Avoiding Blunders in Chess

First we need to separate two sources of error:

  1. Tactical ignorance for a particular position
  2. Temporary weakness of body or mind (including fatigue)

This division of cause does not mean a blunder must come from only one of the above. When we’re tired, for example, we might see that a chess position has a potential knight fork for we have seen that kind of a fork before; but if we encounter a different shape of a potential knight fork, one that differs from our experience, we could miss it if we’re tired and yet see it if we’re not tired.

The first kind of error can be corrected by simple study. It could be as easy as playing over the moves of a game in which you made a blunder and remembering how to avoid that kind of error in future games. Study from a chess book may be helpful, but it’s not always essential when you record the moves of your games and later go over them carefully.

Black to move in this amateur chess club game

Diagram-1  White just moved Qb7, attacking the black bishop on d7

Black has two good moves in the position shown in Diagram-1, including Bb5. But he made a glaring blunder: Bc8.

Black blundered with Bc8

Diagram-2  after Black made the blunder of moving a bishop to the back rank

Notice why moving the black bishop to that square was a bad mistake. We can take for granted that two rooks on the first rank are self-protecting. That bishop move interfered with that protection, however, allowing the white queen to capture the rook on a8.

You would be hard pressed to find a chess book that teaches a player to avoid that kind of blunder. Perhaps the best protection is to get a good night’s sleep before playing chess.

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Two chess blunders in an informal game

[Regarding a position shown in a diagram] This kind of error is not examined in most chess books, especially if the author is a grandmaster. Yet this concept is critical in over-the-board competition, whether the players are beginners or more advanced in their abilities.

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