Mistakes in Chess
The Mistake in Chess Errare humanum est!
The mistake is an important attribute of the chess game, generally speaking, no less important than a brilliant combinational idea or a profound strategic plan. In fact, the mistake creates the favorable conditions for opponent’s “hidden” resources. The game of chess will last as long as the mistakes. There are two kinds of mistakes: of Fist Grade and of Second Grade. The First Grade Mistakes are the elementary mistakes as blunders, oversights and so on. The Second Grade Mistakes are not noted by every chess player and they can take many different forms. This kind of mistakes can be revealed even many years after the game was played. Just think at the continuous change of the opening theory when the evaluation of a variation might change after every game at top-level. While the elementary mistakes are clear bad moves, the Second Grade Mistakes are part of the beauty of chess, a game where separation in white and black is not possible. Although subject to error, experiments in different opening system, explorations for new plans, for different ways to win or draw a game made and still make chess more and more beautiful, rich, and complex. We will now investigate the source of the First Grade Mistakes which are tightly connected with the player’s thinking process and psychology. Understanding the reasons for mistakes is the first step we need to do to eliminate them from our play.
1. Impulsive thinking Impulsivity in thinking or impatience is a widespread habit, characterized by lack of a unitary strategical thinking or by a “move-by-move” play. This bad habit is characteristic especially to the un-experimented players who cannot hold down their temperamental behavior during the game, especially when they think the victory is coming. Because they want to finish the game quicker, their understanding of the position becomes unclear and their tenacity starts to diminish during longer struggles than expected. The impulsive play can have its source not only in the player’s temperament but also in his/her knowledge about the position on the board. If the player doesn’t understand the position they are playing, then they move guided only by the impulse, taking imprudent decisions. This leads to lack of harmony in thinking. More or less fortunate, every player will lose his impulsive thinking in time. Unhappy experiences will make the most impulsive player to become more and more wise and cautious with his play. The correction of this behavior might not work in the case of
“coffee chess” play when the players of this type go for easy games, simple speculations, and they do not work to really improve their chess. Close to the impulsive thinking, there is a great quality that few chess players have: flexibility. If the impulsive player takes radical decisions without a good and logical fundament, a player with a flexible thinking has the capacity to quickly change a plan of play, to adapt to the new situations on the chess board, and to take unbiased decisions. This latter player doesn’t take “blind” decisions, but he is able to react quickly in the spirit of position. There is a series of cases, especially in very complicated position, when it is hard to say that a player took impulsive decisions or listened his intuition – the only that could work in that particular position. Advise: Of course, blitz games are the worst thing the players with an impulsive thinking can do. In classic chess, after you have decided about your move, you don’t play it yet. First, write it down on the scoresheet and then inspect the position again for 1-2 minutes.
2. Under-estimating opponent’s threats Probably any player “knows” that he usually creates more threats than his opponent... Of course, this is not so. The threats created by the opponent (including strategical ideas, not only the simple tactical threats) are often not observed in time. The student must start to learn to find and evaluate the threats created by the opponent. After every opponent’s move, the first question should be “which are the threats of his move?” and, of course, “which are the consequences of his move?” (see first month lessons) – without these questions, the progress is not possible. Many players have a good “tactical vision” and conduct very well complicated games but, all of a sudden during the game, they do grave mistakes. How many of you are not part of this category? These mistakes are nothing else than a poor evaluation of opponent’s threats. We cannot insist enough about the following method of thinking: after every of your opponent’s moves, a good player has to answer to: 1.which are his threats (then, evaluate which are real and which are not) and 2.which are the consequences of his move? All these refer not only to tactical motifs but also to strategical ones. Advise: for the players who face big problems to see opponent’s threats or his candidate moves (see “calculation in chess” – Month 3), they should perform a special hometraining from time to time: a) when you solve harder tactical exercises, you should turn the board and try to find the best moves for the opponent too; b) when you rehearse your opening repertoire, do this by looking at the board from the other side (from time to time);
c) find a partner of training (of the about same value with you) and play particular complicated positions with both sides (a game with the white pieces, then a game with the black pieces and so). Note: A training game may not start always from the initial position. You can set positions characteristic of your opening systems, complicate positions or even endgames.
3. Losing the thread of the game, inflexible thinking Nowadays, chess becomes more and more dynamic. Strong players prefer opening systems with a dynamic pawn structure where the normal course of the game can be easily changed. Also, the defense is more and more solid and often combined with dangerous counterplay easily changing the roles of attacker and defender. Minimal positional advantages rarely can be transformed in a victory and players have to evaluate their chances very realistically. Therefore, concrete thinking, objectiveness in evaluation, sense of danger, and the ability to quickly change from a type of position to another become not qualities but requirements of the modern chess master. The mistakes generated by this can be corrected only in time, by a solid program of study where the critical analysis of our own games plays a vital role.
4. Deficiencies in calculation This thematic is very important and it was discussed in the lesson “calculation in chess” (Month 3). However, we will add some extra observations in connection with the “mistake” generated by wrong calculation of variation: 4.1. A big source of errors is given by the remanent mental picture from a preceding position. Our recommendation was to try to carry out from a move to another some of already calculated lines. During a practical game, it’s no time to assess the position after every move and redo the entire analysis tree. So, the thoughts you had with a move before should be carried out, of course, taking into account the changes (consequences) of the previous moves. As this should work in most of the cases, there are situations when a move can change everything you calculated before that move. So, a remanent mental picture (either you want it or not) can harm your calculation process. 4.2. In contrast with the remanent mental picture, another source of errors is the anticipated position. When the player think too much only around an anticipated position (one or more moves ahead), he may forget that the current position on the board is different and that it could hide other resources or possibilities for the opponent. In this case, the attention can be altered.
4.3. Unfixing the intermediary positions in mind when calculating ahead is another source of errors and it is often incorrectly associated with a weak capability to see in advance. Many players think that they are not able to correctly see the positions after some more moves ahead. In fact, at least half of them have another problem: impulsive thinking. Many students do the following psychological mistake: they try to prove their selves that they are able to calculate quickly. However, this ability will develop only in time and not over-night. So, the student is advised to keep a strict discipline when calculating branchy lines ahead. Advise: To improve your calculation ability, your home-training should include special sessions when you should try to imitate the conditions from practical games. Analyze complicate positions (not only simple tactical exercises - combinations) without moving the pieces and try to determine all the essential candidate moves and lines as precisely and quickly as you can. See also “calculation in chess”.
5. Playing after patterns Learning chess strategy and the positional methods is a requirement for anyone who wants to progress. There is an enormous volume of knowledge (as plans in typical positions, opening theory, endgame theory and so on) that can greatly help the chess player during his games. However, playing after these general patterns without a deep analysis and without calculation of variations in the concrete position, the player has no chance to improve! The chess player has to learn to think, analyze and to calculate if he wants to achieve good performance. Otherwise, the player’s thinking remains mechanical and without inner enthusiasm. Even a move that strictly follows “general rules” can be a mistake. Advise: A vast chess culture is not enough to bring you at the top of your possibilities. You need to harmoniously combine your knowledge with the concrete analysis and calculation of variations. Any move after patterns that you do not understand should be avoided. While you may try to find analogies (if you posses a high volume of knowledge), you should pay attention to the particularities of your position.
6. Concentration and exhaustion A game of chess usually requires an exceptional accuracy from the first to the last move. It is said that many good moves are necessary to win a game, but only a bad move is enough to lose it. Among all the qualities of a chess player, the attention has a huge importance. The mistakes are generated by a weakness in concentration at a given moment.
For example, in this position between one of our trainers (!) against a weak chess amateur, White is clearly winning. Instead of resigning the game, the amateur went to the bar, came back with a good coffee and indifferently played: 1...Nd7 defending the mate from g7. Of course, this position can be won is many ways (2.Qd6, 2.Qxb4, 2.Qe7 etc.) but White quickly played the virtuous: 2.Bxh6 with the idea: 2…gxh6 3.Qe7+ or 2...Kxh6 3.Qxg8. However, after 2…Nxf8, the game was over …in Black’s favor who enjoyed his coffee even more.
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Black is to move The reason of this mistake is clear: the master clearly outplayed the amateur and, in his mind, the game was over and his mind took a break. Such blunders are not rare even in decisive games between the strongest players in the World. Even the former chess champion Tigran Petrosian, well known for his high accuracy, forgot his queen in a game against Bronstein. The errors are usually not the result of negligence. The blunders or other type of grave mistakes are the result of a high degree of tension to which the human mind reacts making use of an important defensive function: resting. Overtraining and fatigue are the two most important factors which lead to this result. The chess player has to be in a good physical condition (“Mens sana in corpore sano”) and, in addition, should try to discover and fight against his own weaknesses in thinking and behavior during the practical games. Overtraining can do a lot of harm to the chess player as to in any other sport. It may be identified as it can result in: - some indifference about the result of the game; - loss of interest about the progress and development; - loss of originality during the game. The overtraining can be installed because of a too intense home-training, because of too many games (even blitz games) or even during a single but long game. In the latter case, during the chess game, the player should be careful with the time spent at every move. Read “calculation in chess” (Month 3). In the first case, of home-preparation, every individual should know his own limits and the training should be planned such way to increase the knowledge while also to create a joy and desire for future real chess confrontation. The continuous preparation is a requirement for success, but everything should be done in reasonable limits.