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The Value of Winning -- Invitation to Write #41

For Writers:

Thirty guys move as one to the wall where the Tournament Director has posted a pairing sheet. It's the opening round of your average local chess tournament, and everyone is anxious to find out who their opponent will be, and what color they've been assigned, and what their rating is.

Chess has a rating system, and the better you are, the higher your rating. In simple terms, beating a player of equal strength adds 16 points to your rating; and the most points you can win from defeating a player with a much higher rating is 32. Rating classifications change every 200 points. Someone rated 1200 is considered a novice; 1600 is considered an average player; 2000 is considered an expert; and 2400 is considered a Grandmaster. A person with an 800 point advantage has a better than 99% statistical chance of winning the match.

For tournament chess players, there’s absolutely no joy in playing someone that has a vastly inferior rating. You’re expected to win, so the joy of winning is limited; moreover, losing has severe consequences to your rating. Playing someone with a stronger rating is much more fun for two reasons: First, when you win, you feel the high of beating someone “better” than you; second, your rating has the potential of increasing by as many as 32 points.

Even in non-tournament play when nothing is on the line, I’d rather play someone who is my equal or slightly better. It’s difficult to learn as much playing someone with less skill. And in the end, it’s really true that you’re only as good as your opponent. When you play someone inferior, the quality of your own play tends to go down.

Think of a competitive sport or activity that you are involved in. Would you rather compete against someone that is below, at, or above your level? Why?

“Why must I lose to this idiot?” -- Aron Nimzovich


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