Fighting against Unsound Plays
One of the nice things about moving up in ratings is that you get to play against stronger oppositions. After all, iron sharpens iron, and in order to improve, you constantly have to play against people who are better than those who you have previously beaten.
I've been noticing that as I hit high 1700s, I'm facing against 1800+s a lot more than before, and that's a good thing. For sure, they are strong players. They do not make silly blunders often, and they seem to know their theory a lot deeper than players below them. I feel like I'm constantly on my toes when I play against them. But the good side effect is, that they are also forcing me to play better and get better.
However, there are some, who seem to want to "test" you. They believe that their superior rating/ understanding of the game or tactics, etc. will allow them to play unsound moves and "toy around" with you a bit, and still come out on top, since they think you are not good enough to "punish" them. And indeed that may be the case sometimes.
Today, I played against a mid/high 1800 who was just that, someone who played bad opening moves constantly as if to taunt me "come punish me if you can". While it is embarassing to admit that I failed to not only refute his opening plays, I fell into his trickery constantly and came out worse!
The thing about these bad/tricky/gimmicky opening moves is...they are designed to take advantage of normal moves. So if you play "normally", then you can find yourself in trouble. To refute them, you yourself may have to play some unconventional moves yourself. That is not to say that you too should neglect opening principles. It simply means that you may have to reorder the move orders or put pieces on a different squares than usual.
This is the lesson that I learned from this opponent after losing 3 straight games to his bad opening plays.
Not a perfect game by any stretch of imagination, nor am I the stronger player than this guy. Quite the contrary, since he beat me 3 times and I beat him only once. But what to take away from this encounter is that, if you are up against higher rated/stronger player, and he decides to dilly dally play ridiculous moves, you have every chance to beat him by playing sound principled chess and staying alert to tactical tricks.
And just because your opponent is playing bad opening moves, don't think "Wow, I will win this game". That is a psychological trap.
And last but not least, when you have an advantage, but your opponent's position is just holding together by the skin of its teeth, look to make the kick, that will make his position collapse like a house of cards.