Game#49 – Underestimating your chess opponent

Underestimating your chess opponent

When your chess opponent disregards you as a threat

Playing online chess gives you experience in playing a wide range of chess opponents with different styles. Some are aggressive players, coming at you with a series of pawn moves in an attempt to suffocate your king. Others are on the defensive side. They patiently build their position by developing pieces and letting you bring the battle to them.

In this game, I played against someone who had little respect for my chess skills – he played every move almost instantly even though he found himself in a lost position by the tenth move. I didn’t take this personally, though it was weird. His Lichess rating was 2207. Mine was 2176. He probably thought that 30 rating points was enough to ensure an easy victory. At least, that’s how he played.

Post-game analysis

Playing stronger players. The important thing to remember is to play your game. Don’t overthink. Develop pieces and watch for counter-play. His early 5…Bd6 was a big mistake and one that I might not have taken advantage of had I not carefully analyzed the position and remembered that I had seen this type of sequence before. Higher-rated players make mistakes too and they are often betting that you will make mistakes before they will. Don’t let that happen to you!

Managing an overwhelming advantage. Some of the toughest positions to convert are ones when you are flat out winning. In the diagram below, I mechanically played 18. Rad1(?!), not realizing that Black can play Bh2. No, it isn’t winning for him but oversights like these are important to call out for yourself. I did not even see this move and I should have. There are a lot of other games where I fail to invest the time to consider my chess opponents threats. I’m getting better at this but this example shows how I need to keep at it. The simple 18. g3, holds the pawn and gives White a stress free win.

Game#49 - Underestimating your chess opponent

Always look for tactics. My chess opponent played the desperate 24…Bf4? in an attempt to confuse me and perhaps win back an exchange. Little did he know that it was he who was going to be down a piece. Never stop looking for tactical opportunities. They are everywhere.

Playing tactical problems on Lichess is certainly one way to improve your tactical vision. Lichess uses a computer algorithm to pluck positions from real games and uses them in its tactical library. Some of the problems are interesting, some are not. The problem is that they are not designed to be instructive. For that you will need books. Here are a couple from my library that I would strongly recommend:

Advanced Chess Tactics by Lev Psakhis
How to Calculate Chess Tactics by Valeri Beim

Both of these books show you curated examples that will help to grow your tactical calculation ability by leaps and bounds.

Game#49 - Underestimating your chess opponent

White to play and win….the move is Rxd5!

Conclusion

All chess opponents bring a different style of play to the table. In this case, I was playing someone who felt he could overwhelm me by playing fast and hoping I would make a critical mistake. I didn’t fall for the bait. At Better Chess, I try to emphasize the importance of calculating your opponents moves. In this game, I was able to succeed with only a slight miscalculation later in the game.

Always look for tactics in your games. Your chess opponent is always susceptible for this which is why you should always be looking to see where his weaknesses are so you can attack.

Have you ever played a stronger chess opponent who tried to blow you off the board by playing quickly and replying to your moves as if they were not a threat? Please share below.