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!


Conquering the Plateau

Hello everyone. My name is Vedic Panda. I’m 16 years old and a National Master from the state of Georgia, and I’m humbled to be your newest Chess Summit author! I’ve decided that for my first Chess Summit article to do my best to cover the interesting and very relatable problem that all chess players at some point go through, chess plateaus.

Firstly, I should fully explain what I mean by a chess plateau for our less informed readers. A chess plateau is when your rating or level of play stagnates or remains around the same for a long period of time. An example of this would be a player who has had a rating of around 1700 for several months. Chess plateaus are something that every chess player at some point in his career has faced and are often discouraging to the player going through it. This article will be discussing tips on how one can overcome a chess plateau.

  1. Keep on being optimistic and don’t get discouraged

Being stuck around the same rating for weeks, months, and even years can be extremely frustrating for a person. It’s easy to get upset and want to quit. However, in order to get out of a chess plateau, you have to understand that these things take time. It’s important that even after bad or lackluster tournaments you keep a positive mindset. Chess is a tough game but being positive even when you’re not doing well can help it stay fun for you. If you don’t believe me about the importance of positivity, listen to what the current world champion Magnus Carlsen himself had to say about this:   

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  1. Study

Getting better at chess is not a simple process. While it might be easy at first to climb the ranks and gain rating, getting to higher levels like Class A, Expert, and Master requires that you learn new things. For example, you can’t become an expert without knowing your king and pawn endgames. It’s important to note that chess improvement doesn’t necessarily always mean instant rating increase. Nothing is guaranteed in chess, but if you continue to work hard, your chess understanding along with your rating will increase.

  1. Take A Break

When things aren’t going well it’s always good to take a break from chess. It’s easy to get for someone to get frustrated at chess when things aren’t going well. Taking temporary breaks can help you recollect yourself, remotivate, and can even help you enjoy playing chess more.

  1. Have Fun

At the end of the day, it’s important to have fun while playing chess. No matter what your rating in chess is, if you’re having fun while playing, that’s all that really matters. It’s easy to define yourself based on what your rating is but, no matter what, how you feel about chess shouldn’t be affected by it. As long as you enjoy playing, your rating will increase eventually.

Going through chess plateaus is a tough experience. But in those tough times, it’s important to stay motivated and never give up. As long as you continue to have fun and keep up your chess studies, I can guarantee that you will be out of your rating slump in no time! I hope this article was helpful and if you have any personal questions relating to this topic, feel free to comment below and I’d be glad to answer. Until next time!