How to beat a weaker opponent?

People often ask me psychological questions related to chess (not surprising since I’m also a psychologist 🙂 ). One of the more popular questions is about the CORRECT attitude (or mental approach) when facing a WEAKER opponent over the board. That’s what we will discuss primarily along with some practical tips and recommendations regarding it.


Anyway, we are talking about a situation when you are about 200 rating higher than your opponent. Let’s say you are 2200, and your opponent has a rating of 2000.
weak vs strongNaturally, you expect to win this game, and moreover, you want to make it easy and smooth. You would prefer not to risk, but to win slowly but surely. You start playing “normal” moves (as opposed to the best and the most vigorous moves). You think that it’ll be enough for a win (because your opponent is weaker) and you’ll avoid unnecessary risk and complications.


I’ve just described a very common scenario between 2 players who have quite a significant gap between their ratings.


Now let’s look at this situation from another angle. What does it mean to have a rating of 2200? It shows that performing like a 2200 is your BEST performance, your PEAK performance (otherwise your rating would be higher).


Do you ALWAYS use your full mental powers over the board? Most probably, no! For instance, if you are tired today, you will play weaker, maybe on 2100 level. There’s a teasing proverb amongst professional players: “Marriage will cost you -100 rating points”. Of course, your knowledge will remain the same, but it can be really hard to focus on chess. 🙂


All in all, your rating shows your best power. Sometimes, however, you may be using not your full potential. That happens when you start playing those “normal” moves against a weaker opponent.

chess potentialLet’s say you use 90% of your full power. 90% out of 2200 will be 1980, which is close to the power of your “weak” 2000 opponent. 🙂


That explains why after some play, you’ll appear in an equal (drawish) position. Then you start getting worried – you expect to win this game! Now you’ll face an unpleasant choice:


  • Either to accept a draw
  • Or to bite the bullet and do something risky


The second choice can lead to an annoying loss, yet another typical scenario in David – Goliath match ups like this!

beat your opponent in chessLet’s sum-up the things regarding to playing against a weaker opponent. Don’t fall into psychological illusion of your superiority “by default” (because of your higher rating). That’ll become true only if you perform at your BEST, and use your FULL potential.


So you’ve got to take risk and play the most vigorous moves even against a relatively weak opponent.


P.S. Do you have your own “strategy” to beat weaker opponents? Feel free to write in the comments below and discuss, I’d appreciate it! 🙂




Get the ability often to win games against weaker opponents, learn how a Grandmaster survives bad positions and the extraordinary skills a Grandmaster possesses.


Learn from “Unlocking the Grandmaster’s Mind” now HERE.


Note: this article was published a few years ago. But I doubt if you will remember this article and what you have learnt from this lesson. That’s why, we’re helping you by re-publishing the material – even if you have not studied this article in past, that’s fine because you will find it interesting and learn something new. 🙂

  • Vincent van Bruchem

    I disagree strongly to what you said about ‘your rating being your PEAK performance’. I’ve played at Tata Steel Chess and have gotten higher TPR’s by far than my rating.

    • misha

      yeah, i also cant agree with it. Bcuz i’ve see some players having a much higher performance then their rating after a few games in a single tournament. Perhaps one’s rating is an average strenght of player. Bcuz some players have unstable, inconsistent results, performing either very good or very poorly hence their rating is not their peak performance. Or simply one can understand some positions very good and thus play it well while in other positions not being so comfortanble and thus perform poorly.

    • RCA_moderator

      HI Vincent,
      Thank you for your suggestions. We appreciate it.
      But we tend not to play our 100% against weaker opponents.

      Student Support Officer.

  • Hi Vincent!

    Firstly, congrats with your good performance at “Tata Steel” tournament! 🙂

    Your current rating is certainly not a ‘final verdict’. You can learn and progress, probably this happens to you at the moment. Let me wish you to keep pushing and reaching higher levels in chess.

    The emphasis of the article was slightly different. In a certain game, one can play weaker than compared to his rating. Even if you slightly underperform, use 90% of your power, you can calculate easily that it may reduce your ‘actual rating’ for the given game by 200 rating points.

    Hence, even against weaker opponents it’s important to demonstrate your best performance, play the most powerful moves, not hoping to win the game ‘easily’, ‘without risk’ etc.

  • ayush

    this you had already said in your book champion physocology.dear igor.what new course are gona produce next??

  • RCA_moderator

    Hi Ayush,
    It is a surprise!! You will have to wait and see.

    Student Support Officer

    • ayush

      okk sir thanks .

  • Herc

    I agree! Psychology, and underestimating an opponent is a big mistake. Also I agree that a rating means a peak performance. If you get higher rating that means that you got better than the previous time with the lower rating. And of course you cant play with the same mental focus every single game…there are so many things in life that dont let us have a good focus! Great article Igor!

    • RCA_moderator

      Thanks Herc. We are glad that you liked it!

      Prasaadh | Support Officer

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