Losing a game of chess is one thing, but losing a rematch feels sourer since the outcome could have been prevented by good preparation.
It is not possible to absolutely win every rematch (just like any other regular match) but there are ways to condition oneself and make them likely to win, and that’s what I’m going to talk about.
I’m going to share personal tips and tricks that would help any player properly prepare a rematch in chess.
To win in a chess rematch a player should prepare an opening modified from mistakes of the previous match, identify the weaknesses of their opponent, condition themselves psychologically, avoid rushing, avoid being passive, and imitate the things that they’ve done correctly from the previous encounter.
There are some differences in formulating a plan against someone a player has already dealt with and not, and I will make it clear here. These are some things that I myself implement when I have to face such a game.
Is the opening preparation important for winning a rematch in chess?
Opening preparation is an important component of winning a rematch in chess since it is one of the things that are predictable, one should look at the opening mistakes of the previous match and look for improvements on it.
A preparation in the opening is extremely important in a rematch, you need to analyze what has gone wrong in the past and improve it.
It is perhaps the single phase of chess that is completely controllable, it is unlike the middlegame and endgame that cannot be planned on the way.
At least not unless you are a professional, most people can prepare their opening theories rather than desired middlegame and endgame.
You should identify what disadvantages or advantages that you have made in the previous match and why you made them, then try to improve some things here in there.
If you have won the initial game previously then it is a good practice to play the same opening with little improvements, since it has already worked in the past.
Now, your opponent is likely to have studied the same line but there must be something in it that has made you come out on top (plus you will analyze the opening yourself anyway).
If you have lost the previous encounter then it is reasonable to avoid playing in the same line, identify what made you uncomfortable which will be the basis for opening choice.
Try something different, something that has a different positional theme than the one that is executed in the game you lost, it will make things easier.
Should you study your opponent in a (chess) rematch to win it?
One should study the opponent’s weaknesses if they are hoping to do well in a chess rematch.
Some of the things they can look for are the style of the opponent, how they deal with time pressure, and the positions they are uncomfortable with in order to devise the appropriate battle plan.
Learn your opponent, study their expertise, style of play, and the previous tournament results in order to form the right preparation.
Granted, not a lot of people are willing to put in this much investment if they are not serious about winning, but it will just give you the necessary data to devise the appropriate strategy.
If they are not very good at complications then you can choose a more aggressive approach, if they are not good at slow positional chess then that might be the best option for you.
If this is an opponent in a serious competition (tournaments) then it warrants a study that wouldn’t even take that much time (you can just go to a database).
Once you have learned a certain quirk in their style of play you should exploit it as much as you can, or maybe even prepare a specific opening just for them.
Sometimes beating someone in present over-the-board chess is not the only option, you can beat them in preparation even before the match starts (it is a good strategy).
See if the opponent is good at managing their time
Evaluate how your opponent responds to specific time controls, there might be a quirk in their time management that you can use to pressure them.
Perhaps they are too elaborate in deciding moves that it caused them a lot of time to do so, you can move quickly while playing safe to take advantage of this.
Or it could be the opposite, they may have a tendency to rush decisions in order to make you run out of time, both have weaknesses.
In this case, you still need to manage your time, but you should also avoid simplifications while finding tactical shots here and there that would force them to think (or if not) make a mistake.
You need to devise a battle plan that takes advantage of their weakness (in regards to time) the most, whether it is going straight for the endgame, complication, or a quiet game.
It is generally better to adopt silent positions where nothing crazy happens if someone takes their time in every move since they will be making not-so-important decisions.
On the other hand it is better to prefer a somewhat complicated position against someone who is rushing, since it gives an opportunity for mistakes that you could take advantage of.
How to win the (chess) rematch if you have won previously?
If one has won the previous match, the player should look for the reasons for victory from the game (such as time pressure, better endgame, and better opening) and try to imitate such in order to get the same result.
If you have won in the previous match consider what are the reasons that led to that result, and try to imitate those conditions to achieve the same outcome.
This time of self-reflection will allow you to identify your strengths and prioritize them for improvements, especially against this specific person.
Your opponent for example might not necessarily be bad in endgames when they are defeated in an endgame, perhaps you were just more equipped to handle that particular phase.
In such a situation it is okay to just work further in your endgame capability and try to force exchanges in the actual game since we already know that you at least are capable of beating them at it.
See your strengths and further amplify them, it is a good strategy considering that we already know the opponent in the rematch is at least on your level with the initial victory.
Do you need psychological conditioning to win a rematch in chess?
A rematch in chess can be a psychological pressure if one has lost previously, which is why psychological conditioning is important.
Some of the ways to alleviate the burden are winning other easy games, analyzing the player’s winning games, or studying well before the rematch.
This is the primary reason why strong players lose repeatedly against weaker opponents that they have lost before, which is psychological pressure.
In a rematch you need to have the right composure, depending on the result of the previous match there will be psychological factors in play.
If you have lost in the previous game it is likely that the stigma will carry into the next game, where you can approve decisions you are unlikely to execute otherwise.
Sometimes this can be categorized as feeling something is off, there is a mental pressure that makes you believe that a win is very hard to achieve.
If you have won on the other hand there is a probability of suffering from overconfidence, that you are likely to win by just playing decently (even if the last one is close).
This may lead you to underestimate the opponent in a rematch and open up some weaknesses, weaknesses that can be taken advantage of pretty easily.
This is why in either case a psychological conditioning is necessary to maintain the appropriate mindset, something that can assure you will be playing in the top condition.
You want to enter the rematch with a realistic expectation of the difficulty not underestimating the opponent nor overestimating the chances of success.
Taking a break for example is one of the more popular ways to do it, as well as playing games with other players to get a reality check of your own personal abilities.
What should be your attitude when dealing with a rematch in chess?
One should avoid the common pitfalls most players in a rematch fall into in order to do well, which includes rushing to get the result faster, playing passively to avoid a loss, or playing too aggressively, a player should do the opposite in order to win.
Most people who enter a rematch do not even care about the intricacies of the game at hand, they just want to win the next one without much thought.
Do not rush, when people take a rematch they usually think faster with less accuracy in order to avoid the results of the previous encounter.
In blitz for example I have taken many rematches where my opponent interestingly behaves like they were in a bullet time format, which is very harmful.
They were playing so fast that it is impossible to see the correct moves available, the video below references how fast bullet games can be (1-minute time format):
This is definitely too fast to be able to win in a simple 5 minutes blitz game, I won a lot of games by playing against a rematch like this.
Do not be too passive in chess rematches
Despite the results of the initial game it is important not to never play passive in a rematch, this is a trap that a lot of people fall into. Especially if they have emerged victorious from the initial match, they are likely to play it safe and remain passive.
As you can imagine this is not the way to play chess, passive moves will eventually be taken advantage of by a decent initiative.
Instead I want you to behave that the previous match never occurred, that you have prepared but not changed your playing style by being too active nor too passive.
Take advantage of the people’s impatience in a rematch
In a rematch it is occasionally better to make the game as long as possible, it is after all quite boring to play against the same opponent each time making someone take less caution subconsciously.
When you make something lengthy without taking a lot of complications (but not being too passive) it will annoy the opponent forcing them to react.
These reactions usually make them submit positional advantages in order to make something happen, being impatient in other words.
This is a good opportunity to debunk surface-level ideas where you don’t even need to create something on your own, it is a good strategy.
Do you now know how to win a rematch in chess?
Winning a rematch definitely gives more pressure than by playing against someone new, no one would want to lose twice in a row.
And if you somehow managed to win the previous one there is a false sense of confidence, this can be a weakness that should be eliminated.
Most people won’t have to worry about winning a rematch since playing in tournaments requires you to compete against different people, but for casual sake, you might want it.
Perhaps it is again someone you find hard to beat, these tips can help a player overcome their struggles in a rematch.
Do not worry as I have personally tested everything that I had suggested and it has worked for me, I hope it will work for you too (better test it to find out), sleep well and play chess.