Sometimes I even say to myself ‘if not for these blunders, I would have been quite a good chess player!’
This is of course a silly thought. What if we hardly ever make mistakes? Of course we would be chess champion of the world. But we aren’t. We humans love to marvel in ‘what ifs’.
But it is of course a nice thought. Make less stupid mistakes and your elo will rise considerably. But how do you avoid mistakes? In fact it’s quite simple:
Sit on your hands.
Or if this causes too much pain: don’t follow your impulses and check every move you make. Even the most obvious ones. As far as I know, grandmasters always take some time to make a quick check. Probably half a minute will do fine.
For some strange reason, it’s not my habit. I work the moves out in my mind and play them. I am the kid who can’t keep his hands from the cookie jar. Foolish!
The point is: sometimes we tend to mix things up. Don’t see it clear. There is more. When we have the new position on the board, we suddenly see possibilities which eluded us some moments before. See the diagram. I found this puzzle on Chess tempo. White to play and win.
The mating pattern is quite clear. If white is able to bring his rook pair to h8 and h7 he mates the black king. It is always a good idea to first find the pattern and then figure out what’s the best way to get there. So I worked it out in my mind:
1. Qh6+ Kg8 2. Qxh7+ (smile, nice queen sac!) 2… Rxh7 3. Rxh7 and it will be mate. Accept for not one, but two tiny details. After 3. Rxh7 black isn’t forced to play a specific move. And this ‘free’ move would be quite embarrassing: 3… Qf1+! Instead of winning, white has hardly an edge. The second detail is 3… Bh4!? Okay, this is somewhat less convincing, but it also prevents the mate.
At this moment I train myself to have another look and not follow my impulses. I am fully aware of the fact that I make most mistakes, not on the first but on the second or third move of a combination. Just before I move, I look again carefully.
So after 1. Qh6+ Kg8 I asked myself ‘Is it really mate? What if…? Black interrupts my plans with a check on my back rank? Isn’t there anything a bit more forceful?’
Low and behold there is. There are some pins. An then it downed on me: 2. Qxg6+ wins by force, no in between moves possible. 2… hxg6 3. Rxh8+ Kg7 4. R(1)h7#
Now I hope, when I play an opponent of flesh and blood I will do the same thing. Beware when I sit on my hands. Don’t say you weren’t warned!