The difference between a 1400 and a 1900 player

The difference between a 1400 and a 1900 player

Jun 15, 2015, 1:05 PM |

Hello! I hope you are doing well!

I often get asked what is the difference between my level and that of lower rated players. Here is my latest answer:

Some differences between a 1900 and 1400

  1. Sharper tactical awareness
  2. Stronger positional play
  3. More experience.

Sounds vague and abstract right? Well, it is. But let me concretize the above with some examples. In this context I am considering turn-based ratings on


Usually I don't play many games with lower rated players because winning doesn't mean much (only a few ELO) while a untimely loss can be costly as well as the fact that these games generally don't help you improve. However, my participation in the University May 2015 - Above 1400 - No Vacation forced me to make accomodations. 

Case I:

So I came across this opponent who played 1... g6 to my 1. e4. After a few moves, we come across the position in the diagram below. I thought I had an advantage.



To my rude surprise, I misevaluated the position and my opponent played a move that I thought couldn't be played. It turned out that my position was crumbling and I was positionally in trouble. Fortunately, my opponent didn't realize his advantage and I walked away with a win. Full game below. 

So what happened there? My opponent had the right idea to seize the initiative after 9... e5! but failed to take advantage of my undeveloped pieces by keeping his queen on the d-file. In the end, his questionable cxd6 also gave him a potential weakness due to the increased pawn islands.

There was a presence of tactical awareness with moves like Qf6, with the idea of Bxb1 winning a piece. Fortunately for me, his awareness of intermediate moves like Bc2, which funnily followed the same motif before, was a bit lacking. As well, Nxf5! was a tactic that cost him the game.

As for experience, it showed in the final result. Even if I didn't have an amazing position, I hung in there tough and continued to fight. It also helped me predict some of his moves, such as the mass trades despite the intermediate move and it helped me predict his a4 at the end of the game. This point will be more evident in case III.

Case II:

From the same tournament.

Here, my opponent was a bit lacking positionally in the opening. Typically, b5 is played without a6 and e6 is never played. h5 was also dubious. These moves allowed me to control the dark squares.

Tactically, he had some ideas, but he totally forgot the fact that he is down a piece after he captures the pawn. Also, the Bxe6 intermediate move confused him more than it should have.

My experience allowed me to sense the nuances in this opening and exploit his tactical weaknesses. I allowed him to play Qh4+, setting him up for disaster.

Case III:

Here is an oldie where I completely destroyed my opponent by playing with his mind and using his moves against him. He's a bit stronger (1535) but the same ideas apply.

After an opening that he totally flubbed, resulting in a loss of a pawn, we reach this position:

Clearly, he wants me to Castle into checkmate. Even after I parry the threat he still eyes h7 in hopes of trapping me. Watch how I use this psychological trap against him.

After Qh3, his Bg5, Bxf6 were super predictable. Being an experienced player, I was able to hide the discovery e5 by seemingly overlooking his threats. When I played e4, I successfully predicted that he would try to pin me rather than move his bishop to the inferior e2. At this point, I'm not sure what's more disappointing: his tactical abilities or the fact that I can predict that he would make the dumbest moves Tongue Out
Obviously, theres more to being a 1900 than the brief list suggested, but hopefully this gives you a sense of the difference with real examples. Best of luck in your chess studies :)