Rating and Playing Levels
By Carl Danner

What does it really mean for your rating to be significantly above that of an opponent? Sometimes, it signals that your game is superior in every regard — which should lead to an easy win. In many cases, however, that is a misread of the situation that could make you upset material in the match.

Top players have numerous high-level strengths. They can win matches in several ways. Players with lower ratings may have similar strengths, but just fewer of them. You might get in just as much trouble allowing 2000 or 2300 players to open with their forehands. The 2300 player differs in having more ways to win if you can shut down her forehand attack. The same also holds true as one moves up and down the ratings scale.

Lower-rated opponents naturally try to play to their strengths as matches begin — and some of those may equal your own. The first game or two can start off very tight, or even badly for you. Rather than becoming discouraged or trying risky shots, consider changing things around to force your opponent to rely on other strengths that may be absent. Often you will be pleasantly surprised by finding gaps in your opponent’s game to avoid the upset.