Lessons from the Archive: You CAN beat a higher rated player

Jun 23, 2013, 10:42 PM |

This blog takes material from the excellent Dan Heisman Learning Centre's game archive, brilliantly put together by SirIvanhoe and now Farnel.

So, you get paired with a higher rated player, and your heart sinks. Oh no! He's rated so much higher than me! I am bound to lose...

And, subsequently, with your mind filled with trepidation and negative fears, of course you play in order to confirm your suspicions; you lose.

But is there so much to fear? Looking at our game archive, at first sight it's no joke:

Out of 1237 games, only 195 has been won by the lowest rated player. That's a win ratio of only 16 per cent. But, don't start the game with the thought "I'll lose in six out of seven here"!

  • Close in rating - close in result. If the rating difference is less than 100 points, the "underdog" wins 28 % of the games, with another 13 % a draw.
  • Upsets DO happen. We have 9 games where the underdog has beaten the opponent rated MORE THAN 300 points higher than him/herself.
  • Rating is just a number. If you play sound chess, look for checks, captures and threaths, keep your pieces safe on EVERY MOVE, review your games, learn from your mistakes and in general play Real Chess by the guidelines of Dan Heisman, you will immediately be a better player. Don't worry about the opponent's rating. Embrace the position on the board.

Want to play some Slow Chess? Become a member of Dan Heisman's Learning Centre here at chess.com!

Let's look at a three surprises (if we judged the players by rating) that we've had fairly recently in the Slow Swiss - from three different rating spheres.

AinaPuke vs leybor, Slow Mini-Swiss #2 in late May.

So, maybe you recognized some of your own mistakes in this game? Most of us leave pieces hanging and miss vital pins. And just because your opponent is higher rated, does not mean that him or her won't make those mistakes!

scsiduck vs JRKT73, Slow Swiss #5 in May.

A game where the higher rated player had the initative, but made the decisive final mistake that turned the game. Do not give up, if you are a bit behind! Mistakes happen!

game_of_chess vs Abhishek2, Slow Swiss #5 in May.

The most important lesson from this game: Do not resign prematurely! Whether it is picking up the wrong piece OTB or misclicking on the web, innocuous mistakes happen!

Fight on!