In my head this started out as a question about good strategies vs guys with the same strengths. I feel like I have a good handle on playing to my strengths and I obviously know a lot of the strengths and weaknesses in my training partners. The only place I regularly have trouble is matching up with guys that have the same/similar strengths and weaknesses that I do. For example good arm drags and good guard sweeps with a general preference for guard.
The more I think about this and the difference between training and competition the more I wonder if the right question isn't how do I make my training strategy more like my competition strategy without being an asshole. Let me splain. In competition I am very agressive and seek to end the match NOT win on points or run the clock. My general thought process is "In single elimination i have to win to move on and when I win I'd rather be fresh for the next fight."
This is not how I train. I train like I'm in the lab and I concentrate on fun and play and working on specific things that I haven't been doing well lately or we recently learned and I liked. This leads me to leaning on my strengths when I get in a bad spot. I think that is why it feels like I have more trouble with guys who have the same game. By the time I apply what I'm good at I'm already in a bad spot and my opponent knows what they would do from there.
Hmm reading this over its hard to find a question.
1) Do you /should you use the same strategy int he gymas at tournament.
2) Do you also have trouble with guys who share your strengths?
3) Can you use your tournament strategies without feel ing like a jerk?
Most of the time I treat the gym like a lab as well. Working X-guard or DLR or crazy Rubber Guard stuff, or playing with whatever new thing I saw on youtube in amongst drilling my "A" game, but when a competition is close, generally 15 or so class sessions away I switch it up and start playing my competition game. Everyone knows that's what I'm doing, so no one feels like i'm being a jerk, but it means I use about the same 5 moves against everyone constantly for 3-4 weeks.
I think constantly training like you are about to compete is detrimental to your progress, but you have to hone your best tools before you use them for real.
If you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, then you already have a blueprint to reverse engineer ways to beat yourself and the opponents who fight the same as you do. List out the ways people shutdown your game (or research it online, in DVD, etc.) and drill and practice those.
One way to avoid being a dick in class by going hard or being too competitive is to put in extra drilling and positional/isolation sparring. Find a good training partner who understands what you are working on and is willing to do "boring" drills (boring if you only want to spar.)
For example, pick out a way of dealing with armdrags from butterfly guard. Put in enough static reps (speeding it up once you understand it since it's likely based on good timing), then setup a drill where your partner is a butterfly-and-armdrag zombie where their prime objective to armdrag you and make you deal with that specific problem. Then you can increase the number of moves he is allowed to do, go harder, etc. on a sliding scale until you are just sparring like normal at the end.
Check out: http://www.aesopian.com/66/5-1-stages-of-resistance/
You probably already do stuff like that in your training since it's natural for any good gym or teacher to do that but it's a good reminder.
If you don't have time to put in extra training like this then you can try evaluating each training partner by what level of competitiveness you can do with them. White belts, kind old men blue belts, small lawyer/doctor purple belts--do your fun stuff. Go-100% white belts, blue belts tournament grinders, former wrestler purple belts--go harder, play your A and B games. You're experienced enough to tell with each training partner.
When you train with partners you see on a daily basis, you begin to learn their game and also can predict how aggressive the partner gets and how he reacts emotionally/strategically during scrambles, tough positions etc. At a tournament, you don't have this luxury of knowing how your opponent is and there is added pressure to perform efficiently, as apposed to the "lab" where making mistakes is OK.
One way to do it is to make your opponent aware that your going to be bringing your A-game and ask for him to give you his A-game in return but to be careful during submission attempts and to be smarter (injury cautious) during escapes. I like to Imagine that I don't know my opponent and how he moves and picture myself on the tournament mat. At times, I convince my self that I'm 2 points down at a tournament. This always adds pressure to my game during a tournament and it brings out your A+ game.
Another option is to respectfully attend class at another school. You'll find partners your own rank will usually "turn it up" unless they say something like "oh crud I suck go easy please".