Yesterday I played a tournament game against a lower rated player. I was white. We entered a Sicilian sub-line of which I didn't know much. Soon, my opening advantage evaporated and I started feeling uncomfortable, even worse, although the engine insists that it is at least equal for me. Because I was so pessimistic about my position, I went on to sacrifice the exchange in a complicated line I calculated beforehand. I knew it wouldn't work, since I had seen his response in advance. Nevertheless, I guess I hoped he'd go wrong somewhere. I lost soon thereafter, because I was down material with no compensation. I am convinced that my mistake was of psychological nature. Maybe I wanted to really show that I'm the stronger player by finishing him off with a combination? But yeah, it didn't really work. Maybe my pessimism also contributed to this, I don't know. Is there anyone who has experienced a similar problem and can help me out?

  • 4
    Don't look at your opponent's rating before the game. – SmallChess Jun 1 '17 at 13:30

It's a very natural human instinct to go "all-in" when we feel cornered. Sometimes, that reaction actually succeeds because the enemy is taken by surprise.. sometimes all it does is make us lose faster (which might still feel better than continue suffering). There are many situations where it actually makes a lot of sense in chess: For example, if you are already down material, you are more or less forced to go on the offensive. If you don't, your opponent can simply grind you down and win the endgame with that extra piece or pawn.

However.. that is not what happened in your case. Instead, it sounds like you created your problem yourself. And I'd argue that, rather than pessimism, you displayed the wrong kind of optimism. You hoped that your opponent would not see the same moves that you saw. DON'T DO THAT. Ever. If you can see a move, always assume that your opponent can do the same. After all, if you are matched against each other, you will likely not be far away from each other in terms of rating/skill.

It is always good in chess to be pessimistic about your opponent's moves. This is the "MinMax" way of thinking (if you want to know more, google it ;) ). It's the mindset to improve in the game, rather than just (maybe) swindle your way to a few victories you did not really deserve according to our silicon friends.

  • 1
    I disagree viewing my play as optimistic. What you describe is the typical thinking of beginner, setting a trap and hoping that the opponent doesn't see it. In my case, however, I think I felt pessimistic about my position, calculated some lines and made an impulsive decision disregarding reality or what I already know. It was not the kind of hope-chess you see with non-club players or 1500s. It was more like I felt I could never get a good position anymore if I don't try something now. It was totally irrational, simply. – postnubilaphoebus Jun 1 '17 at 15:13
  • Thx for your advice on the minimax strategy, though. I will try having a look at it. – postnubilaphoebus Jun 1 '17 at 15:14
  • Maybe it helps to illustrate this when I give you an example of another game I played: My opponent was higher rated than me and the position was roughly equal. For some reason, I moved the pawns in front of my king, totally weakening him and opening lines for my opponent. A couple of moves later I was dead-lost. Also a tournament game, same pattern. If the position is equal and I cannot find a satisfactory plan, I sometimes kill myself on the board. The question I ask is, why? – postnubilaphoebus Jun 1 '17 at 15:18
  • 1
    Hmm.. impatience? That's the common point I see. You apparently try to dislike grinding out games that don't offer reasonable opportunities to attack in the middle game (both the exchange sacrifice and the pawn advance seem to have been unsound and I guess the best continuations would have been rather "boring"). That would simply be a question of personality, nothing much you can do about that and also nothing to really worry about. You can learn how to work around it, though. – Annatar Jun 2 '17 at 7:14
  • 1
    In my experience it helps to focus on endgame training in this case. Even if you don't like to go into a "boring" line which unfortunately happens to be the best continuation, it is way easier to convince yourself to do it if you are confident that you will have the upper hand in terms of endgame skills anyways. If given the choice, you can still go into sharp variations whenever you want, so you can still enjoy the majority of your games. :) – Annatar Jun 2 '17 at 7:15

Playing with lower rated Players & Winning against them can be a serious topic. Even I have played with lower rated Players and have been defeated . The lower rated Players have something all have in common . They will mostly in 90% cases will deviate from the main lines of Ultra Sharp variations like Sicilian , French , Caro Kann, Pirc and basically lines with e4 variation .

In d4 majority of the openings are harmless and it is somewhat impossible to make out an advantage in the openings unless you have a 2200 higher ELO .

I have read in Books how GMs tackle the lower rated opponents . Basically they allow the opponent to make the mistake and then they pounce upon it . They surely know that their Chess Skill is higher and eventually one mistake would cost the lower rated opponent dearly and make them loose the Game . In your approach you were first not confident of the opening line and then with fumbling attitude you sacrificed the piece with knowing the best response from your opponent . Basically you were trying to win by luck here thinking that because he stands less on the rating side he will do a mistake .

My advise for you is :

  1. Do not judge anybody by the rating .

  2. Practice with lower rated opponents online . It will help you to grasp their ideas and fortify your skill against them .

  3. If you are playing e4 then you can make a subset of your opening repertoire or narrow it down like for an example when someone play Caro Kann against me I play the Panov Attack . I am very uncomfortable in the other lines of Caro Kann or most probably I have not yet mustered .

  4. Nowadays with the advent of Computers , apps and other digital technology everyone has a great opening understanding . You cannot only just concentrate on Middle game or End game . You need to make a good opening choice else how can you stand well in the Middle game ! Your psychology will be optimistic & strong when you make your pieces stand on better Squares .

  • 1
    Point #2 is exactly what you should not do. That makes you a lazy player (your actual problem) and does not press you to play well. you should ALWAYS play higher rated players if given the chance online. Most servers allow you to give rating boundaries of your opponents - I suggest always playing someone rated 100-200 points higher than yourself. Then, when you eventually play the lower rated players (in an online tourney, perhaps), you will likely have an easier time of it, having not fallen into bad habits against lower rated players who did not punish you for your mistakes. – Priyome Jun 2 '17 at 18:30
  • Do not play Blitz with lower rated opponents . My rating in chess. Com is 1880 but I find players with 1600 rating are good competitors . Play at least 15 mins of rapid game then u can make out their play . – Seth Projnabrata Jun 4 '17 at 5:26
  • you said in #2 to play against lower rated players then say not to?? – Priyome Jun 5 '17 at 1:01
  • @Priyome..I think I clarified above . It is the shift of time controls . Lower rated opponents should be encouraged with long time controls and should be ignored in blitz/bullets . – Seth Projnabrata Jun 16 '17 at 9:58
  • No matter what the time control, you learn far less playing lower rated players than you do playing up a class. You learn far less from your wins than from your losses. Since you are less likely to lose against lesser competition and more likely to lose against stiffer competition, it goes without saying that from a purely educational point of view, playing tougher competition will make you a better player and you will get more out of the games overall. I see no reason to differentiate between the two based on time controls. – Priyome Jun 16 '17 at 17:56

"I went on to sacrifice the exchange in a complicated line I calculated beforehand. I knew it wouldn't work, since I had seen his response in advance. Nevertheless, I guess I hoped he'd go wrong somewhere."

This. You did not play the board, you played the opponent's rating. You need to be circumspect and look at the board and play the best move you can. If you see a sacrifice opportunity and you see it does not work, look elsewhere. Don't play "hope" chess.

Don't worry. You'll do it again, and lose. It takes a few iterations before you realize that playing good chess is actual work.

  • "Don't worry. You'll do it again, and lose." and " Don't play "hope" chess." "You did not play the board, you played the opponent's rating." "playing good chess is actual work." All those statements confirm that you did not read my post properly. I played in an Amateur tournament at the beginning of this year and almost always faced people who were lower rated than me. I finished with 6/7 with two draws and a performance of 2100. It's not a constant issue of mine and not only with lower rated players. You ascribe an arrogant attitude to me, which I simply cannot stand. – postnubilaphoebus Jun 2 '17 at 22:03
  • See what I wrote above in the comments, to clarify: "I think I felt pessimistic about my position, calculated some lines and made an impulsive decision disregarding reality or what I already know." – postnubilaphoebus Jun 2 '17 at 22:04
  • 1
    BS. You asked a question and i gave you my opinion: "I don't know. Is there anyone who has experienced a similar problem and can help me out?" - you are free to disagree but there is no reason to get all offended. Sorry for trying to help. Keep beating up on the lower rateds. It will help your ego. – Priyome Jun 4 '17 at 1:01

I've had similar problems, generally with higher rated players though. I assume they see things I can't. But the advice I've seen is to play the board and not make assumptions. If you're going to lose, it might as well be with your best play rather than defending against threats that may or may not be there. If they are and you can't see them, then you'll just learn thereby. Otherwise, you'll do better than you would with an ultra conservative approach. To give a specific example, I played in a simul against Tigran Petrosian many years ago and lost a piece trying to defend against imaginary threats. Subsequently I relaxed, thinking I was lost anyway, and played better, just reacting to what I saw on the board. I even made a combination that won his Q for a R and B, although I still lost in the ending. But I thought I still learned a valuable lesson as a result, i.e. to play with confidence. In other words, I'm confirming your belief that attitude is very important.


You still make around 50% points in somewhat unpleasant position against weaker player by playing normal chess. I guess you don't make so much by naive assault. Otherwise it would be correct play under any circumstances. Prepare for these scenarios as well as for Sicilian or French. Think about them in training, when there is no stress involved. The result will be better when you prepare strategy for such situations with good mindset.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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