How to use (and NOT to use) ratings to our advantage:Part I

Aug 27, 2012, 12:16 PM |


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Nearly every chess site uses a rating system. These are the three to four digit numbers that reside next to one’s name, or online handle. These numbers demonstrate a player’s average skill level. The higher the number is, the better the player is. Some pundits argue that players should not be concerned with their rating and should instead be concerned with playing the best moves possible. To this, I will agree. During a game, you must not even consider your rating or your opponent’s rating.


The trouble is that most players(myself included) become so obsessed with this number to the point that padding one’s rating becomes the ultimate goal. For example, when playing an opponent rated much lower than ourself, if we are obsessed with ratings we think “I should win this game because my opponent is not as good as myself.” And already we have approached the game from an unprepared competitive mindset. What if our opponent is mentally prepared and plays the game of his, or her life? All of a sudden, we must adjust our mindset during the heat of the battle. At the point we realize we must now start playing quality chess, the position may already be lost.


Let’s say, as another example the lower rated opponent puts us into a difficult situation at a critical point of the game. One obsessed with ratings thinks, “If I make a bad move, my rating will go down.” The following move will be made from a poor negative state of mind. When making a move from such a poor state, the move itself will inevitably be poor.


This type of thinking is obviously not conducive for success. All of our decisions are to be made from the same standpoint of power and resolve. We need to make our moves based upon the present situation on the board, rather than a hypothetical situation of losing, or gaining rating points. The only portion of the game we can control is the direction of our thoughts, which invariably produces our moves. By choosing to focus on the move at hand from a powerful point of view, we will make stronger moves. Once we connect enough powerful moves together throughout the course of the game, we will win. Once we win more games against better opponents, our skill level increases. Once our skill level increases, so does our rating. Focus on making the best possible moves and our ratings will take care of themselves.