book developments so opening choice can be even more critical.

5

If you define player weakness in terms of low rating only, expect unpleasant surprises. It is a good idea to consider the psychological profile of the "weaker" player. Some players play weaker after being defeated. Some keep playing at the same level. Paradoxically, there are players who play stronger after being defeated. A classical example is the young Alekhine playing in the St. Petersburg 1914 chess tournament. Conventionally, he could be considered a "weaker" player compared to other players in that tournament. In first round during finals, Alekhine lost to Lasker. At that point Alekhine was on the last place among finalists, by amount of points during preliminaries. He was a young and not very experienced master. Many would get frustrated in such a situation, yet Alekhine won his next game against Tarrasch. In second round, Alekhine lost to Lasker again. And after that he won against Tarrasch one more time, literally destroying him. So he played his best games immediately after being defeated.

4

I would say, to maximize your advantage, make it a "long distance" race. That is, the advantage of your greater ability will prevail unless you make a bad early mistake.

Capablanca, a world champion once lost a piece on move 9 against a much weaker master. He never recovered, and resigned on move 53. So don't let the weaker player steer the game into unfamiliar lines, perhaps one where he has "booked up" and you haven't.

This is similar to the answer I received to my own question.

How can one get the best possible result against a player of very different strength?

3

I think this answer applies to all types of competitions (individual or team). In your scenario, I am usually the weaker player, so I can speak for that side, but on ocassion, I am the stronger player.

Is it typically an indication that you will have an easy win? Or do you worry that you will have a tough game nevertheless, and lose an opportunity for an easy win / rating, etc?

I think this has to do with your confidence level. If you lack confidence, then that is one problem all together, but if you are overly confident and think you have an easy win, then you could run into problems. I think the best approach would be to remain confident and except a tough game no matter what. As a weaker player playing a stronger player, I tend to play better because I really want to beat the stronger player. If I lose, I usually don't put to much into it because I just use the excuse "he/she was rated higher, so it's no big deal, it was meant to happen", but I know this way of thinking is not good. If I was the stronger player and I won, I would have the similar way of thinking in that "it was meant to happen", but if I lost, I would be pulling my hair wondering why I lost or saying to myself, "how could I lose to a lower rated player?"

Does the stage of the tournament make a difference in the above? E.g. encountering a lower rated player towards the end of a tournament may mean that they are particularly on form.

Absolutely, if you encounter a weaker player at the end of a tournament stage, the weaker player is probably full of confidence, so you be on top of your game and not take anything for granted. This should apply to all stages though, not just the very end.

What is your strategy to get the most out of these games? Do you vary your style (say, switch from calm to aggressive, or play safely for a sure win / draw, or do you just try to stay with your normal style)?

As a stronger player playing a weaker player, I have tendency to play more haphazardly and aggressive thinking the weaker player will just blunder, this comes back and bites me because I am usually the one that blunders. As the weaker player playing the strong player, I usually play more slowly and carefully and analyze each move the other player makes because I am really trying to win but also trying to learn at the same time.

I think at the end it all boils down to any given game any given tournament anything can happen. Just like the saying in football, "Any given Sunday". Whoever your opponent is, weaker, stronger, equal, every game should be approached with confidence and the will and want to win.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.