How to beat a much better player

How to beat a much better player

28 | Amazing Games

How should you play when you face an opponent who is hundreds of points higher rated than you are and has a wealth of experience? Should you play your regular opening or choose something tricky that might catch the opponent in a trap? Should you go all out for attack, or do very little and play for a draw?

When you face such an opponent you should stick with the openings you know best and preferably play the same moves seen in grandmaster competition. That way you're playing grandmaster moves at least when you're still in the opening in a familiar position.

A straightforward attack is not likely to succeed against a strong opponent. Nevertheless, playing quietly for a draw almost always ends in defeat. Eventually you reach an end game where the opponents skill and experience makes it possible for them to win even with only a very small advantage.


I teach my students to use the concept of pressure and at the same time avoid any structural weaknesses. This makes it difficult for the opponent to burn an advantage. Pressure is in many ways the foundation of my teaching philosophy.

In our featured game we see a young student, Jordy, who at the tender age of 15 face-off with Judith Polgar in Hawaii. This game was not played in the US Masters or U.S. Open but rather in the official blitz tournament. Polgar was sufficiently impressed by this game that she offered to write out the notation for us from memory.

What you should look for in this game is the application of pressure. Pressure is when you aim a piece at an enemy target even though it is not advisable to capture the target because it is defended. the more pressure you have the greater the availability of tactics will be. That makes it easy for the opponent to make a mistake. Pressure at the F7 Square is the best pressure. In this game you will see a superb example of how effective pressure is even when the target is well guarded.

at the same time you'll see that white carefully avoids making any weaknesses that the opponent could use for pressure. He avoids pawn advances, knowing that every time a pawn is forward it gets weaker and creates adjacent weaknesses. In this game it is blacks who chooses to advance upon unwisely, creating a weakness that will then be exploited later in the game.

This is really a purely positional. Neither king is in any danger at all until the very end of the game. Against a stronger opponent, attacks on McCain can usually be repulsed easily and in any case they are always risky because usually an attack on McCain involves creating some weaknesses on your own side.

Enjoy this game by the youth star who smashed Bobby Fischer's record, becoming a master at the age of 10. Although he is no longer an active player, he had a very successful career until his studies at Stanford University took in other directions.


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