01 November 2020

Video completed: "Why You Should Never Underestimate Your Opponent" by Tatev Abrahamyan

"Why You Should Never Underestimate Your Opponent" is the ninth video in the Chess.com series by Tatev Abrahamyan. Keeping full awareness of all of my opponent's resources has been a struggle, so this topic is particularly important for me. It also reinforces the idea of focusing your play on the situation on the board, not making assumptions based on your opponent's rating.

The first example game is FM Anastasia Avramidou - GM Valentina Gunina, from the 2018 Olympiad. White was outrated by around 200 Elo. Black plays a careless move in the opening, with the apparent intent of avoiding a simplifying line, and White in response find a tactical sequence that picks up an unprotected rook. 

The second one is GM Sergey Fedorchuk - GM Andreas Kelires. At the time, Kelires was not yet a GM and White had around a 600 Elo advantage. The opening is a Najdorf Sicilian and follows an aggressive line with opposite-side castling. White trusts his attack too much and ignores how Black can turn the tables, defending his king position while making multiple threats.

The last example is GM Fabiano Caruana - GM Zviad Azoria, from the 2018 U.S. Championship. White had around a 200 Elo advantage and it was a good year for Caruana, so perhaps he felt he could/should win. In this particular case, however, a very equal R+N+pawns endgame was reached. Caruana passes up a chance to wrap up the draw and tries for an unbalanced pawn race position. Instead, he ends up a pawn down in a lost knight ending after the rooks and other pawns are exchanged.

The common thread in all of these is the negative consequence of relaxing your guard and not worrying about what your opponent can do. This is never good practice, even if your rating is higher than your opponent's.

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