How to Play against Lower Rated Opponents Part 1: Know your Advantage

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Previously, I have written a series on how to do well and score upsets against higher rated opponents. This week I’m starting a new series on how to maximize your score against lower rated opponents.

Compared to playing against higher rated opponents, playing against lower rated opponents presents a player with a totally different set of psychological challenges. Whereas against a higher rated player, you might struggle to have confidence that you can win, against a lower rated player you might fear the embarrassment of being unable to win against them all the time.

What’s important to realize when playing against weaker players is there’s always some facet of the game that maximizes your advantage against them. Figuring out what that is, is the key to beating them consistently. Let's say you are a 2000 player, who gets paired with a young kid rated 1800. Depending on your profile, it might not be clear that you are stronger tactically or have better opening preparation than them. However, your superior experience will usually leave you better off in positional struggles or endgames. Likewise, perhaps you’ll be paired with an older player instead, rated 1800 now but previously rated much higher. You’ll probably not have the same experience and understanding advantage as you did against the kid, but will instead enjoy quicker calculation skills and better ability to focus.

Of course, most of the time it won’t be as cut and dry as that example, but the point still remains. While you are a stronger player overall than your opponent, you might not be better at every single aspect of the game. Figuring out where that gap is the greatest and steering the game in that direction is a great way of coming out ahead.

This game was a nice example of how even when off form, you can exploit the advantages you have over your lower rated opponent and win. I was having a poor tournament, and calculating poorly, whereas my opponent was a talented junior who saw tactics very quickly. When the position became dynamic he started matching me move for move and my king fell into trouble. Despite this, and me losing my entire advantage in the middle phase of the game, by steering the game towards an endgame I was able to leverage my experience advantage over him and win the game.

Hopefully you’ve all found this interesting. Next time I’ll be back with another important technique to keep in mind for beating lower rated opponents. In the meantime, please post down below your experiences with using this strategy to beat weaker opponents. Is your main advantage in the endgame or the opening? In a tactical fight or a positional grind? Looking forward to hearing!