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Avoiding Blunders in Chess

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It's impossible to avoid making blunders entirely during your chess career. Even the world's greatest players occasionally make grave errors during their games; grandmasters have even missed mate-in-one threats and instantly lost games that they were drawing or even winning!

However, you can try to control the frequency of your blunders. In fact, this is one of the best ways to improve your rating and become a stronger player; simply reducing how often you make major (and easily avoidable) errors will show big dividends in your results. Here are a few tips for avoiding blunders!

  • Always look far enough ahead when analyzing a position. I've seen many beginners and young chess players miss winning tactics (for themselves, or for their opponents) simply because they gave up on a move after insufficient analysis. If there's a sequence of captures possible, make sure you analyze through the end of those captures, and try to go one move past the final capture, so that you can be sure the position really is settled in the end. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you try to analyze a variation one move deeper each time you see a check, capture, or major threat. Doing so may show that a seemingly safe move is actually quite dangerous once the dust settles.
  • Just because a tactic doesn't appear to work at first glance doesn't mean it isn't dangerous. For one, you should always try changing the order of the moves in the potential tactic to see if that can make such an attack more successful; often, move order is key. Other times, a threat may truly be innocuous for now, but forgetting about it later could be deadly. Many games in scholastic tournaments are won this way, when a player who has been facing a mating threat for many moves suddenly removes a defender, allowing the checkmate to occur.
  • Don't relax when you gain an overwhelming advantage; this is when you have the most to lose! Winning a big piece or simplifying to a winning position is a great time to slow down and reevaluate the position. Make sure you remove all of your opponents' chances to pull out a shocking win - make sure your king is in no danger whatsoever, and that your major pieces are safe. There's no need to rush for the fastest win; taking the safest route is always best when you're far ahead of your opponent.
  • Similarly, make sure to take your time after you blunder. Don't get disheartened; a second evaluation of the position might show you that even though you've made a mistake, you're still ahead, or at least still in the game. Rushing out of frustration is a great way to make multiple blunders in a row, which are much harder to overcome.
  • Finally, remember the basics. After every single move your opponent makes, ask yourself "why did they make that move?" Similarly, before making any move yourself, remember to ask yourself, "is this safe?" These simple questions will improve your thought process and help you avoid the mostbasic (and most frustrating) mistakes.
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