Originally posted by Paul Leggett
This is an excellent point, and very well expressed. I have a chess friend who has always been 100-150 points below me in rating, but he won all 4 of our first games, and I only recently reversed the trend with my first win against him.
At the very least, they do not account for style, ...
Style accounts for a lot, I agree. I have struggled to beat a particular 1400 player here at RHP yet walked all over another 1700 player. I seem to play better against stronger players (have drawn a few 2000+ players in my time); maybe it helps me to rise to the occasion.
Another factor, I think, is that below the master level, players are sometimes unevenly advanced. One 1800 player might be pretty solid at endgames but weak in openings, whereas a 1600 player who happened to catch him off guard in an opening variation might be able to end the game before the other player could bring his endgame technique to bear.
//ratings are valuable in the aggregate, but they can sometimes be problematic in individual cases.// Election predictions are famous for predicting how large blocks of voters will vote (Alaska or Texas), but not at all for how any individual will vote. That's statistics.