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Basically: I make blunders. The most disgusting, reprehensible, indefensible mistakes that I would've discarded had even one neuron in my brain noticed it before I moved. I know everyone experiences them to a greater frequency than they would prefer. But I can say that they are without a doubt the number one deficiency in my play, and also the number one thing detracting from my enjoyment of the game.

I play mostly online, and am around 1900-2000 on lichess after several on-and-off years of chess. Up until recently I have always played with long time controls (~30 minutes with increment), although I have started experimenting with blitz in an attempt to remedy my tendency to take an unreasonably long time studying certain positions and still making outright blunders; this hasn't helped. Regardless of the time controls, I still always feel myself at an imbalance compared to my opponent because while I may have slightly superior technique that'll allow me to chisel fractions of a pawn of an advantage each move, I am more prone to naked blunders throwing the whole game away in one move (and unless it's blitz, I have little hope of recovering since my opponent can play consistently).

I really don't think this is just in my head. I've tried "slowing down" (even though my calculation/processing style is already very laid back), I've tried "checklisting" for blunders (but the checklisting just becomes a hollow routine that can't even cover all the dynamic ways I can screw up), I've tried just waiting throughout months of playing but I don't feel I'm adapting. I love studying and practicing the more refined aspects of chess, and I feel like I'm capable of it the vast majority of the time, but I'm really only as strong as the weakest link in my performance. Has anybody else that's felt the same as me managed to improve their recurrent blindness?

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    Just out of curiosity: do these horrible blunders occur in almost every game you play, and how many of these gross errors do you make during a typical game? Also, at what stage of the game do they occur most frequently? Is it in the beginning of the game, or later on? If they occur later on in the game, they may be partly due to time pressure and nerves. And lastly, how much do you practice your tactics specifically? All of this could be useful in answering your question, I belive. – Scounged Mar 1 '17 at 16:56
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    @Scourged I went over my post mortem journal of my past 20 long time control games, and in about 11 of them, I made a dumb mistake (i.e. not due to my opponent's cleverness; moves which I should've recognized as bad right away) that entailed the loss of at least a full pawn without compensation, of which 5 were serious (two piece drops, one queen drop, one heavily telegraphed piece-winning pin, and a mate-in-1). Most of them occurred later in the middlegame or endgame (if only because blundering hard in the opening is difficult). I practice tactics casually but often, ~1900 on lichess. – Feryll Mar 1 '17 at 21:56
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I don't know that I have any good answers for your question, but I wanted to comisserate with you. One can learn a new opening variation or master an unfamiliar endgame, but such improvement is only incremental as this new knowledge gets applied only once in a while.

What you are asking for is to improve something that is central to defining your playing strength. If we could all have perfect tactical vision, we would be as strong as computer engines.

I'm also relatively weak in this area, but recently I was able to go from uscf 2200 to 2300+. One thing I tried to do was consider additional candidate moves in my thought process to better avoid tactical blunders, but I didn't find that helped much.

What did help though a bit was me focusing on bringing harmony to my pieces and position with every move. What I mean by this is that I made it a priority to make sure that my pieces protected each other instead of being potentially hanging on a limb unprotected. As GM John Nunn has said, loose pieces drop off. If you have harmony in your position among your pieces, then there are many fewer opportunities to blunder material because even if you miss something the tactics will tend to work out in your favor more often.

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while I may have slightly superior technique that'll allow me to chisel fractions of a pawn of an advantage each move

This is quite telling. I played a game myself where I've had to make a choice between 2 captures; either take a bishop or take a knight. My reasoning might be:

I will take the bishop, because bishops are worth slightly more than knights.

Then I will be mated, as the knight supported a queen-mate.

In these cases, you need to recognise that the game is at a critical point, then calculate the concrete variations as accurately as you can.

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I significantly reduced my blunders by switching to a positional style play and avoiding dynamic lines. I studied openings enough to avoid anything dynamic and force my opponent into positional play.

This had another advantage of putting me into familiar and safe openings, where I could spot my opponents traps quickly.

From a safe position, I could look for common mating patterns without worrying about throwing a piece away in a blunder. I think positional players also tend to frustrate tactical players and improve the odds of capitalizing on an opponents blunder.

  • Isn't this exactly the same answer you posted here: chess.stackexchange.com/a/16888/1108 – user1108 Mar 10 '17 at 16:18
  • Similar conclusion, different answer. – Paul Mar 10 '17 at 16:33
  • OK, I see the difference (hard to tell when I flicked back and forth on the same screen) – user1108 Mar 10 '17 at 16:41
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yeah, tell me about it!

The most helpful thing I was ever told is "Try to remember that every move weakens something" It leaves something (a piece or a square) unguarded, releases a pin, blocks a line for you, opens a line for him, blocks a retreat square, etc., etc. I think it was in a John Nunn book.

The least useful aspect of this is the bit about trying to remember. THAT is the problem.

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