# How to convert better positions and not to get swindled OTB?

For context I am new to OTB chess with 30 games under my belt and a rating of around 1930 fide. I have a very definite problem. Last tournament I dropped 3 pieces in 3 consecutive games in either equal or better positions, 2 of those were free pieces which were being attacked and not defended, one of those is a familiar pattern, discovered Queen attack on the knight on h5 in the king's indian, which I noticed and then forgot about. The other was a free pawn in a somewhat better position (haven't noticed), the third was allowing myself to get forked by a bishop onto my knight and rook so that I must give away one of the pieces in a around +2 ending for me. Yesterday I played a league game against a 2100 fide and had a completely dominant position after 17 moves. Then the familiar pattern occurred, I dropped a pawn, followed by dropping a pawn again. The control I had over the position dissipated, but I managed to complicate and hold a draw.

This problem happens online as well. I either start dropping pieces in a better position or I can't convert +7 positions (not always, but it happens way too often). Similarly, I played against 2 FMs (2200 fide) OTB and had a +7 and +6 lead respectively and still managed to lose the games. A part of the problem is time management, a part is an inherent bias towards controlling the position and not wanting to let go of the control and then losing the edge since the position demands converting.

I don't think I have problems tactically, for reference I am now doing Jacob Aagaard's book "Grandmaster preparation: Calculation". I take about 15-20 minutes approximately for a puzzle and in the first 20 my score is 15.5/20 (0.5 for recognizing the idea, but wrong execution).

When writing this it dawned on me that there are two problems: 1.)dropping pieces for no reason and 2.)failing to convert winning positions.

I was wondering if anyone has/had a similar problems and if so what did you do to ameliorate them/it?

• I discovered that I tended to lose interest in chess games once I got into obviously winning (or losing or obviously drawn) positions, because I didn't really care about actually winning over the board nearly as much as understanding positions and figuring out good moves. Once I figured this out the solution was obvious - I continued studying chess but stopped playing it. Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 17:03
• Hello, thanks for answering. I would like to have that kind of psychology, and although I do appreciate aesthetically pleasing positions and combinations, I play chess overwhelmingly for competition and improvement. Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 17:35
• A diagram would have been way more helpful that this stack of numbers Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 21:18

There's an entire chapter in GM Yasser Seirawan's book Winning Chess Strategies dealing with this question. The chapter name is "Stopping Enemy Counterplay". You might want to take a look. Here's a brief summary (I can't possibly summarize the entire chapter):

Spotting tactical threats. There comes a time when you are winning that you just want to get the game over with. You can't do this however, because all it takes is one missed tactic and the game turns around. You must force yourself to continue to concentrate until you either checkmate or opponent resigns. GM Seirawan gives this position to illustrate the danger.

``````[FEN "8/4kpp1/3b4/KB6/8/1R6/7p/2r5 w - - 0 1"]

1. Re3+ Kf8?? 2. Re8#
``````

White is completely busted and might as well resign. Meanwhile, Black is jumping for joy because with this win they also become the World Junior Chess Champion for girls under 10. Before resigning, White decides to play some spite checks first. After 1. Re3+, Black barely looks at the board and plays 1...Kf8?? and loses after 2. Re8#. The game is not over till it's over!

While the above example is trivial, there are also more sophisticated ones:

``````[FEN "8/3kqR2/6K1/3p4/1p1B4/p3P3/8/8 b - - 0 1"]

1...b3?? 2. Rxe7+ Kxe7 3. Bc5+
``````

This position is from Makogonov vs. Botvinnik, 1943. White has just played 54. Rf7 and will soon be a piece up. However, Black's queenside passers are so powerful that being a piece down doesn't matter. But if you just throw out 54...b3??, you throw away the win - with 55. Rxe7+ Kxe7 56. Bc5+ followed by Bxa3, White saves the draw.* Hence the need to remain tactically alert even in completely winning positions. Once you've seen the tactic it's obvious how to avoid it and win.

*Seirawan says White wins, but the b3-pawn is too advanced and the White king too far away from White's last remaining pawn to win.

Keeping opponent helpless. You need to not only pursue your own plans, but also stop the opponent's. GM Seirawan gives this example from Spassky-Petrosian, World Chess Championship, 1966.

``````[FEN "2kr3r/pbqnbp2/1p2p3/2ppP2p/PP3B1p/2PBPN2/5PP1/R2Q1RK1 b - - 0 1"]

1...c4! 2. Be2 a6! 3. Kh1 Rdg8 4. Rg1 Rg4 5. Qd2 Rhg8 6. a5 b5
``````

Black is up a pawn, but the extra pawn is not really relevant right now because of opposite-sides castling. It should be clear that White is going to push their queenside pawns to open lines and mount an attack on the enemy king, while Black does the same on the kingside. If you only care about your own plans, you might play a move like 1...Rdg8 in this position, but that allows White to play 2. a5 and open lines. That's why Black plays 1...c4 followed by 2...a6. Black has lost control of the d4-square, but White's counterplay is completely stopped - if White plays a5, Black will play ...b5; if White plays b5, Black will play ...a5. The queenside remains closed, White has no counterplay, and Black can pursue their attack in peace.

• I can't figure out how to add moves to the second board. With Black to move, the moves are 1...c4! 2. Be2 a6! 3. Kh1 Rdg8 4. Rg1 Rg4 5. Qd2 Rhg8 6. a5 b5. If someone can figure out the syntax, feel free to edit the answer. Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 8:09
• Fixed it but don't really know how, very much an example of stochastic debugging ... There was an error in your FEN that you had white on move, but fixing that wasn't the solution - I literally cut and paste it into a new answer box, fixed the FEN, added the moves, sorted the formatting, and it then worked, pasted it back in below the original, and then deleted the original and all was fine (but please check!). No idea. I have noticed the replayer can get confused in some cases by earlier formatting in the post, especially lists, but no idea what the issue is here. Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 8:19
• @Allure always has some helpful answers ready by citing the legendary Seirawan. Love it ;) Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 9:10
• Thank you for your answer. Makes sense. I am trying to do this, but I guess my mind goes tired or my thinking is not structured enough. Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 18:48

I break down some points that may help.

1. Mindset. Interestingly enough, getting the initiative and launching an attack on the king, or controlling a weakness, is rather intuitive. However, in the event of winning material, the whole targeted thinking dissipates. At this point, it is not about winning pawn, controlling the key square, it is about converting the game. Converting the game is not a trivial thing. It requires a good feel for the position, e.g., when to simplify to a winning endgame, or when to keep the tension to obtain more material advantage, technique, and experience. Therefore, if you have got an advantage, you need to be extra focused to (i) upset your opponent's tricks and sources of counterplay (e.g., pawn breaks, rook/queen invasion, etc.), and (ii) to not miss any chance to further your advantage.
2. Physical form and mental state. This point proved to be crucial when I had a similar amounts of games OTB as you. I would often get sweaty, nervous, and feel palpitations while winning, quite often leading to blunders. To cope with them, play as many games OTB as possible, at some point your body will internalise the feeling of winning as something more natural. Develop a routine, e.g., at the climax of tension, have few sips of water and walk around, have a quick chat with someone. I also realised to be more sensitive to these responses when I was sleepless, in bad shape, or overly stressed with things off the board.
3. Time management and fatigue. In the early stages of the game, it makes a huge difference whether you have a complete repertoire, know the main ideas from home, and are able to play confidently and rapidly, than to improvise over the board and discover new ideas (while is fascinating). The latter will pay its toll with fatigue. The former will save you energy and time, that you will have in store for the conversion of the game.
• Thank you for your answer. I think this is the most applicable to my situation. I'll work on some of these points! Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 18:47

When writing this it dawned on me that there are two problems: 1.)dropping pieces for no reason and 2.)failing to convert winning positions.

Focus on one issue at a time, I suggest focus on not dropping pieces first. This is not tactics; it is discipline. Make sure to check all checks, captures, attacks on your queen that you opponent has after your move. Also check if you for any mate threats and loose pieces and pawns that you have, that you opponent can pick them up.

It is easy to forget to check, I've done it many times, sometimes I get too excited about attack and forget about my opponents threats or I get too focused on defending against one threat and I ignore others. Or the worse, I think everything is winning and I don't bother to check. It is important to stay cool and disciplined.

• Thank you for your answer :)! I think you are definitely right. Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 18:47