Beating a FIDE Master (Game #31)

Beating a FIDE Master

Pre-game analysis

In a previous article, I wrote about getting crushed by a titled player. In this article I will highlight a game where I beat a titled player, a FIDE Master. For those of you who don’t know, a FIDE master (FM) is a title awarded to a chess player who achieves an ELO of 2300 in rated tournaments. Needless to say, a strong player.

FIDE master’s have a much deeper understanding of chess than the average player. They have spent years regularly studying, analyzing and playing chess players of all strengths under tournament conditions. Experience alone does not guarantee a master title though. I know 1400 rated players who have played 30 years in tournaments but have stayed pretty much at the same rating during that time. Master players have a combination of drive, talent and experience that propels them to rise through the ranks faster than their peers.

My USCF rating is 1867. Some might argue that my playing strength is higher than that but I’ll let you decide that for yourself. Regardless, beating a titled player (in this case a FIDE master) is usually a fluke. The most common way I would win would be for my opponent to lose on time in a position they were already winning. Recently, this has changed. I am now able to put up a stubborn resistance. My losses usually happen two different ways. The first is being ground down in an ending where I am down a couple of pawns. The second is the accidental hanging of a piece (or exchange) that I was not paying attention to.

This game was a fight. Both of us were waging war for control of the center. After some exchanges, my move 18. e6! changed the balance of the game. I had the bishop pair and traded down material until I had two connected pass pawns on their way to being queened.

Game#31 – Beating a FIDE Master

Paul H. – jreadey
Reti Opening [A05]
3 minutes 2 seconds

Post-game analysis

Fragmenting your opponents pawn chain. Pawn play in chess is a skill sorely lacking at the amateur levels. I am always finding myself on the worse end of a pawn storm because I failed to make the right defensive moves. Look at the position below.

Beating a FIDE Master.  Position befre 18. e6.
White to play

Note that the coming move e6 does more than disrupt Black’s pawn structure. It fixes Black’s b7 bishop on a dead diagonal. It opens the h2-b8 diagonal that allows Bf4 hitting the b8 rook. Overall, the move creates a lasting initiative for White. Now, Ng5-e6 is possible along with a host of other ideas.

Attack where your opponent cannot defend. On move 22, I played Qb3 deciding that the the queenside would be a good place to build an attack. This was the wrong idea. For one, all of Black’s pieces are on the queenside, so the chances of making progress there was very small. Stockfish 12 recommended the move h4 no less than five times during my post-game analysis. It understands Black’s pieces are tied up on the queenside and cannot adequately defend a kingside attack. That is where white should attack.

That doesn’t necessarily mean I can deliver checkmate, it simply means grabbing squares and slowly inching up my pieces towards the enemy king. Black will have a hard time re-routing his pieces to defend this expansion – but if he does, White can then switch back to the queenside to try and win material there.

Don’t forget the ending. With a protected passed pawn in the late middlegame, I missed an opportunity to trade queens and coast to a won ending.

Beating a FIDE Master (Game #31)
Qb4 forces queens off and creates a winning position for White.

Qb4 offers a queen trade which Black has to accept or he loses the b6 pawn. The problem for Black is that he has to control the e6 passer while simultaneously defending his queenside pawns. Once the queens are traded, White threatens to capture the d5 pawn which will set the c and d pawns in motion soon afterwards.


Beating a FIDE master is not easy. It isn’t something I can do consistently. By applying basic chess principles, and sticking to them, you can outperform your rating. Just remember: good chess players build on their position. They don’t come to the game with the idea they are going to pawn storm their opponent into submission. Planning is as important as execution. It’s similar to building a house: before the house can be built, you need a set of blueprints that tell the workers not only what they are building but how they should build it. All this has to happen before the foundation can be poured. You have to plan, design and finally implement.

Chess principles are important to follow but they work better if they are followed consistently. My last game wasn’t perfect but it was consistent. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to beat a FIDE master.

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