Tag Archives: Chess Informant

How to Defeat a Superior Opponent! Advice for New Chess Players, Part 2

If you read my earlier post on Edmar Mednis, you know that How to Defeat a Superior Opponent is the title of the Hall of Fame Grandmaster’s 1989 book (effectively a reprint of his 1978 title How to Beat the Russians).

The idea of defeating a stronger player appealed to a “weakie” like me, so I devoured Superior Opponent in my early years. Unfortunately, I did not score upsets that often…

But over the years I learned a lot. Now that I have more experience, I’ll give you some of my own advice on beating players better than you.

 

Good psychology only goes so far.

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you there is a formula to consistently beat players rated 500 points higher than you. Exception: anything goes if we’re talking about players rated under 1000.

The tips I’ll discuss can give you a slightly better chance against such opposition, but luck is your best friend here: hope the opponent underestimates you, miscalculates something, or has a bad game.

If you are a massive underdog, just play the best moves you can … for as long as you can … and don’t get too far behind on the clock. This last guideline is important: an experienced, higher-rated player will just keep the game going in your time pressure, shuffling pieces until you collapse.

For the rest of these tips, I’m going to assume you’re facing someone rated 1000+ and roughly 200 points higher than you. This is a steep hill, but not an impossible one: statistically you should score about 25% against such a player (one win and three losses in four games, or two draws and two losses).

For context, with a 300-point rating difference you’re expected to score 1 point out of 10.

 

Don’t change your playing style.

You have certain strengths as a chess player. Don’t abandon your strongest weapons based on who you’re paired against. If you’re an attacker, attack. If you’re a good endgame player, trade. If you know a certain opening well, play it — don’t be afraid of the opponent knowing it better than you do. Sidebar: targeting the weaknesses of a peer or an inferior opponent is often a good idea!

 

Believe in your ideas, and don’t try too hard.

It’s tempting to make “extra” efforts to beat stronger players, but I think the best you can do in this area is to make sure your concentration is as good as it can be for the game.

If you think you’ve found a good move or plan, and don’t see any flaws, go for it. Maybe you’re wrong and missed something, but don’t assume this is the case! That’s called “seeing ghosts.”

 

Calculate until the evaluation is clear.

chess symbols

The most common chess evaluation symbols, for moves and positions. Image: lichess.org

If you’re a good calculator, this is not a problem. For others, like me, calculation is not our strong suit.

Don’t go crazy trying to see everything till the end, unless mate or a decisive material balance is at stake. Otherwise, just use the Chess Informant classification that I discussed previously.

 

Don’t offer draws to higher-rated players.

I’m not one of those coaches who says you should always “play till bare kings!” There are a number of situations in which offering or accepting a draw makes sense, or when aiming for a more drawish position is a good idea.

However, there is almost never a good reason to offer a draw to a higher-rated player. There are two rather obvious reasons for this:

If you have the advantage, you shouldn’t be offering a draw! Doing so communicates fear and increases the confidence of your opponent, who might be on the ropes. If you’re really afraid of messing up when better against a higher-rated, you can play solidly and safely, avoiding risk. Just strike a confident pose at the board while doing so!

If you are worse — or even equal — your opponent won’t accept your draw offer. Moreover, it again shows weakness. Whether your opponent is torturing you or merely shuffling pieces back and forth, just keep finding the best moves you can while not showing any frustration. Imagine you are at a picnic on a warm summer day!

Wait for the higher-rated player to offer the draw (or, if you’re playing against a peer, the player with the superior position has the “right” to make the peace offering). Only when you’re playing against a lower-rated player can you offer a draw in an inferior position.

 

Experienced players: are there any other general tips I didn’t mention? Leave a comment!

Chess Position Evaluation: Who is better, and by how much?

Chess Informant popularized a classification system that is now universally used in chess literature and when discussing positions. Who is better, and by how much?

When I was struggling to learn chess, I didn’t really feel what these meant. Now, I hope others will be a bit less confused!

This is a short post, and I’m not giving any positions here: but use these guidelines the next time you study a chess position — I think you’ll have an “A Ha!” moment.

Of course, I’m only talking about human evaluation during a chess game! I only care about what the computer says in ICCF games.

 

White/Black has a decisive advantage

An unstoppable attack; too much extra material without compensation; an opponent with hopelessly bad pieces; or an endgame edge so big the win is straightforward.

 

White/Black has a large advantage

This is the most important category!

I would define it as any of the above, but to a lesser degree — a dangerous attack that isn’t clearly winning; an extra pawn or exchange with the opponent having some form of compensation; awkward but not hopeless pieces; or a solid endgame edge that still requires decent technique.

Two or three of these smaller edges together can be considered a decisive advantage. This is what I believe is meant by the so-called “accumulation of advantages.”

This category is much closer to decisive advantage than to small advantage! When you get your opponent here, your advantage will likely grow if you simply suppress any counterplay.

 

White/Black has a small advantage

A lead in development, space (more central presence, control of an open file), pawn structure (lack of pawn weaknesses, or less than the opponent has), or piece placement (in the center or near the “action zone”). Two or three of these together can add up to a large advantage.

 

The position is equal

The chances are balanced, and if both sides play well, a draw is the likely result. Be careful: this doesn’t necessarily mean the position is dry or boring! Usually, you need to play actively. Simply shuffling your pieces around and waiting is usually a recipe for disaster.

 

The position is unclear

You can think a position is unclear or “I don’t know what’s going on,” but this isn’t helpful. Decide on one of the categories above, and also decide if you will play for a win or a draw.

 

Good luck in your chess evaluations!

Encyclopedia of Chess Miniatures

Šahovski Informator is the long-time publisher of Chess Informant, Encyclopedia of Chess OpeningsEncyclopedia of Chess Endings, and many other references loved by chess players worldwide for over half a century.

Encyclopedia of Chess MiniaturesEncyclopedia of Chess Miniatures (ECM) is one of those “other” reference titles.

I’ll be upfront: at 50 USD one can say ECM is not essential, because it isn’t.

But many of my readers should buy it anyway!

  • It’s a sturdily-bound, hardcover book.
  • At 560 pages, it contains 1636 complete games and fragments.
  • The entries are sorted by ECO code.
  • The annotations are to the point, and contain all the important information in typical Informant-style symbology.
  • An index of players is included in the back.

Warning: this collection is not for beginners! I would say 1700, minimum.

The target audience is advanced players and coaches. There is a lot of gold to be mined here! In particular, the sorting by ECO code is very helpful for experienced students of the game.

Read ECM for opening prep, read it for lesson prep, and read it for pleasure.

Often, collectors find chess books lying around their home and wonder: “Ugh, why did I spend money on that one?” Or, at least I do!

Years from now, when this attractive hardcover volume catches your eye, it will bring a smile to your face.

I promise: you won’t regret buying Encyclopedia of Chess Miniatures — even if you could comb through the databases and put together a similar collection yourself. How many hours would that take you?

My copy of ECM is still as pristine as the day it arrived at my home years ago. Think of ECM as an investment you will get excellent use from for many, many years. Then 50 bucks is a small price to pay.