HOME --> TIPS --> Preparing for rated matches and tournaments
Playing rated games through one of the Email Chess organizations is exciting! You'll be matched with opponents whose ability is similar to yours, and these games count. Winning isn't everything, but it's nicer to see your rating go up than down.
When you get your match or tournament pairings, don't be in a hurry to send off your first move as White. Assuming you are playing in either IECC or IECG, there is some homework to do.
At the IECC and IECG sites you can look up the ratings of your opponents. You already know their ratings from the pairings information, but on the Website you can see their won-loss-drawn record. That will give you some idea of how many rated games they've played.
But there's more: Both IECC and IECG make available archives of past games. You'll find these archives at their Websites and on the Pitt Chess FTP site (see links elsewhere on this site). I recommend you acquire the last two years' worth of games. If you're just beginning, your opponents probably are as well, and you won't find many games older than that.
Use a database program like Fritz or Chessbase to sort the games. For our purposes we can eliminate games where the players had a rating far above our own. That makes the database easier to handle. Then search for games played by your opponents. From there, your strategy should be obvious.You'll want to run the recent games through Fritz in Infinite Analysis mode, to see what kind of mistakes your opponent makes, and how well s/he picks up on the other player's mistakes. If you have a pet opening, has this opponent ever played it or against it? Does your opponent like to offer draws? Continue to fight long after the game is lost?
If your opponent frequently makes mistakes in endgames, it might be worthwhile to continue from what you think is a drawn or even lost position, assuming you have the right material. If your opponent likes the Sicilian as Black, that may not be your best choice if you' replaying Black, as your opponent probably has a few specialty books on that opening. Is your opponent very tactical and aggressive? Try to keep the position closed as long as possible. That drives aggressive players wild and they usually make crazy attempts to open up the position. If you catch them at it, you can usually win at least an exchange, which can make all the difference.
If nothing else, you'll get a feeling for your opponent's style. Make notes on what you've learned and refer to them as your own games progress. Knowing a little more about your opponent won't win by itself, but it may give you a clue in a certain situation.
Here's another thought:What would your opponents learn about your style and ability from studying your games?