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I have been in a situation where I have not been paying attention and suddenly I move my queen to an unprotected square and it is taken. My initial thought is:

Oh $*%! :)

But if the blunder is mediocre or not devastating, how does one get into the mindset of remaining optimistic and still playing for the win? I have lost my queen before and still went on to win, but this is mainly due to the fact that my opponent does not know how to take advantage of the opportunity.

Many players who make a blunder, obviously depending on how big it is, might just give up in the game when they actually still have a chance to win or at least draw.

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@NikanaReklawyks - That question is particular to not blundering the queen. This question is more broad, but has more to do with after you have made a blunder, how do you remain optimistic instead of just throwing the game away? –  xaisoft Dec 6 '12 at 16:56
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The question is, but some answers, especially the better one, would be a perfect fit here. –  Nikana Reklawyks Dec 6 '12 at 17:14
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After your opponent takes your queen, give a little half smile and immediately make the first move that comes to mind, banging the piece down with authority. Your opponent will run out the clock looking for the line that you so obviously foresaw. –  Pete Becker Mar 12 at 21:24
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5 Answers

up vote 16 down vote accepted

After you blunder, it's incredibly common to blunder a second time over the next few moves. The most important thing you can do is to avoid this second blunder.

In order to do that, you should take a few deep breaths and even get up and walk around. Although it's nice if your opponent doesn't know that you blundered (i.e. your "blunder" could be part of a deep plan so far as your opponent knows...), it's far more important to remain calm and stay focused on the game.

After this initial "cool down", now it's time to re-evaluate the game. First, are you hopelessly lost at this point, or is the position still unclear? Perhaps you gave away your winning advantage, but you are still equal. If you are not lost, it is crucial that you maintain your focus and play accurately - you still have a chance to win or draw.

On the other hand, if your blunder was so egregious that your game is hopeless now, it's time to start thinking about "tricks". For example, if you hung a pawn or two for nothing, it's time to attack with abandon. If you can checkmate your opponent, it doesn't matter that you're losing an endgame. If you hung an entire piece, keep all other material on the board and maintain tension in the position. The goal here is to try to win tactically (win material back from your opponent or go for an attack). Another common theme is to introduce time pressure into the game. Either play tricky moves and force your opponent to get low on time, or let your own clock tick down to a minute or two and pray that your opponent blunders in your time pressure.

As a final note, when you are behind in a chess game, it's almost always good to trade pawns, but not pieces. The rationale is that in an endgame, each pawn is a potential queen for your opponent, while on the other hand, pawnless endgames with an extra piece are notoriously difficult to convert to a win.

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An interesting point about pawns, +1 –  Travis J Jan 5 '13 at 8:01
    
Is it common for your opponent to blunder in your time pressure? I hadn't heard of this and it strikes me a bit funny. I'd like to think it is something I wouldn't do, but I'd like to think I wouldn't blunder in any circumstance--- which is plainly false. –  Dennis Jan 6 '13 at 3:37
    
@Dennis, good question, it actually happens a lot more than you would think. Once you have to start moving very quickly, your opponent will often fall into the trap of also blitzing out moves to try and get you to flag. –  Andrew Jan 6 '13 at 16:08
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"Let the one who hasn't blundered a major piece throw the first rock!" Who among us is impervious to this?

Again, there is no definitive answer to this question, just a list of things we could do to cope.

  1. First, Go Easy On Yourself. Don't make it worse by mentally kicking yourself incessantly. I often try to apply the Dennis Prager "Flat Tire quota" in life. We are all going to have a certain number of 'flats' at really bad times, but that is life, and especially an amateur chess player's rite of passage.

  2. The game is probably lost, but don't let your opponent capitalize on it psychologically, just keep playing at least for a bit. The loss of a piece might actually allow for unexpected moves to throw the opponent off. Try to salvage as best as you can.

  3. What can you take-away? Can you add something to your mental checklist to minimize (not eliminate) your future blunders?

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+1 go easy on yourself. Beating yourself up over mistakes can make you passive which is far worse than blundering occasionally. –  Tony Ennis Dec 18 '12 at 2:43
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You just can hope your opponent makes a mistake too or finding an awesome move to re-gain some advantage. If you do, draw is possible at least. Moreover, more concentration will help you in this case.

In other case, your opponent has many chances to win.

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What you point above does in fact happen many times, but one thing I have seen is that beginners often see losing an unprotected Knight and Queen as equal which Obviously means that they are not aware of the value of the pieces. –  xaisoft Dec 6 '12 at 16:58
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I have had a situation similar to this plenty of times when I was learning. Once, during a tournament, I was having a bad day and was almost giving my pieces away, for free! And then, I spotted the golden opportunity.

If I could trick my opponent into taking my queen with his "for free", I could then forcibly mate him in 4 moves. Given how I had been playing, sacrificing another piece "for nothing" wasn't that suspicious. My opponent took the bait and I won the game with about 14 points in pieces down.

Beyond mind games, though, I don't really have an answer for you.

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A good example of the benefits of keeping a cool head. –  Tony Ennis Dec 18 '12 at 2:44
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If the blunder has been noticed by the opponent and the opponent captures e.g. the lost pawn, do the following. Make a fresh evaluation of the position on the board. What plan can you have in the new position. What is the opponent's plan and how can you counter this. What are your best options during the next moves. Then, make a plan and execute it on the board.

Many opponents relax after getting a material advantage. They think that the game is in their pocket and they can slide their way to victory. You should put your both feet down and start working hard. Put up a fight. Start looking for what traps you can create. Perhaps "blunder" another pawn and then launch an attack on the king. The more and better you resist, the more frustrated the opponent will become. What is this? The opponent might think. Why doesn't the opponent just roll over and lose? Their fighting spirit has taken a break. You can use it to your advantage.

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