The Difference Between ...

NM ih8sens
Jun 26, 2009, 12:28 PM |

Hi everyone! :)


I was browsing around the forums today and saw a very interesting post talking about the 'difference between a 1400 and a 1600 player'.  Naturally this lead to discussion about the differences between players of all rating categories.  Anyways, the topic interests me. 

I've been presumptous enough to write a blog about how I see the strengths and weaknesses of <2000 players.  My own rating is only 2185 at the moment so I won't give any analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of players over 2000.  Perhaps a stronger player than myself can cover that one day.

The rating divisions I've given here are ratings (I believe that ratings are about 15% inflated in relation to FIDE, in case you're wanting to make a conversion.)


600 - 1000

- These players are primarily beginners, or self taught players who have not been playing for long and have undertaken no intentional 'studying'. I won't get into too many details about these types of players. Keep playing, take a look at a few games played by masters to (almost subconsciously) assimilate some basic concepts, and you'll become much stronger in no time.

1000 - 1200

- These players have finally developed very basic endgame skills.  They can consistently mate in K vs. K+Q and K vs. K+R situations.  Promoting pawns is basically the only other endgame concept they can relate to. 

- Midgames are full of horrendous blunders, piece hanging, and tactic missing.  Queens are heavily overvalued, so much so that some players prefer to be mated than exchange their queen, even if for their opponents.  Similarly with other pieces, understanding when exchanges are favorable is rare.

- These players have no understanding of tempo, initiative, and other 'time based' concepts.  The acquisition of material is the only concept besides checkmate worth pursuing.  Unfortunately with only these two ideas in mind, these players are forced to resort to cheap 'one movers'.  At this level both players will have missed several wins before the game is over.

- As one could expect with such limited knowledge, these players see nothing wrong with trying to checkmate their opponent in 4 moves, and are even successful at times!  Their opening knowledge tends to end here.


1200 - 1400

- These players are a little quicker at mating with a Rook, are quite proficient at mating with a Queen, and some even know how to mate with two bishops.  Besides the basic mates, these players understand very little aside from promoting pawns. 

- Because so few endgame concepts are understood, these players still resort largely to cheap traps to gain midgame advantage.  Meaningless mate threats are found and executed regularly.  Exchanges are made with very little thought, although some players in this region have started to learn some of the very basic connections between the midgame and the endgame (trading material off when one has a material advantage).  Of course, these concepts must still be refined.

- These players are beginning to understand the importance of speedy development in the opening.  Colorless openings such as the 4 Knights are seen quite often.


1400 - 1600

- Endgame knowledge is still minimal although players are beginning to understand very simple K+P endgame concepts.  Players at this level will have difficulty improving their endgame skills without studying (or gradually learning through practice) basic concepts such as opposition, outflanking, etc.

- Piece hanging is severely lessened in relation to the past group.  Basic tactics are still missed on occasion, pieces are still hung, and won games are still lost for inexplicable reasons.  Understanding of chess 'theory' is beginning to improve (outposts for knights, long diagonals for bishops, etc.) but needs serious improvement.

- These players have often found some 'cheap' opening system besides an attempted Scholars mate that often gains them a material advantage (due to opponent's mistakes).  This opening is rarely sound and will be punished severely as they move up the ladder. More specifically, financhetto openings designed to win a central pawn are very popular.


1600 - 1800

- This marks a significant level of improvement in one's endgame play.  Players at this level often understand the drawing capabilities of queens, rooks, and opposite coloured bishops, and are able to apply these concepts to their own games, saving the occasional bad position.  A high level player may still be able to grind out wins in positions that require accurate endgame defense.  It's been my own experience that Knight endgames go laughably understudied by players of this class.

- Midgames still focus around tactics and cheap traps, but the value of applying positional concepts to the game are beginning to be seen.  Players at this level understand the value of a big center but have difficulty defending it.

- At this level, marked improvement in opening knowledge can be found.  Although players at this level have no need to be up to date in opening theory, the majority can (with the help of databases) achieve some sort of playable position out of the opening, even against stronger players.  The correlation between the opening and the midgame is still a foreign concept to most players in this group.


1800 - 2000

- Piece hanging and tactical errors are basically non-existent.  Players of this level have gradually assimilated the majority of tactical themes and even have a somewhat sophisticated understanding of midgame concepts.  Both midgame and endgame knowledge increases significantly at this level.  Rook and pawn endgames are now a matter of technique rather than complicated calculation.

- At this level opening play has become quite refined and (with the help of a database, again) these players are relatively consistently able to achieve some sort of equality coming out of the opening.  These players even have some knowledge of the purpose of their pet openings. 

- For the first time, beating players of the caliber requires more than a superior tactical knowledge.  Positional edges are key.  Nonetheless, at this level achieving positional advantages is still relatively easy.  Often times players of this level (and below, of course) are unable to determine who has the advantage!


Alrighty well that's it for now.  Anything above 2000 I'm not qualified to comment on, but I must say that the skill level of players who have broken the 2000 mark is significantly higher than before.  The gap between a 2000 and a 2200 is much more significant than the gap between a 1800 and a 2000.


I've included some games below that I've recently played that demonstrate what I'm getting at.