How to avoid making mistakes

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My goal is to make chess the most widely played game in this planet. Although this may be overly ambitious, this is the right estimate looking at the amount of effort and dedication put in this website. This blog is just a by-product from the youthful exuberance of a 16 year old. I hope you will support me in this journey which I have undertaken.

May 12, 2020

Firstly, I would like to address the juxtaposition between my image and title. This article would NOT teach you how to avoid mistakes completely. This is because there are a range of people who are reading this article and some might not notice improvement in their performance. Secondly, you cannot avoid making mistakes in chess. Even top-tier players make mistakes and inaccuracies. So who are we to not make mistakes? As said by Savielly Tartakower, “The mistakes are there on the chess board waiting to be made”. Before you click away for my clickbaity title, this article will teach you how to reduce your mistakes. That can be said and done for all because there is always room for improvement even for top-tier level players. So read ahead.

Over the course of a chess journey, most players have undoubtedly make a big mistake in no matter what level (beginner, intermediate, advanced). From intermediate players who are 1800 to Elite Grandmaster who are 2700 rated, they have all made at least 1 big mistake in their chess games. Today’s blog will be covering the aspects of this problem and the best solution to completely avoiding it with a predetermined strategy.

Starting off we need to understand the main reason behind these type of mistakes. When asked why they make moves like this, intermediate players have a variety of answers, such as:

1. I thought the piece was guarded,
2. I did not see the piece that captured it,
3. I played too fast
4. I did not check to see if it was safe.

Most players would just discard it as a silly move and would continue with their after-game analysis. However, the most beneficial way one can make use of this blunder post-game is by thinking what was going through one’s mind. Was I distracted by anything? Was it because I was under-confident/over-confident? Such questions take into account the psychological aspects and the situational factors in the game. This allows the player who committed the blunder to understand more about himself, an invaluable piece of knowledge that no books or coaches can teach you. However, this is the factor that reduces the chances for committing the big mistake again by about 30% only. The other 70% comes from forming strategies to overcome these specific situations.

Strategy is simply setting the priority of safety over everything else. Yes! It’s that intuitive and simple. Human behaviour and genetics show that we love to attack. It is an action that is built into us. Everyone has their ego and dominance. The realistically sound approach to chess should be different. We should first form a general overview of the top candidates moves should be formed quickly in under 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then we should proceed to check what key squares did we miss? Whether the opponent has a particular tactic? These are all very important questions to ask.

Through this we can eliminate certain candidate moves and then proceed to calculate deep variations of the candidate moves we like. Rinse and repeat and this will very rarely be committed by you in your future games.

Remember ‘safety’ is always your top priority. If you are prone to the big mistake many times, even after calculating whether it is safe and finding the best candidate moves you should have a sanity check before you touch your piece and verify whether it is truly a safe move. This repeated addition will be a lot useful if and only if you utilize this in your chess games.

For the 4 aforementioned reasons given by intermediate players, here is how to rectify them:-

You should practice playing slowly. By playing slowly, you essentially reduce ‘silly mistakes’ happening in your games. Even if you’ve calculated everything, the position should be thought through again and is somewhat similar to the sanity check.

And finally, a bonus tip for all of you. Playing over the board also helps for some situations. This improves your communication with the board and you develops your visualization skills. In a computer, it is much more easier to see all pieces in my experience and there is the loss of the psychological factor. But if you have no other option or you are a chess enthusiast, then just play on the computer. Playing chess is better than doing nothing.

With this I come to end of this article. Good luck on your chess journey.

Yash Mehta

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