10 tips to Beat a Grandmaster (Advice that works!)

A grandmaster is the epitome product of countless hours someone can provide in order to be good at chess. In other words, they are the best of thebest when it comes to the game.

Is there a way to beat someone like that from a not-so-avid player’s perspective? Can you really beat a grandmaster if you are not as active in chess?

There have been many scenarios where this has been the case, an official grandmaster being beaten by someone significantly weaker than them. This is obviously not a guarantee, but it will definitely increase your chances.

It seems impossible, but it’s really not since there are certain tricks you can implement in order to increase the likelihood of you actually winning. I will share some tips here in order to increase your chance of winning.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Grandmaster, Chess master, and why they are hard to beat

This pertains to individuals that have a lot of chess-related background and has won official titles. These are usually very active players that participate in large competitions and perform well while at it.

The grandmaster title is the most privileged title that someone can attain in chess, it is a big deal that requires a lot of skill to acquire. It will be hard to beat someone like this but is definitely not impossible.

If you are playing a grandmaster in a tournament, best expect that they will go all out no matter your level. Given that there isn’t much money in being a regular grandmaster, chess masters need all the wins that they can take. 

Take note that this only refers to people who have official ratings; these are not you regular street players who you may recognize to play well but are not professionals. These people usually have official training and not just experience.

In basic words, these are very hard people to beat, luck is not an option! You need to implement several things in order to increase the probability of success.

Increasing the likelihood of beating a grandmaster

In any field not just exclusive to chess, playing against someone who has a lot of experience is always difficult. Imagine playing one on one against Lebron even as a star of your own college, can you do it and win?

Most probably not! but there are things you can do to increase the likelihood of being able to strike.

These professionals usually let their guard down against rookies, and although may appear a little bit arrogant, is still a weak point that can be taken advantage of! There are many upsets in various tournaments all over the place, this is proof that you can still win against a stronger player!

Being underestimated is the biggest competitive advantage you can have.

Preparation is required when trying to beat a grandmaster

When expecting to play against someone with similar expertise such as this one, prepare for quite a battle. Preparation is the key to not everything, but most things.

Again, I want to remind you that this does not guarantee any victory even if implemented but is just a good realistic approach to increase winning chances. Here are the tips to make a stand against a grandmaster/chess master:

1.) Confidence is the key when trying to beat a grandmaster

This is a very big one and in my opinion and the very first thing that you should tell yourself. You can’t win the game if you don’t even have the capacity to believe in your own abilities in the first place.

“Chess is a war over the board. The object is to crush the opponent’s mind.”

– Bobby Fischer.

Any preparation and strategy you’ll produce will amount to nothing if you chicken out in the end! you need to have the capability to think that it can work even if it doesn’t.

Having the proper moral upon entering the game can give the following:
● Flow- the biggest one, this describes the extreme focus that leads to high performance, which is something you can’t achieve when in doubt.
● Tenacity- ability to take the opportunity when it appears and not letting it pass for even one move.
● Win mentality- the mindset to go for something more than a draw which is very hard to implement against these people.
● Strategic Thinking- the tendency to think of actual solutions than getting sucked into contemplating the competition.

These are all huge steps if you actually want to convert something significant in this game, and just only from changing perspective! I personally have cases where I was able to rise to the challenge just from pure confidence, not even skill.

There’s no reason for you to not apply this on your own terms since it is the first yet most important part.

2.) Look at your own games so you can beat the grandmaster

This is something most beginners tend to skip upon when trying to improve their skills in general, you need to learn from your own mistakes!

It’s easy to want that new game without taking the time to go deeper into why you lose the last one, but there’s a problem with that.

Analyzing one’s recorded games can grant the following perks:
● Experience- The essence of learning! It essentially tells you what works and not, which is something you cannot know if you don’t understand what it is in the first place.
● Awareness- being able to identify your own strength and weaknesses and working on them is only possible once you’ve looked at mistakes of the past.
● Puzzle Solving- looking for moves after the fact is especially important since you have the access to the psychology of the player, you.
● Repertoire- helps to remember that trap or ending that caused a loss, therefore better serving as a reminder.

Failing to even try will deprive you as a player of all this learning opportunity to actually grow, and if you want to defeat a grandmaster you need every power that you can have.

“You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player.”

– José Raúl Capablanca

So analyze to your heart’s content! You may find something worth improving while doing so.

3.) Analyze the grandmaster you are going to be playing against

In order to prepare for the competition appropriately, you need to actually know the opposition. By that, I mean their style of play! All chess players have signatures that may look similar but are actually unique to each other therefore warranting a different approach.

Look at their previous games! If this is a grandmaster then their journey should be well documented publicly.

It brings the following advantages:
● Competitive awareness- identifying their own strength and weakness allows more insight on how to tackle them on your own.
● Transparency- Gives an idea about the opponent’s previous losses which can give a hint on how to defeat them.
● Builds confidence- uncertainty about the opponent’s real strength will make them appear scarier than they actually are, therefore observing them helps in relieving the pressure.

The biggest of the three I say would be learning of their cause of losses which may help to convert a win. I’m not saying that there is no possibility where the expert wouldn’t have patched those weaknesses, but do you really have a better choice?

Trying to challenge them in their proven weaknesses is actually a decent idea.

4.) Explore uncharted territories so you can beat a grandmaster

For the choice of openings, something that is less theoretical and more thinking-oriented is always to your benefit. Trying to outplay these people who spend almost all their life polishing their opening finesse day after day is not a very happy approach to go with.

Instead, something that is less analyzed and more opportunity-centric that forces them to think of moves is to your favor since well, it’s hard to beat an opening preparation.

Playing something that is less analyzed gives the following edge.
● Unpredictability- gives the opponent a lesser view of your own responses, therefore, increasing the likelihood of giving a surprise.
● Less memorization- the game turns into something that is decided by skill, not memory where mistakes are likely to happen.
● Complication- most unrealized lines branched of several positions of uncertainty, therefore make it more unlikely to have the opponent can make sense of everything.

Uncertainty is your friend in this battle! you just can’t beat a grandmaster in games of memorization. The best chances lie in situations where both of you have no idea which direction the game is heading.

“Up to this point, White has been following well-known analysis. But now he makes a fatal error: he begins to use his own head.”

– Siegbert Tarrasch

5.) Focus on opening depth over width so you can beat the grandmaster

Another common mistake most people make in this regard would be trying to figure out as many openings as possible in a short time, hoping to anticipate the grandmaster’s moveset. Again, it is highly unlikely for you to beat the player in this aspect!

Instead of scattering your efforts in a wide variety of lines that may end up being useless, focusing deeply into one makes more sense since every game only hosts one opening.

There are just things that width cannot provide the same way depth can, such includes:
● Mastery- by gathering all your attention in a few openings, deeper analysis can be performed that would likely lead to the best result.
● Time- it’s just easier to study one opening extensively then multiples at the same time, which requires lesser time than the latter.
● Likelihood- preparing with few opening lines for standard moves made by black and white should be enough to play over the board, studying too many things at once is not necessary.

Of course, it’s still a surprise if you manage to catch a grandmaster off guard since they are a master of openings. But just focusing on the depth should allow you to have decent fighting chances that would not cause a losing game in a short period of time.

Plus, what do you know? the person in question may not know what you’ve prepared after all (which is possible with deep analysis).

6.) Play the tactical approach so you can beat the grandmaster

Few of you might not know this, but a lot of grandmasters are not always in tune with tactical possibilities. Although they would still be equipped with the necessary skill to play tactically, most of them however does not use this style of play.

“A win by an unsound combination, however showy, fills me with artistic horror”

(Wilhelm Steinitz)

Tactics are basically risky plays that involve a certain positional or material sacrifice in order to gain an initiative.

Here are the reasons why playing tactically, in this case, gives you an edge:
● Criticality- missing a tactical shot usually translates to something significant if not a defeat, which is more relevant to the outcome than a slow maneuvering decision.
● Less Visibility- this kind of approach place both players in a position where it’s hard to find the correct move, which is exactly what you need to balance the playing field.
● Style- most chess masters are used to long theoretical struggles where games are decided by being up a pawn, tactics might just be what you need to throw them off.

Of course, this doesn’t mean to say that grandmasters are just bad at tactics altogether, in fact, some still study it every day.

But since it’s harder to spot than simply improving the position, for example, this makes everyone prone to mistakes and that includes grandmasters. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s your best shot to actually come on top over this seasoned professional.

7.) Opt for complications when trying to beat a grandmaster

Most beginners when pitted against stronger opponents take the safe way out of going for draws which is a big mistake! Giving a risk-free game to a professional such as a grandmaster where the stronger one will in the end going to win is in their interest.

“It is my style to take my opponent and myself on to unknown grounds. A game of chess is not an examination of knowledge; it is a battle of nerves.”

– David Bronstein

You’ve got to make them think as much as possible, which can be accomplished by presenting a complicated position where there are too many things to consider.

Here are the reasons why you might like that:
● Less memorization- complications over the board are usually what belongs to the “unexplored” category, making it less likely for the opening expert to have some familiarity.
● Hard to calculate- messy positions tend to confuse players since there are usually more options and grandmasters are no exception.
● Better than the alternative- going for a boring and tedious approach of trading pieces likely won’t get you anywhere since the stronger player will always find the way; complications give opportunities for the grandmaster to miss something and give up a win.

I define complications as positions where the theme is not clear, both players would like to have more than one move per turn since there are so many things to be done. Making things messy is a good shot to distract your opponent from the actual winning moves.

8.) Have a gorilla-like aggressiveness against a grandmaster

This is a follow-up to the previous point of basically creating madness all over the place. That is something that you cannot accomplish without the mindset to go for the offensive! Be like a gorilla, hungry with a puffed chest ready for the fight.

Don’t be afraid to take risks! Sacrifice if it seems reasonable to you; a normal approach wouldn’t usually work on these types of opponents since they are just the better player.

“I used to attack because it was the only thing I knew. Now I attack because I know it works best.”

– Garry Kasparov

Attack like there’s no tomorrow! Even if you have to burn down in flames at least you get to enjoy the deed, it becomes memorable and something you would be proud to share.

9.) Be fast on the clock against a grandmaster

If you can’t win using the actual strategy that can be performed over the board, the power of the clock may just be what you need! If all else fails, being able to outplay the opponent in terms of time can turn out to be a decent idea.

Don’t get me wrong, these professionals are likely to be capable of handling time pressure when it’s necessary, but some of them can really overthink things through! Here are the reasons why you should practice playing fast:

  1. Mistakes on time- games that are played on faster formats are often less accurate than longer ones, therefore suggesting that mistakes happen when people play fast.
  2. Throwing off- some grandmasters would prefer making moves quickly in hopes of throwing you off, entering their hand by taking your time is a bad place to fall into.
  3. Overthinking- Believe it or not, people who are more knowledgeable about something tend to overthink more than the one who doesn’t, which is another advantage to you.
  4. Flagging- it’s important to remember that checkmates are not the only way to win in chess, if you can’t beat them on the board, beat them on the clock!

Now it’s important to consider the context, is this something that’s going to be played 15 minutes or above or not? Playing fast in such may not be as effective in contrast to a blitz game (although it helps).

It’s still a question of whether mastering time can lead to better results, one thing is for sure, however, that you’d still need every playing advantage available if you’re planning to win!

10.) Brush your endgame when trying to beat a grandmaster

A big one, most people deliberately pursue their first few moves preparing against a grandmaster, and although it may help in some way, most likely than not you’d still get to play the endgame.

It would be a shame when your acquired advantage could be thrown away by just having a bad endgame technique!

“After a bad opening, there is hope for the middle game. After a bad middle game, there is hope for the endgame. But once you are in the endgame, the moment of truth has arrived.”

-Edmar Mednis

Remember, you are not trying to outplay the player through endgames since it’s likely that they are more equipped in handling such phases.

But you should at least be capable of converting known theoretical endgame wins as much as possible since this would directly lead to a win when it’s possible to do so. You need every power to lay a smackdown!

Final thoughts

Facing someone who has a better experience, skill, and studying time in any field is definitely challenging.

But this is a hurdle that all people would need to overcome at some point, even these grandmasters have to defeat a grandmaster back when they are not one themselves.

But they pushed through and won! There shouldn’t be any reason for you to not do the same. Sleep well and play chess.