I recently had the pleasure of discussing a game with frozensoul and DeepSnow, when DeepSnow said something that made me laugh:
“I count on kyu players to outread themselves.” - DeepSnow
While it was funny at the moment, it didn’t take long before the truth of the statement dawned on me.
For those wondering what he is talking about, DeepSnow is referring to the tendency of kyu players to automatically play conservative moves in anticipation of some crazy tesuji (even though it doesn’t exist).
There are two primary reasons for why players do this:
#1. They have had a traumatic experience where something they thought worked gets demolished by a stronger player.
You have to realize that every player knows what this feels like. It sucks when it happens to you, but I am sure that there has been more than one occasion where you played a move that was not supposed to work but getting away with it with a big smile on your face. And to be honest, it’s not so much that our original move was flawed; but our inability to properly punish a bad play ends up getting us in trouble. The simplest example would be someone accidentally dying in a life and death situation when they were supposed to live. Therefore, the way to combat that is not to lose any edge on the moves that you play, but to put more thought into the possible follow-up moves so that there is nothing to regret at the end of the game.
#2. The fact that their opponent has a higher rank makes them assume that their opponent’s reading is better.
Here’s the thing though, just because your opponent has a higher rank than you doesn’t mean that their reading is that much more miraculous than yours. In fact, stronger players often make overplays that can lead to their utter demise if the correct response is given. On top of that, they often play these kinds of moves in anticipation of you playing a sub-optimal move in response so that they can gain momentum. Unfortunately, we often let them get away with these overplays for fear of getting into a fight with them and losing big.
So when you are playing against stronger players, keep the following in mind:
Play moves that you understand. In other words, you should be have an idea as to how you see the follow-ups playing out. You should never feel pressured to play “higher level moves” since you are playing a stronger player. Sticking with what you understand will allow you to learn from your mistakes and grow instead of being like, “Well that was a move that just looked right.”
Only get into fights that you believe you can win. Do not cut and fight because you don’t know what else to do. Getting cut up into multiple weak groups is precisely what your opponent wants. It’s not that you shouldn’t fight, but you should definitely pick your battles carefully.
Most importantly of all, your opponent is human too. Regardless of how strong your opponent is, they are not perfect and are capable of making mistakes as well. In fact, keeping a cool head and a calm approach could be the edge you need to take them by surprise.
Hope that this advice helps to keep your head on a little straighter the next time you play a stronger opponent. And if there’s anything that you’ve found that helps you when playing against stronger players, please be sure to share!