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I am on the road that starts from the "Beginner" stage, trying to leave this "town". I know and understand the rules, I also understand most of the "classic" tactics. I am able to reproduce some mating patterns (and to understand them I think).

But yet I have some difficulties to leave the "Beginner" town: I blunder often, mostly because I overlook some possible moves from the opponent (a little bit like if I was playing "alone").

It is very difficult for me to force myself to consider all the possible moves of the opponents. Please note that I play mostly on computer (either against the computer, or in live/online chess against other human beings).

So the question is: what is the better way to stop blundering all my games?

Should I forbid myself to "undo" my moves when I play against the computer? How should I read the board? Is there a standard way of forcing oneself to consider all the consequences of a move?

  • 1
    Are you recording your games so you can go over them later? – Tony Ennis Jan 14 '14 at 0:03
  • I am recording the games when I play against human opponents (the server does it for me...), and I also does it sometime when playing against the computer (when the game appears interesting to me). I sometime replay or analyze (with software) the game in order to see what I missed, but usually it ends with "sh*t, I knew that I blundered at this point". – pim999 Jan 14 '14 at 13:15
  • Can you expand by telling how you blunder usually, what is the thought process before, and what is the thought process after a blunder? Do you notice different "blundering patterns"? Cheers. – Rauan Sagit Jan 17 '14 at 17:01
  • There are several patterns. One of them is simply "not seeing" than I put a piece in direct danger. Another is overlooking a simple tactic from my opponent (nailing of one of my defenser, double attack, and so on). The third kind is done by playing my sequence of move on one side of the board without taking care of what the opponent is doing on the other side... – pim999 Jan 19 '14 at 9:16
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I am on the road that starts from the "Beginner" stage, trying to leave this "town". I know and understand the rules, I also understand most of the "classic" tactics. I am able to reproduce some mating patterns (and to understand them I think).

Based on your information I think I can safely assume that you would see those blunders if someone pointed them out. This is an important fact that helps me to recommend you the solution.

It is very difficult for me to force myself to consider all the possible moves of the opponents.

You should not do that-it requires too much mental energy and wastes too much time.

So the question is: what is the better way to stop blundering all my games?

Much better approach is to understand what your opponent's plan is and to search the best moves he can play to implement it. This requires the ability to understand the position that arose on the board, and a fair amount of objectivity. To achieve this start with the following actions:

  1. Learn the basic moves and middle game themes/plans of your openings-I find Starting Out series to do a wonderful job, I use them myself too.

  2. During play detach yourself from your emotions and use your knowledge of openings, tactics and middle game plans to evaluate quality of the opponents moves. Ask yourself questions like "Where does my opponent lead the attack?" , "What are my weaknesses?" , "Is this move played consistently-does it support opponents plan or is it a deviation?".

  3. Tactical mastery greatly reduces blundering. Try to solve puzzles and try to improve this part of the game by constantly playing.

Should I forbid myself to "undo" my moves when I play against the computer?

NO!!!

This is the best approach you can use-if you make a blunder just memorize that it is a bad move. Undo move and try to play a better one based on your own knowledge. If you fail to find satisfactory move, just consult books I have recommended or setup a position on your computer and order it to analyze. This will provide you much needed experience in playing that position, and at some point you will simply start to "feel" the good moves.

How should I read the board?

Watch the entire board and look all the squares opponent's piece attacks ( the piece he played last with ). This is important, I have this flaw in my own game too and it creeps in because you do not "respect" opponents attack enough-believing that you have faster and stronger counter-attack or simply believing that your game is much better and he should resign instead prolonging.

Is there a standard way of forcing oneself to consider all the consequences of a move?

Use the combination of all the above advices-watch all the squares his last playing piece attacks and try to understand what role that move plays in his overall plan. Knowing the basic moves of the opening will help you to survive 15+ moves, and knowing basic middle game plans will reduce your calculation time since you will be able to assume with great accuracy what is the point behind the last move your opponent played. Also, by knowing your opening and its middle game basics, you will find your counter moves much easier and much faster.

Tactical skill is also important here, and just by continuing to solve puzzles you will be able to find hidden threats faster, both for yourself and for your opponent-which will strengthen your evaluation accuracy.

Hopefully this will help, leave a comment if you need further help.

Best regards.

  • Many players seem to advice against undoing moves, because not being able to undo moves forces the student to concentrate on making less errors. It might be hard to find any objective research on this... – JiK Jan 13 '14 at 20:46
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    In addition, I'd say that in true beginner level, knowing opponent's plans does not help reducing blunders much, because the blunders are mostly result of missing simple forks etc. that are unrelated to plans. On the other hand, I know from experience it may take a few (or more) games for a 1900 rated player to learn to watch out for Nxf7 related tactics in the Scandinavian opening... :) – JiK Jan 13 '14 at 20:50
  • @JiK: Knowing middle game plans-both your own and opponents ( just the basics ) helps a lot. You find moves faster, you play with greater synergy which makes your entire army linked together-each piece protecting the other. This is hard to crack at the beginner level since there are no loose pieces so blunders can only be of tactical nature. Knowing openings remedies that a lot-by simply playing basic variations you get good position and it is harder to blunder tactics in good position than in the bad one. By studying tactics your strength grows even more. – AlwaysLearningNewStuff Jan 13 '14 at 21:06
  • That's a very good point, many tactical blunders indeed come as a result of positional pressure. And personally I'm a fan of teaching beginners to appreciate the strategic concepts of chess, not just tactics tactics tactics. – JiK Jan 13 '14 at 21:15
  • Thank you. This insight is very interesting and very clear, in particular it is very useful to understand that I am not supposed to try to look at every pieces on the board, but mostly concentrate on those involved in last move and that I should try to guess the plot. It is also true that I sometime fail by overlooking the opponent threat thinking that nothing can make my own threat fail. – pim999 Jan 14 '14 at 12:45
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AlwaysLearningNewStuff's answer is very good but I'd like to approach the problem by giving a simple piece of advice I read from GM John Nunn's "Secrets of Practical Chess":

Once, I played 100 games against Mike Cook at 10 minutes (for him) vs. 5 minutes (for me). At that time, Mike was about 2300 strength. About halfway through the series (which I eventually won 88-12) he explained his disappointment:

"I thought that I would see lots of advanced strategic concepts in these games, but actually all I've learnt is LDPO."

"LDPO?"

"Loose Pieces Drop Off."

During the remaining games, I saw what he meant. Most of the games were decided by relatively simple tactics involving undefended pieces, when the LP would duly DO.

If a 2300 rated player loses most of his games by leaving his pieces undefended and then losing them, that might be something to watch out for. If you notice you or your opponent has undefended pieces, you should look for tactics very carefully. Of course that doesn't remove all blunders and of course that is not easy to do (otherwise a 2300 surely would not fall for simple tactics) but generally it may still help you improve your game.

  • Strengthen tactics first->brush up your openings->learn middle game. I have upvoted your answer, since I agree with your concept. The problem with my answer was in me writing advices in order in which I have remembered them. Thank you for constructive comments. Best regards. – AlwaysLearningNewStuff Jan 13 '14 at 21:10
  • This is indeed a good "tip"! – pim999 Jan 14 '14 at 13:11
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Why Blunders Happen

Personally, I think the biggest factor in blunders is a lack of objectivity. As humans, we have a very real, natural bias in our own favor that prevents us from evaluating ourselves, or our work, objectively. Ego, overconfidence, however you might call it--these are the things that blunders are made of, because at heart, a blunder is just some move that fails to account for a threat. In my experience, this always boils down to one of two things:

  • My opponent had a threat that I didn't see.
  • My opponent's threat was more significant than I realized.

The specifics as to why I didn't see their threat, or didn't consider it well enough, may vary slightly, but the root is always the same: for whatever reason, I didn't consider the board objectively enough. I was too wrapped up in my own plans to even consider that there might be ways to interrupt them, or I figured that my position was so strong that I could play carelessly, or I was fatigued and couldn't focus, or I was under time pressure and didn't have time to consider the position as carefully as I should have.

Some of these underlying factors are out of my control: time pressure and fatigue, especially, affect even the greatest players*. But the others, I can train myself to handle, because they're all essentially the same thing: for some reason, I thought that I could get away with not evaluating the board thoroughly from my opponent's point of view.

The Single Best Blunder-Reduction Habit I Know

Since you play mostly electronically, I recommend you make use of one of the most powerful features of that medium: the ability to view the board from your opponent's seat. Almost all chess software (both online and offline) provides the ability to "flip" the board.

Every time you're considering your move, get into the habit of flipping the board and viewing the position and your candidate move from the other side. Try to come up with the best move for your opponent. This is where understanding your opponent's ideas comes into play, but if you don't know what he's doing, just try to find the best move as if you had his pieces. If you're stuck for where to start, look especially for threats created by his previous move.

Really try hard to find a strong move: there's this temptation to slack off when looking at the board from the other side, because you feel like you're betraying your own position or something: But if you can find a winning move for your opponent, that's awesome. You found it before you allowed it to happen, and now you can choose some other line!

Nine times out of ten**, this strategy will reveal any serious flaws in the move you're about to make. As you play more and your visualization improves, eventually you'll be able do this without physically flipping the board, and once you get used to the thought process, I strongly recommend that you try to wean yourself from the visual crutch of viewing the board from the opposite side, since you can't do that OTB. But as a beginner, the visual aid can be a huge benefit, and it helps to break the "I don't want to play against myself!" mentality.


*Not being a great player myself, I can't speak to what other pressures they may face.

**Citation Needed

  • Thanks, this is a great piece of advice that I never considered and it's one of those things that makes you go, "Why didn't I think of that?" This is going in the toolbox right now. – Terry Rice May 24 '18 at 12:25
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I just want to comment on one aspect that helped me a lot with eliminating blunders. I am lucky enough to be able to play with live opponents as well as online and with computer. Even when I play friendly games, we use the touch move rule and no undos! What it did to me (after many games of course) is developing a serious play attitude (spotting blunders) subconsciously. It is because I know, I won't be able to fix it by simple undo.

Also general good tip for beginner is in my opinion the following attitude:

  1. Quick check for opponents threats- if you spot one- fix it!
  2. Quick check of your tactical resources- if you spot one- go for it!
  3. If none of the above happens, make a wise positional/strategic move.

There is also a great program for 'light' training that helped me a lot with spotting these threats and resources is chessimo. You can even get it on iPhone as I did! If you don't want this particular one- find something that has large number of simple tactics, so spotting them becomes second nature.

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You can't eliminate blunders entirely (even today's top engines blunder), but this simple piece of advice will cut down the rate of blunders dramatically:

When you see a good move, sit on your hands and see if you can find a better one.

-- Siegbert Tarrasch

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