Losing to a titled player is tough. They don’t fall for the same tricks that lesser opponents do. They see much deeper into the position. They parry all of your threats quickly and effortlessly. It’s an uphill battle from the start. Additionally, a titled player’s moves are purposeful. Their pieces occupy good squares that contain their opponent’s pieces . For me, playing a titled player is like playing with a boa constrictor. You are either bitten by tactics or squeezed through positional play. Either way is not fun.
Losing is the best way to learn. In fact, no real improvement can happen unless you experience regular losses. Sometimes, the way you are beaten is more important than the loss itself. Stronger opponents bring out your weaknesses more than playing someone your own strength. So, if you have the opportunity to play a titled chess master, do it. See how he or she handles your play and learn from it. Losing is also a lesson in humility – something all chess players need, regardless of playing strength.
I am lucky to be able to play opponents rated between 2200-2300 ELO on a regular basis. It’s always interesting to me how I lose. Ironically, it is the same way I win against players lower-rated than me. I hit them with a tactical shot which usually wins a piece or the exchange, or I capture too many pawns that gets them into a lost ending. These next two blitz games are perfect examples of this. Always analyze your games to uncover weaknesses in your game.
Reti Opening [A05]
3 minutes 2 sec. blitz
Post-Mortem Analysis: Losing to a Titled Player (Game#21)
Don’t just move pieces for the sake of moving them. Randomly moving pieces to the kingside did not protect King. Like everything, calculation needs to happen before a piece is committed to defense. Moves like 27. Nd1 are pointless if they don’t have a purpose. Piece proximity to an attack is not enough to defend against it.
Think about the ending. Placing all my pawns on light-squares is something I should have been aware of – particularly when my opponent has a light-squared bishops. Trading down material led to a quick loss.
Missed defensive opportunities. Finding 22. g5 is important. It stops the pawn storm and freezes Black’s attack. When you find yourself worse in a position like this, I find it’s best to take on your opponents perspective to the exclusion of all else. Like many amateurs, I never give my attacker the credit he or she deserves. “My attack is all that really matters”. It’s an arrogance I need to get rid of if I plan on getting to the 2200 level. In this case, losing to a titled player showed me my poor decision-making is not limited to players of my own strength!
English Opening – Symmetrical Variation [A39]
3 minutes 2 sec. blitz
Post-Mortem Analysis: Losing to a titled player (Game#22)
Leave pieces on good squares. Moving my knight away from c5 was a terrible mistake. Sometimes pieces should be left on good squares to radiate their power across the board. The knight was serving well for me on c5 as it helps prepare a4 which would have led to equality.
Do not take pawns indiscriminately. Taking the e-pawn was done quickly and without thought. The a-pawn is the problem here so taking the a2 pawn is more in the spirit of the position. I’m still much worse but at least it’s a fight.
There is no shame in losing to a titled player. But that doesn’t mean you should expect to lose. Play hard and pay extra attention to the moves your opponent makes. To be honest, it is often easier for me to understand the moves of a titled player than someone under 2200.
The reason for this is that the 2200-player often makes moves that have purpose whether that is increasing the pressure on a pinned piece or simply repositioning a knight where it will have greater impact on the position. The bottom line is that we all need to learn from stronger players. Don’t be intimidated if you wind up losing to a titled player. Make him earn the win and know that either way you are likely to learn something!