Chess is more of a psychological battle than a battle on the board, in particular when facing higher or lower rated opponents. If I talk about myself, I much prefer endgames especially against lower rated players and won’t hesitate to go into endgame even with equal pawns or opposite color bishops. This is because I believe that lower rated players tend to be weak in endgames and so far this strategy worked for me the majority of times. Most people adopt a different approach when playing against lower rated players and take more risks compared to how they would play against higher rated players. They will also go for more pieces exchanges against higher rated players. A person who overcomes this mindset is likely to perform better which is why coaches tell their student to play their natural game. Eperience shows, more or less, that this works.
Here is a game of mine against one of my friends, a much higher rated player. We both had full points after 4 rounds so whoever wons would become the champion. We reached to following position after 22 moves and it is Black to move.
The first move came to my mind was …Nd5 (psychology works) and exchange down into a position in which White doesn’t have a clear win but he does have a very active position. As we know each other very well, my opponent was hoping for this because I prefer endgames. But I decided to reject this move.
The second move came to my mind was more ambitious, placing the rook on open file (Rad8), but then I was very worried about the f6 and d6 squares. So finally played …f6! which was a necessary exchange.
22. …f6 23. exf6 Qxf6 24. b4 Rad8 25. Ne4 Qf5 26. Nc5 Rf7 27. Rce1 Nd5 28. Ne6! Re8?!
Much better was …Rd6.
Better was Ng7!, a difficult move to see, and that was the reason Rd6 was much better than Re8.
In this position …Qf6 might be Ok for Black but I choose …Qxe6!. At that time my evaluation was that the rook and knight would hold White’s queen.
30. Rxe6 Rxe6
31. f5 Re3
32. Qg2 g5
And now I realised that my evaluation was incorrect because I can’t generate significant threats with the rook and knight whereas his queen will be much active. Luckily the exchange of rooks was not compulsory and soon we had a repetition of moves and game was ended in a draw.
So basically you can perform better if you can overcome this psychological issue of wanting to exchange pieces against higher rated players. It can be hard to do but seems easy when you actually do it.