I am currently playing in a tournament and my last game was a total disaster. Without going into details, I missed a two-move threat my opponent had in the position (I'd expect a ~1600 Elo rated player to find this threat during a game) straight out of the opening and my position was practically hopeless afterwards.

However, after some time spent on self-pity I started reflecting on the nature of my blunder and I started to realize that this is a type of blunder I've lost countless games to. In this game, the following happened:

  • I was having trouble finding a good plan out of the opening, and before making the losing blunder I spent around 30 minutes on the clock.
  • The move I played should have been easily recognizable as a blunder for a player of my strength (~2200 Elo at the moment).
  • I noticed the threat almost immediately after pressing the clock, long before my opponent actually played the winning move (naturally he was a bit suspicious that someone like me would miss something THAT obvious; I could even see him throwing some suspicious glances, seeming like he wanted to ask me: "Are you for real!?").

After realizing that this was not an isolated event for me, I started to wonder: is this actually common for players rated, say, 2100+ Elo? Also, does anyone have any advice how to counteract this self-destructive psychological issue? Right now I'm at a loss for how to deal with it.

  • The first thing to do is to generally see what is the threat of your opponents previous move. Then see if your move commits suicide. – Matthew Liu Apr 21 at 0:22
  • I suspect most players spend too much time looking for a way to win a position, compared to the time spent analysing opponent threats - I guess the way to combat this is to be aware of it, and set aside time for it. – George Barwood Apr 21 at 14:34
  • How much have you been playing recently? Are your tactics alright or maybe a bit rusty? Of course it was an easy move, but you just get oblivious to these things if you haven't played in a while. – postnubilaphoebus Apr 24 at 0:19
  • And I know that feeling, I also sometimes kill myself over the board in a completely fine position when I just can't find a plan. Fortunately, that has gotten better. – postnubilaphoebus Apr 24 at 0:21

I am not 2000+ rated, but I experience this myself from time to time (I actually got better). Reasons I found why I do this:

  • Being to excited about my plan, e.g. I see a nice tactic, which my opponent might not see, he plays a move which does not prevent it (apart from his threat).

  • "I am winning feeling", I get this when I won previous games against someone and am in a winning position again. Sometimes (especially when tired) I start to "just play it down". Then I start missing things like a Zwischenzug.

For countermeassures:

  • I focus more on opponents threats during his time, while developing my plans during my time. If he plays an unexpected move, I take my time. This way, I am constantly up to date about my opponents threats and I distribute enough time to think about his plans. If he plays really fast, I have to spend some of my time. Since I am used to spend more time for his plans, I do this quite automatically.

  • If I am feeling happy about a position, I tell myself, "Nice position, lets focus and find the closing moves". This helps me to focus (again).

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