Sunday, March 2, 2008

Ratings And Ramblings

Do you ever have problems trying to beat some opponents? No matter how hard you try, you always seem to have a minus score against them or end up on the losing side?

I have 4 players at my club who I am forever having problems with at my level (I'm talking about 1400-1500 levels) during my last year of playing on-and-off chess are.

The funny thing was that during my games with them, somehow I seem to falter or play terribly worse when facing these players. They're like Kryptonite to my Superman (see picture on right) and sometimes it seems like their very existence on earth was to annoy and beat me.

What is it that makes some opponents particularly difficult to overcome?

In all, it seems like I am psychologically beaten whenever I face these opponents over the board. This pattern is hard to explain but I notice that during my games with these players, I seem to fall into one of the 3 bad habits:

a. Underestimating my opponent's threats
This normally happens when I make moves but fail to see the nuances of the position including critical positions where exact calculation is of utmost importance. There's a reason why tough opponents are tough. They know how to exploit the weaknesses in your position and work to their advantage.

b. Losing patience, making hurried moves
Sometimes, our opponents tries to make moves that seems to do nothing but shuffling about, trying to lure you in and this is usually where I suffer. It is the result of trying to avoid 3 fold repetitions (hoping to win) that tends to backfire in my face.

c. Loss of consistency due to psychological factors
Be it time pressure or failing to overcome other psychological factors resulting in performance levels much less optimal than the norm. It is important to attempt to have a clear mind when facing tough opponents.

Unfortunately, overcoming these hurdles is easier said than done. Right now, the best way I can think of is to concentrate on the board, not on the opponent.

Oh, by the way I would like to clarify something, my last rapid ACF rating is 1450 according to decrap.txt (hmmm... decrap?). My recent Rapid tournament as Ryde Eastwood has ended with me scoring 5.5/9 (with a +5-3=1 score) which is a pretty decent result. My only losses were to Thomas Hartmann (1828), Arthur Hyunh (1889) and of course, my brother-in-law Steven Liu (1774). My only draw was with Joshua Christiansen (1691).

My classical rating still stands at 4g and no rating. I expect my classical/standard rating to be around 1200s-1400s at the moment, probably worse if I'm having a bad day at work. You won't believe the number of times where I walked into a mate in 1. Usually, I finish work at 7pm and my competition starts at 7.30pm and there is a distance of 20km(?) between my office and my chess club. Don't ask how I manage to jump into my car, make it through Sydney traffic, find parking space at the club (it's usually close to full) and rush in to play.


  1. At my old club, we discussed the "Archenemy Syndrome". After a certain point, psychology does play a role, but until then it might simply be a matter of playing style. Maybe the types of positions you tend to get into, the opponent is particularly talented at handling or has seen a lot before.

    There are class A players which I can beat half the time, and others I won't get a point against. Besides stylistic differences, sometimes the explanation is simply "That just how things happened."

  2. Congrats mate on your performance in the rapid. No shame in any of the results that didn't go your way.


  3. LEP: I think you're probably right on the money. The funny thing was that I can handle both open and closed positions, it's just that some of the players have a mysterious knack for knowing how to cause me grief over the board.

    Shane: Hi Shane! Kinda surprised to see ya here. Thanks very much for the well wishes. You did pretty good too for your rapid games. I see Bill has updated the ratings on the ACF page and you've moved up a couple of points as well. Congrats!

  4. LEP is right. Sometimes it just happens that way. Othertimes They might have a repertoire that gets them into positions that they are really really familiar with. Analyze the games and see if you notice any similarities.

  5. If you go through my blog, you'll see frquent references to my encounters with "King Kong". Some pople just get our number, and sometimes our player reflects the psychological impact that the player has on us. When it started with "King Kong" he was only 1100. Now he's over 1800 and my rating has stayed the same.

  6. wang: that's an excellent suggestion. i will definitely pay more attention and follow your suggestion and work out my weakness in this aspect. thank you.

    polly: yup, but i wouldn't want to call the players at my club "king kongs" less they get the wrong idea. some chess players at my club have rather thin skins. :)

  7. I can suggest one thing that may help you and that is get a copy of Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich" and read it a few times. You'll benefit from it and if you follow it's advice you should be able to overcome your psychological block against these opponents, because that is all it is.

  8. mark: thanks for the suggestion! my local library stocks it so it should be on my next to-read list pretty soon. i'll definitely give the book a whirl. cheers.