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Suppose you're playing in a tournament. For the purpose of filling up your scoresheet, is it improper etiquette to ask your opponent what his/her rating is before the game?

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  • Out of interest, why do you have a purpose of filling up your scoresheet?
    – Spork
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 20:47

5 Answers 5

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Yesterday, I played a tournament match, and at the table next to me the guy asked his opponent for his rating. “I don’t really know...” was the reply, “about 1580, I think. And yours?”

“Euhm... about 1400”, the guy mumbles in reply.

If you don’t want to give out your exact rating in reply or you don’t know it yourself, I would not ask the question to begin with. Furthermore, I thought the question was bad etiquette and would not really be happy with my opponent asking it.

Finally, where I live, most tournaments have lists of all participating players and their rating which you can look at. So start the game, and then after a couple of moves, when your opponent is thinking, you can always go check the list.

PS: I find that I play better when I don’t know my opponent's rating. Once I know his rating is a lot better, I get nervous and consider myself lost from the start. When I know his rating is much lower, I tend to play reckless and make mistakes.

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    Most tournaments have lists of all participating players and their rating which you can look at. If you know the names of your opponents, you can use the US Chess Federation's rating lookup tool, or your organization's equivalent. Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 23:02
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    Why do you think this question is bad etiquette? Is it more that it might be awkward to ask other chess players about their rating in general, or that asking it just before the game is like playing mind games, or something else?
    – JiK
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 12:47
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    I don't think it's awkward but I would say: look it up in the list or ask it after the game. Perhaps indeed, I consider it some mind game.
    – Tommiie
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 12:52
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    It's not a mind game. It's simply that it's more natural to ask the person who is sitting across from you than to go to find their name on a list that's posted on the other side of the room. Most chess players just want an honest game and few engage in mind games in my experience.
    – Qudit
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 19:41
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    Perhaps you don't perceive it like that, Qudit, but others might.
    – Tommiie
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 20:18
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I don't think this would be a breach in etiquette - but I think it is a somewhat dangerous thing to do for you. Chess is as much about mental fortitude as it is about "playing skill" and regardless what your opponents answer is - it can get into your head and affect your play.
If your opponent is a lot lower rated than you are, it tempts you to play these "Maybe he won't see it" moves, if he is higher rated, you might overestimate a bad sacrifice or a blunder he does.

Considering the mental effects of a move, before and during the game, may prove to you as useful as considering the positional effects.

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    To add a quote from Mikhail Tal: "When I asked Fischer why he had not played a certain move in our game, he replied: 'Well, you laughed when I wrote it down!'". Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 12:53
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It isn't a breach of etiquette and is quite common in tournaments. Many scoresheets have a place to write the opponent's rating, so a lot of players ask while filling it out at the beginning of the match.

There's no shame in being low-rated anyway. With the exception of top players, we're all novices compared to someone.

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Some people are a bit self conscious if they are lower rated - better to look it up on the tournament list or ask a teammate.

That said, if it's a team game and I don't recognise the opponent or their name on the team sheet then I might ask - I do feel it is important to have a ballpark idea of your opponent's strength.

You could also try google if most of your opponents are >1800 FIDE

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Some think it is a breach in etiquette, some think it isn't. I believe it is not a breach in etiquette as long as you are free not to answer.

I see the benefit of only playing the looks and the moves of your opponent; I also see the benefit of 'knowing the odds', ratings open on the table.

If you know you statistically are going to lose 4 out of 5 games against your opponent, you still have to produce the quality that got you here to earn this 1 out of 5; and vice versa. If you are oblivious of each other's rating- it is the same.

Still, it is a different game between players who know each other's rating than between players who don't. And there is the third possibility, where one side knows both ratings and the other one doesn't (add an extra star here if one manages not to know one's own rating). I do not want to make a definite choice here, I would prefer to have a freedom of.

So imagine a dialogue before a game going: Would you mind telling me your rating, please? Sure, my rating is xy, please mind not telling me your rating, in return. Or: What's your rating, please? I will not tell you mine, but feel free to look it up. Okay, thank you, I will. By the way, my rating is xy.

It's all a laugh, of course, but in regular intervals somebody's got to give. We cannot respect the wish of players X to remain unaware of the ratings of opponents Y and the wish of opponents Y to inform players X of their ratings at the same time. Or, yes, we can respect, just not fulfill both wishes.

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