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Blunder Gland Redux: First Baby Steps, and Then The World

  • IM Silman
  • | Aug 14, 2012

IMPORTANT: [At the end of the puzzles, you should click MOVE LIST so you can see my instructive notes and variations. If you are having trouble solving a problem, just click SOLUTION, and then MOVE LIST. Even if you solve everything, DO click MOVE LIST or you might miss an important bit of prose.]

Our main game (with Ken as Black) is remarkable for a young man’s first tournament. Neither side understood the opening, and neither side displayed the energy or knowledge that is needed to transform a position to one’s will. But both players pretty much kept control of the game, refusing to let it devolve into a hang-fest of dropped pieces. And since it was a long, tiring game, it’s all the more impressive that they managed to hold things together until the big moment finally arrived.

The lesson in this game is basic, simple, but very important: the first thing one needs to do is work very, very hard to not hang your stuff. Nothing can be achieved until you stop giving your pieces away. Playing a game like this one might not remind you of the thrills Morphy, Alekhine, and Tal gave us, but if you want to improve, holding on tight and not throwing pieces out the window is a MUST. As they say: first baby steps, then the world.

Before getting to the main course, let’s look at a couple of examples from the game Eimad (1378) – Pauix (1307), chess.com knockouts 2011, that feature serious blunders. Please keep in mind that we’re not making fun of these players, who are clearly just starting out. In fact, everyone blunders pieces away at first, and our goal here is to ask, “Why?”

Our next example is, if possible, even worse!

Pretty grisly, but I see lots and lots of games where this kind of thing happens. What’s the cause, and how does a player train himself out of it? From my experience, the main reasons for massive blunders are: 

* Exhaustion: If you’re over-tired, you can hang anything at any time. This applies to grandmasters and beginners alike.

* Loss of concentration: If your mind is on the bills you owe or the fact that Claudia Schiffer is playing on the board next to you, expect to blunder. However, lack of concentration is more likely to occur to beginners who are just tossing their moves out for fun, and don’t realize that it takes a serious attitude to keep things together on a chessboard. If you don’t take it seriously, and don’t concentrate as hard as you can during a tournament game, expect to hang your face.

* Refusal to care for your pieces: It’s important that you train yourself to keep an eye out for all your pieces all the time. In general, the bits that might get into trouble are those that are on the third rank or farther, but if a file or diagonal leads to one of your pieces, even if it’s on the first rank, beware!

* The pieces that are in greatest peril are those that aren’t defended: The vast majority of hanging pieces are those that were left floating mid-board without any defense whatsoever. These poor, forgotten chessboard soldiers are disasters waiting to happen, and you need to be acutely aware of any and all pieces that fit this description.

* Beware of any enemy piece or pawn that’s coming at you: In our second piece-hang example, we saw White completely ignore black’s passed b-pawn. An experienced player would be eyeing it with terror in his heart, and would have gone out of his way to stop it. We also saw both sides miss the power of Rooks doubled on the seventh rank (pigs on the seventh), but that’s due to inexperience. Let the pigs ravage you a few times and you’ll change your tune about them very quickly. The point here is (be it Rooks on the seventh, fast-running pawns, or anything else) to note all threats and, if you deem the threat real, contain it! 

* Double Attacks kill: One of the most common means of material hangs occurs via double attack. Forks are double attacks. And Queens can easily give check and pick off an unfortunate piece. Check out the next position:

Ultimately, the cure for “hangmypieces syndrome” is experience (pain is a great teacher!) and awareness – be aware of the points above and you’ll slowly but surely rise above piece-hanging and come face to face with an assortment of new chess ills (it’s never-ending… there is always something new to learn in chess). 

Now it's time for our main game, which features two players who are very careful about hanging onto their stuff:

Here's our first puzzle of the week (from the N.N. vs. Ken game):

And now puzzle 2 from the same game:

Lessons From These Examples

The main reasons a player hangs stuff is:

* Exhaustion.

* Loss of concentration.

* Refusal to care for your pieces.

* Understanding that the pieces that are in greatest peril are those that aren’t defended.

* Not respecting the fact that any enemy piece or pawn that’s coming at you needs to be closely scrutinized.

* Double Attacks kill.

* Ultimately, the cure for “hangmypieces syndrome” is experience (pain is a great teacher!) and awareness – be aware of the points above and you’ll slowly but surely rise above piece-hanging and come face to face with an assortment of new chess ills (it’s never-ending… there is always something new to learn in chess).

* If you want to improve, holding on tight and not throwing pieces out the window is a MUST. As they say: first baby steps, then the world. 


If you want me to look over your game, send it to askjeremy@chess.com

I need your name (real or chess.com handle), your OPPONENT’S name (real or chess.com handle), both players’ ratings, where the game was played, and date. If you don’t give me this information, I won’t use your game! BTW: I’ve noticed that many people are reluctant to give me their opponent’s name. This is very strange! Showing the names of both players is the way chess games are presented in databases, books, magazines, websites – everywhere! Permission from the opponent isn’t necessary. If permission was necessary, everyone who ever lost a game wouldn’t allow their name to be on it!


  • 3 years ago


    Nice article

  • 3 years ago


  • 3 years ago


    Well defined Silman, thanks for a great article.

  • 3 years ago


    thanks for the article. Cool

  • 3 years ago


    To put Mr. Silman's explanation on the board...

  • 3 years ago

    IM Silman

    Okay folks, the first puzzle is driving a few people crazy (I was hoping it would! Shows that readers are paying attention.) so I added some key variations to the puzzle answer. Just go to Solution and Move List and all of your questions will be answered.

  • 3 years ago


    helpful article, ho kyung I find myself in agreement with your evaluation of why to blunder, failure to stay with the facts on the ground i would call it.

  • 3 years ago


    :D I need the reminder of those blunder causes, thanks to your book: "The Complete book to chess strategy" which... the book... I'd rather have it at my table rather than my chair.

  • 3 years ago


    I am sorry ...but I think the explanation given in earler posts regarding the capture of the f6 rook is inaccurate....in the first puzzle,after
    1.Bh3+ Ke7 2.Rf6 Bxf6 3.exf+ Kd8 4..... What now? White just lost an exchange and where is the conpensation? Someone suggested in a previous post that Re7 then f7 is coming...but 4. Re7 Bxh3 5. Nxc6+ Kc8 then if 6. Kxh3 then 6....Rxf6 and black is fine or if 6. f7 then 6....Bd7 and black is now down an exchange and a whole piece and the f7 pawn is going nowhere....I was in fact thinking something different....After 3....Kd8 4. Bxd7 Kxd7 5. Re7+ Kc8 (not 5....Kd6 6. Nb7# and 5....Kd8 6. Nb7+ Kc8 7. f7  (and with 8. Nd6 coming next move) is bad for black...) 6. f7 and if 6....Kd8 then Rb7 and black king is tied in the 8th rank and so are  both his rooks and the knight can eat up black pawns at its leisure...I am not entirely sure this is correct. Please help me out if I am wrong.

  • 3 years ago


    wow ! good work ken ! :)

    @ cassidy : that was my friend playing in his first intl tournament, at first round he didn't even know how to write the moves down ! Tongue Out


    it was long games though (1 hour + 30 min after move 40 +30 sec/ move ), so they had long time to think !

  • 3 years ago


    Thank you Maartin. If the queen took the b2 pawn it would cover the f6 diagonal - but you are right that black would still lose in the exchange. Thanks!

  • 3 years ago


    CassidyT: the knight on f6 is hanging.

  • 3 years ago


    In the featured game NN vs Ken; why wouldn't black capture the b2 pawn with his queen on move 12 instead of trading queens?

  • 3 years ago


    Oh my god, I didn't remember I used to blunder that bad! Embarassed

    But thanks to the articles you and other masters have posted here, I'm improving slowly but surely. Thanks for your help, Mr. Silman!

  • 3 years ago


    Good article!

  • 3 years ago


    This article helped me alot though! I am just new to the intermediate level and I think this is important cuz I see hanged pieces in the opening like all the time...

    Thank you again! 

  • 3 years ago


     the cure for “hangmypieces syndrome” is experience 

    Thanks Silman. 

  • 3 years ago


    in the 2nd puzzle i gave up becuz none of my moves were working, i then realized i was playing for white and it was black to play . whoops :P

  • 3 years ago


    I really have to train my mind to think this way.  Great article!  Silman for President!

  • 3 years ago



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