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Normal Topic Choosing an opening according to opponent's rating (Read 2153 times)
gillbod
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Re: Choosing an opening according to opponent's rating
Reply #5 - 07/02/19 at 22:23:53
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I think I was reading one of Matthew Sadler's books when he was saying that he always played the QGA against d4. He just learnt it well enough and developed his own resources so that he could use it against strong and weak players alike. Saying this from memory, so apologies if I'm wrong.

I don't believe a rating tells you too much about the relative strengths or weaknesses of a player. It is in these (e.g. ability in closed positions, opposite side castling, IQP for and against, fluid pawn centre, bishop pair etc.) that should govern the choice of opening if you're going to to prepare for a specific person. The easiest way to gauge this is probably just to play against the person several times.

But this is choosing an opening according to an opponent whose strengths I know relative to my own, rather than their rating, which is the point of the thread.
  
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Re: Choosing an opening according to opponent's rating
Reply #4 - 06/27/19 at 04:42:59
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Straggler wrote on 06/26/19 at 14:31:24:
... suppose there is no prize money at stake, just rating points.
I'll tell you what's at stake: checkmate! victory! Okay, I know how to play for a draw ... when my king is in danger, my pieces are routed, my pawns are in a shambles, then I have no pride. But to play for a draw from move two? Or to allow my opponent to force a draw without any effort?

Straggler wrote on 06/26/19 at 14:31:24:
You don't know anything about your opponent except their rating (plus their age and sex, I suppose, but do they make a difference?).
I believe they do make a difference.
  • Age - if they are a junior then their rating means nothing! They might just as likely be the stronger player, and then where will your rating-difference calculations lead you?
  • Sex - if they are a woman then you don't have to worry about them forcing a draw, at least not in the opening. Instead you should be worried about them hacking your king to death.
So, reserve the +/- 200 points calculations for old men.

Straggler wrote on 06/26/19 at 14:31:24:
Would you prefer the Petroff or the Sicilian if your opponent is (a) 200 points weaker; (b) 200 points stronger?
I would never prefer the Petroff. A master at my club specialized in Alekhine's Defense. He related that he previously played the Russian Defense, but had to give it up because of Cozio's 5.Qe2. I'm terrified of the Cozio. The cowards even play 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Nxe4! 4.Qe2 Qe7 5.Nf3!!, when I already wish I had played something else on move two.

But I have played the Philidor a great deal, along with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 (2...Nc6 has a name, but I forget, and anyway the name is rarely used).
  • 200 points weaker: Philidor, ALWAYS, unless it's 2...Nc6 followed quickly by ...d6.
  • 200 points stronger: Sicilian (Kan Variation), or 2...Nc6 mainlines

But the only correct answer is, you should try it both ways, and see what works best for you.

Yet another master, after watching me do it over and over, asked how I could win such simple positions (against 200 points weaker, he would choose things like the Dragon and Albin's Counter-Gambit). I said hey, if Lasker can beat Tarrasch from the black side of the Steinitz Defense, I can beat this guy from a similar structure. I also experimented with the Sicilian when playing down -- Dragon mostly, sometimes Taimanov. The Sicilian wins, but there are usually some scary moments. The Classical defenses win just as often, but are smoother, more gradual; deceptive, if you will. Conversely, at one time I thought the Philidor was only good for rabbit-bashing, but later I experimented with it against titled players, and my results were decent. I did lose the one time I tried it against a GM, but we agreed after the game that I had good counterplay, and just messed up in time pressure. Against this same GM I got only one draw in maybe 10 games (the first game he was "only" an IM), so I can't say the Philidor was worse than the other openings I tried. (I could have had another draw when he offered one before the start, but I refused, played the King's Gambit, and lost.)

One point I didn't see mentioned is, what will you be doing in chess two years from now? If you are improving today, then don't even worry about players 200 points weaker. In two years time they will be looking at your tail lights. Your priority should be how to win the games against players 200 points stronger. And no cheap wins -- by which I mean playing openly for a draw hoping the opponent will commit suicide trying to avoid it. None of that -- if you expect to be stronger, then you must play today as if you already are stronger.

On the other hand, if you are one of the old men like me, and no longer expect any upside, then I can recommend the Classical stuff. We can get away with specializing in boredom, because at our age it's thrilling enough just to be alive.
  
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Re: Choosing an opening according to opponent's rating
Reply #3 - 06/26/19 at 21:43:50
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I think Webb's advice is more applicable when the rating difference is more extreme and you have White.

You sometimes see this a lot in open tournaments when GM is facing a much weaker player and the GM has White.  They might just play a closed opening (for instance London system or 1 e4 c5 2 d3) to try outplay their opponent positionally so that they have more margin for error when it's time for calculation.  They are more reluctant to go 6 Bg5 Najdorf or something and risk forgetting a line or missing a tactic (and potentially reveal their preparation if strong competitors will see the game).

I agree with halbstark in terms of sticking to what you know, but if you do know multiple things...

I think in terms of playing the Petroff as Black, it's probably an opening that works best against someone somewhat close to your strength.

I used to play it briefly and had some nice results (win against opponent 200 points higher, draw against opponent 400 points higher).

If you get lucky and your opponent misplays the opening and get a position where all your pieces are active and there is not some much going on in terms of pawn play, you can have some nice things happen if your opponent misses a tactic.

That said, Petroff and other openings like it, there are a lot of lines where you can equalize if you are very precise, but if not, you are worse without a lot of active play, and these can be a nightmare against a much stronger player, you can easily go down without much of a fight.  If both of you are well prepared, I think you are better off gambling in a Sicilian or something.

When playing a much weaker player, I think people get a little too nervous about playing a "draw-ish" line -- lots of draw-ish positions still have interesting play.  For instance, the game Carlsen-Caruana from the World Championship match with 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nxe5 d6 4 Nd3 was a great fight ... Or there are interesting Kramnik games where he wins from "boring" 5 Re1 anti-Berlin or QGD

That said, I don't really think you want to be the "Petroff Guy" if you're regularly playing lots of people 200 points or 300 points below you and aren't rated 1500. 

Yes, you can still win games but you might have to grind a lot harder and still have a lot of draws, particularly if they are well prepared.  Trying to eek out endgame advantages might be instructive and possible but not the ideal rating point strategy, particularly if it's a long tournament and you're getting exhausted.

Plus, in the Petroff you have lines like:
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 d4 Nxe4 4 Bd3 d5 5 Nxe5 Nd7 6 Nxf7 with a draw by perpetual check unless Black takes major risks.








  
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Re: Choosing an opening according to opponent's rating
Reply #2 - 06/26/19 at 19:43:25
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To be honest I think that Simon Webb´s assumption is simply not correct. Maybe for him it worked out. But I had this discussion with a lot of players in a german forum and most strong players believed, that you should more or less always stick to your regular guns, no matter the opponent.

At least there seems to be no reason to go completely insane, when playing someone 300 points higher:)

But nevertheless I have to say, that I am quite happy to have some sicilians in my repertoire for "must-win-games". In my eyes there is really no better opening to play against lower rated opponents Wink
  
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Re: Choosing an opening according to opponent's rating
Reply #1 - 06/26/19 at 15:03:23
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It depends. Are you 1500 playing a 1300 player? Then the 1300 player will almost certainly not be able to make a draw from a "drawn" Qe2 Petroff or French Exchange, because very few 1300 games are drawn at all. In that case, minimizing randomness seems a good idea for the stronger player.

Are you 2400 playing a 2200 player? Then if the major pieces are all exchanged on the only open file with a symmetrical pawn structure, your weaker opponent may be able to make a draw, and you might want to play the Sicilian.

One thing that does seem to fit the stronger player well in many situations is a strategic position that is not so sharp that you can lose at random, but where both sides have to think for themselves and there is no clear path to a draw.
« Last Edit: 06/26/19 at 23:21:45 by ReneDescartes »  
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Straggler
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Choosing an opening according to opponent's rating
06/26/19 at 14:31:24
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I'd like to ask how stronger players, who have two or more openings in their repertoire, decide which one to play against a particular opponent.

Or Cohen in his 1.e4 e5 repertoire book suggests that if you play the Petroff you should ideally be able to play the Sicilian too. I think the idea is that you should play the Petroff if you would be happy with a draw and the Sicilian if you would not.

On the other hand, Simon Webb argued in Chess for Tigers that if your opponent is much weaker (a "Rabbit") you should keep the position simple so as to minimise the risk of accidents; if he or she is much stronger (a "Heffalump") your best chance is to strive for complications. This would suggest that you would be wise to play the Petroff against a Rabbit and the Sicilian against a Heffalump.

So my question is: suppose there is no prize money at stake, just rating points. You don't know anything about your opponent except their rating (plus their age and sex, I suppose, but do they make a difference?). Would you prefer the Petroff or the Sicilian if your opponent is (a) 200 points weaker; (b) 200 points stronger?
  
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