Rating Is Just A Number

Have you ever asked your opponent, what’s their chess rating? By definition, a chess rating is a system used to estimate the approximate strength of a chess player based on their performances in tournaments, games, and likewise. However, often, chess players will take rating too far to either overestimate or underestimate their opponents. My goal today is to explain to you why this is a bad idea and how to get out of this mindset.

It’s generally not a good idea to judge someone based purely based on their rating, after all, it is really only an estimate and not a true indicator of their actual strength. This may seem like common sense, yet I see both kids and adults at tournaments when looking at their pairings either relax or start stressing when they see that their opponents are either much lower are much higher rated than them. Why do we do this? Let’s get into it. Often, when chess players see their opponent’s rating two things might happen, cockiness or fear. Either the higher rated opponent sees someone 200+ points lower than them and starts relaxing and estimating how long it will take him to win, or the lower rated opponent starts brainstorming how many moves he thinks he can last against his godly higher rated opponent. As we can see, in both cases, the difference in rating is what causes these feelings of overconfidence or fear to occur. However, there is no reason why a chess player should feel these things. While statistically speaking the higher rated player should win every time, this by no mean happens. Higher rated players get “upset” all the time. One might even argue that part of the reason why higher rated players get upset is because they underestimated their lower rated opponent.

It takes a lot of practice to avoid getting out of these mindsets, but the first step is to stop seeing rating as a sign of how you think your game is going to turn out. Instead, treat rating just like a number. It’s okay to know the rating of your opponent, but you should come into each game prepared for a fight regardless of your opponent’s rating. If you’re a higher rated chess player playing a lower rated opponent, it’s important to give the respect your opponent deserves. You should come to the game confident in your chances to win, but should not come into the game expecting a massacre. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you’re the lower rated playing someone much higher rated than you, it’s important not to overestimate your higher rated opponent. They are human too, and as long as you believe in yourself and your chances, anything is possible.  

A final topic I should discuss related to rating is how chess players judge themselves because of their rating. As I discussed in my last article covering chess plateaus, chess players often judge themselves based on their rating, and again, this should not be the case. It’s easy to be upset at yourself if you’re lower rated and wanting to become higher rated. However, these things take a lot of time and practice. Instead, it’s important to enjoy the playing aspect of chess and not pay too much attention to your rating. As long as you have fun playing chess, and put in the appropriate work, your rating increase will come in no time.

And that’s all of my thoughts for this week. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll try to respond as soon as I can. See you next week!

 

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