Play Smart: Choose Your Section Wisely

As the school year opens and fall chess tournaments begin, it’s important to start playing smart: choose the “right” section. Coaches usually suggest that players not play up into a higher section but many players want to. The thinking is you only lose to higher rated players so you can’t lose many points, whereas if you lose to lower rated players you lose a lot of points.


Of course, the real deal is most players playing up lose points. By playing in their own section, they may lose some points but there is the chance to gain more than 100 points.


Also losing is no fun. Even a talented up and coming player might be play even or even have an advantage in the opening or middle game but then comes the endgame where higher rated and more experienced players usually take the advantage.


Here is an example of a player playing up, where the worst happened:

Playing up made him the lowest rated player in a section with an odd number of players, so he received a 1st round bye Win. This meant he started Round 2 in the winners’ group and played and lost to a player rated 350 points higher.


In the 3rd round, still with a 1 win out of 2 result, it seemed he might do a little better as his opponent was only rated 250 points higher. But, it was a loss. Then, in round #4, he fared no better. He played a top player who was rated 275 points higher, but who was having a bad day. Still, our player lost again.


The result: our player lost 3 games – no fun  ̶  and lost 40 rating points! The worst part is that losing can be discouraging and can push players out of competition altogether.


Now, if a player is really ready to move up, he or she can play up and do well.  But, the usual outcome is that most players miss out on the big rating gain they can achieve by winning in their own section.


My advice to parents: – DON’T PUSH.




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