At one point, I reached a Rook and pawn endgame in the Chicago Open. Winning this game would have landed me in the money. I ended up with a rook and connected a- and b- pawns, while my opponent had a rook and a c-pawn. I was able to push my opponent's king back to the eighth rank, but due to time trouble I actually lost both pawns (lol what). Now my opponent had a c-pawn on the 3rd rank, so he needed five more pawn moves to promote.

I lost this endgame. But I'm reading the Secrets of Rook Endings by John Nunn where he discusses this ending in deliberate detail, so I could have definitely drawn. I haven't gone over a single game from the tournament, because the ones that I lost were all due to silly mistakes; all of my games were won (with opponents LITERALLY begging for draws) and somehow I lost over half of them - mainly due to time trouble, but they shouldn't have been lost regardless.

I can review that rook and pawn ending game if I wanted to and see which moves I made a mistake, but I'm simply too embarrassed. How can I get over losing won games?

  • 2
    Don't you just have too high expectations?
    – hoacin
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 8:29
  • On a related note, Secrets of Rook Endings is too advanced for a 1400 player. You should be taking a less theoretical approach to endgames, play alot more, study less, and get more experience.
    – Priyome
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 1:13
  • @Priyome Yes, I understand that. Too bad I like it too much to be practical. Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 9:27
  • @hoacin I've placed first place in several (paid) tournaments before, like the Boca Raton Turkey Bowl. Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 9:28

4 Answers 4


It looks like you took a good gamble trying to win. And there's no shame in that. Your gamble did not work out.

Also, in this instance, the game might not have been as theoretically won as you thought it was, with all the pawns on the same side of the board, so don't beat yourself up over it too much.

I would just go through the game with the computer and see if there was any specific move that caused its evaluation to jump in your favor. See what you missed, and why. Probably one or two neat moves/combinations will jump out at you, and you will recognize and pounce on them in future similar situations. Computer analysis also gives you confidence that your opponents aren't perfect, either.

I know I was at my best when I focused on a mistake I made in a game and said, okay, I'm not going to make that mistake, or that sort of mistake, again. I'll know to check for that. For instance, I remember a particularly tough loss back in high school, to a future IM who was two years younger and 500 points higher than me. I won the exchange early, but he slowly snuck his way back into the game. It was tough to revisit the game, but when I did, I found a lot of clever tricks he used that I was able to pass on to future opponents. The big one I remember was: my rook was on e1, his pawn was on a2, his knight was on c3, and he played Nb1. Ouch.

In your case I would read about how to draw when a pawn down, maybe with R&P vs R, and once you've nailed that (along with the "Bridge" position to win R&P vs R), you'll have learned a lot. Maybe you'll even be able to hold your own position down a pawn, until an opponent loses a pawn and suddenly worries more about what they lost than focusing on the current position.

The bright side is that if you get a pawn down, your opponent may not be 100% sure of their winning position. They may be thinking "What if I blow this?" And that may allow you a way to get back in the game and get a half-point or even full point you don't really deserve. Gaining points you don't deserve, and losing points you do, tend to balance out in the long run.

So maybe you can't control heat-of-the-moment blunders beyond checking every move for crude attacks/undefended pieces, but you can control if you learn or nail down or internalize something that will be important later.

I would frame a bad move as "this loss motivated me to learn more about (endgame X). The loss hurt, but it will pay off in the long run." And if you are worried about blundering a winning position, have faith in yourself that you can and will study what went wrong.


No serious chess player has managed to avoid losing in a way similar to that which you described. Failing to play at ones usual ability is certainly disturbing when it happens, but it is part of being human; after all, humans can get tired, distracted, or fall into a panic due to time pressure, affecting their ability to play.

Always remember this while you play: since you're human, you can make silly mistakes! If, during a game, you realize that you've made a silly mistake, you need to get your emotions in check no matter what. Just admit to yourself "ok, I made a mistake" and afterwards go on and try to salvage your position with a cool demeanor. DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP DURING A GAME FOR THE MISTAKES YOU'VE ALREADY MADE! Letting your emotions take over while you're still playing will just end in a disaster.

After the game however, feel free to be as disgusted with yourself as you please, but if you still have games to play, it's better to take a deep breath, tell yourself that you played bad but will bring down the hammer of judgement on yourself after you're finished playing, and go on to play your games as if nothing happened.

When you finally get some time to reflect over what happened in the game(s), you should once again try to be objective, and try to figure out the reasons why you made your mistake(s). Were you distracted? Were you careless, and if so why? Was it because you didn't know what to do in the position? What can you do to prevent the mistake(s) from happening in the future?

In the specific case you brought up, I think you may be able to prevent yourself from losing in a similar manner in the future. Let me ask you this: Would you have lost the position due to time pressure if you had K+Q vs. K instead of K+R+2p vs. K+R+p? Probably not! Why? Because I assume that you know how to win K+Q vs. K like the back of your hand! Here I boldly assume that you weren't down to 5 seconds without increments (severe time scrambles without increments isn't really chess, it's more of a lottery imo), but rather that you had the time on the clock to actually perform your moves without dropping the pieces. If you lose a theoretical ending it's almost always possible to practice it afterwards until you know it as well as K+Q vs. K. That way you can play such endings perfectly, even under rather severe time pressure.

To summarize: everybody makes stupid mistakes in chess, don't beat yourself up about it during actual games, and try to see whether there is an easy way for you to avoid making the same mistakes in the future by being objective in your criticism of yourself.


I do dispute your assertion that "Winning this game would have landed [you] in the money." [maybe you did not realize the results are available on the web?] You lost your last 3 games, ended up at 3 points (45th of 94), and the lowest paying score in your section was at 5 points, according to the results published (link below). Unless some creative math was involved, not sure how you figured that one out. 4 points would get nothing.

You have to come to grips with the reality that at the level you are at, you will make many, many mistakes. I make nearly as many, probably not just as crucial or game-changing, but they are there nonetheless.

You'd learn much by offering your games up for analysis to a titled player, and you probably study too much and play too little.

Chicago Open 2017 U1500 Section Results

  • Lost the second to last game (If I had won it, and then won the subsequent one, I would have split the 8-10th place prize.) Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 13:19
  • Ok, so, you would have needed to win the final 2 games. Yep, that's what I saw too.
    – Priyome
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 20:04

Well, I'd say the obvious solution would be to try to avoid "silly, stupid mistakes". But that's easier said than done. Playing a lot should help with the visual aspects. After that would come understanding what you are doing. Looking for tactics comes to mind first, both yours and your opponent's. If none are available, then you try to improve your position first. If you're playing quick chess, then you may have to deal with time pressure too. That's obviously going to impact the other things I've mentioned. If you ultimately lose regardless of your best efforts, you just have to accept that and move on. Chess isn't a quick study. Capablanca said you have to lose 1000 games to improve. Maybe that's a generalization, but the point is that you're going to make mistakes no matter how good you are. If you lose this game, you'll win another. You can't let a single loss color your whole outlook toward the game. Just keep playing and learning, and things should naturally improve over time. I try to keep in mind that chess is just a game and isn't really that important in the great scheme of things. Just enjoy it and let what will be be.

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