# How to Avoid Blunders, Part 3

• GM Gserper
• | Jul 24, 2011
• | 27727 views

We continue our analysis of different kinds of blunders and today we'll discuss the most complicated one. The two kinds of blunder that I described in the first two parts of this article can be fixed relatively easily: (1) When you play a game you should concentrate on the game and on nothing else, and (2) Even when it looks like the game is over ...it is not! So don't relax prematurely until the clock is stopped and the result is posted in a tournament cross table.

You will see shortly why the kind of blunder we are discussing today is different.

3) Blunders due to poor visualization

This kind of blunder happens when you calculate a sequence of moves, but don't register the changes of the position in your mind.  So, when on move two or three of the variation your piece unexpectedly gets captured, all you can do is just wonder where did your opponent's piece (or pawn) come from. Here is a good example:

If you replay the above game you can be puzzled.  How come a chess player who saw a nice combo which was supposed to bring a win after a Knight's fork on move 4, missed a simple capture of his Rook on move 2? The explanation is quite simple. Even though Black calculated far enough, he didn't clearly see the position in the middle of the variation. Therefore in his head, the White Bishop was moving to h7 (to win Black's Queen) without even stopping on e4 where it was threatening the Ra8. If you think that this explanation is too weird to be true, let me show you another example.
Again the blunder made by GM Grigoriy Levenfish in a completely winning position looks very strange. He could move the Bishop or just capture the h2 pawn threatening Qg2 checkmate, and yet he played the unbelievable Rg3?? which just dropped the Rook for nothing.  The explanation of this bizarre blunder is similar to the previous one. When Black played Rg3+, he thought that
Qg2 will be checkmate on the very next move, but he failed to notice that White's pawn h2 moves to g3 and therefore the white King gets a vital shelter on the g4 square.
Some readers might think that my explanations are just speculations of what might have happened in those games. Fair enough, I am not a mind reader.  But I have a vast tournament experience and, unfortunately, I also have my share of similar blunders.  Judge for yourself:
In a perfectly fine position I thought that I found a beautiful combination leading to a checkmate, but when triumph was very close and I was about to play Bd6 and announce checkmate, I realized that it wasn't! So the combination was ruined, my Nc7 was trapped and despite my stubborn resistance I eventually lost.
How did I miss that Bd6 wasn't a checkmate and Black could play Kd7 or even Kd8? Simple: in the beginning of the combination the 'd' file was under total control of my Rd1 and therefore his King couldn't even think about stepping there.  Unfortunately, my Bd6 which was supposed to deliver the checkmate also was blocking my own Rd1!
So, how should you cope with this kind of blunders? A simple answer is you should improve your visualization skills, so you can see the board clearly in your head even after you've made 2-3 moves in your calculations. Of course this simple answer doesn't explain how you should work on your visualization skills. There is no easy answer to this question and I never seen any recommendations on this subject in chess books.  My own method, which I used a lot especially when I was a kid is pretty simple.
Get a game with annotations and play through it.  Once you see a long variation (the longer the better!), you stop there, play the variation in your head and write down the resulting position of the variation on a piece of paper.  Then you actually play this long variation on the board and compare the resulting position that you can see now on the board to the one you saw in your head (and just wrote down on a piece of paper).  At first the results will be disappointing, especially if the variation is pretty long, but with enough practicing you'll see an improvement pretty quickly.
And of course a traditional work on your calculation skills (solving chess puzzles, working on tactical text books) should improve your visualization skills as well.
I truly hope you won't experience this annoying kind of chess blunder.
to be continued....

• 2 years ago

Good tips, fantastic series.

• 2 years ago

gr8 stuff...thanks...got to go work on improved visualization

• 2 years ago

Jonathan Tisdall describes a 'stepping stone' technique to help with visualisation in "Improve your Chess Now". He also recommends playing through games in your head; starting with miniatures. If you're interested in a review of this book, see http://www.jeremysilman.com/book_reviews_js/js_improve_your_chess_now.html

Good luck with your visualisations !

• 2 years ago

I use the *Notes* section of online chess pretty extensively in my games.  I actually write down the variations there, so it is easier for me to "see" when a piece is moved from where I think it is in my head.  I would say visualizations are probably the most common blunder for me at this point, and actually peering at the coming notation helps a lot.

• 2 years ago

I really liked this suggestion and want to try it but I had a question:

"Once you see a long variation (the longer the better!), you stop there, play the variation in your head and write down the resulting position of the variation on a piece of paper. "

My question is, is it necessary to write something down on paper or would it be sufficient to just set up the pieces on an empty chessboard? I wasn't clear on the reasons for, and benefits of, writing something on paper. And I wasn't clear on how that would be done. Would you draw an 8 by 8 grid and put letters (B,K,Q,N,R,P) on the squares that contained pieces or would you just make a list Bc8, Ra8, Nc6, Pa7, Pb7 and so on?

Thanks for a great series of articles.

• 2 years ago

One of the old Soviet documentary films shows Mikhail Tal playing  blind multy-board play against 10 opponents.  (See here: http://video.yandex.ru/users/teletam/view/5/ (in Russian, but interesting nevertheless ))

On a question: “How you do that? Do you see in your mind every square of all 10 boards all the time? ”  Tal answered: “Even when one plays a normal game,  looking on board, it is impossible to see all squares. You anyway concentrate on particular groups of squares otherwise your brain would be overloaded”.

• 2 years ago

On the 2nd diagram at first I thought levenfish just made an unsound sacrifice, but then I saw what you meant how if the pawn hadn't been there it would of been mate.

• 2 years ago

Wonderful article and wonderful series. I am guilty of all the aforementioned topics in this article and the previous two. I have realized some real improvement lately (the tactics trainer is a great tool for beginners!) and then promptly blundered away a handful of games. I have been guilty of my own hubris. Humility! Understanding that on any day the other guy can be better, regardless of his rating, and playing with this fact in mind. It's an old lesson it seems I have to learn over and again.

• 2 years ago

• 2 years ago

Good article! I hate when those miscalculations kill a good plan.

• 2 years ago

I do agree with

• 2 years ago

Useful article! And I liked the practical suggestion of how to improve visualization skills. I've definitely made several of these blunders before.

• 2 years ago

cool series

• 2 years ago

i love to xeqmate

• 2 years ago

Good article, I loved the simple calc.s

• 2 years ago

Great series, love the suggestion for improving visualisation. Is playing blindfold another way?

• 2 years ago

in the levenfish game cant black play Rh8 after Qh7 and white has to play Qxh8+ (else Rh4mate) which is bad for black but not that bad surely?

well i think  the real threat is rxb2

... rh8 ,rxb7 rxh7,rb8+ kc7 or kd7,rb7++

• 2 years ago

AWESOME !!

It's always a wonderful experience to read a piece of literature and then feel all the hairs on one's nape standing end-wise and crawling down one's back like malenky lizards as one reads and personally relates to the subject being read !! Very cool !!

My only criticism would be that the puzzles did not have the opening moves as provided in the previous two articles !! I only say this because, as with PUZZLE 1, perhaps the miscalculation occurred prior to Bxg2. I know I've forfeited taking the a2-a7 and g2-h7 Pawns in certain games because experience tells me that defending open a and h files in end game scenarios is often a losing proposition. Better to forfeit the 1 point lead for piece of mind. Maybe there was a better move for Black rather than Bxg7 (??).

Which presents an interesting question: is Bxg7 part of the miscalculation ?? Was there a better move for Black's Bishop prior to taking g7 ?? If Black's Bishop originated at c6 ... then perhaps taking g7 was provoked by White's Knight and the idea of taking a piece in order to move out of threat weighed better than retreating to b7 ... OR !! ... if Black's Bishop originated on b7 ... then there was no need to take the g7 Pawn ... in which case Black made an error for being too greedy ... another type of blunder that I am all too familiar with ... EVEN MORE !! ... if Black's Bishop originated on d5 and was forced to move by Pawn-c4 ... then where should Black move its Bishop if not to the safety of b7 and not for the 1 point advantage at g7 ?? An interesting puzzle, indeed.

Great article !!

Sorry for shouting so much !!

• 2 years ago
No, but after the "exchange" at h8, white's got Rxb7! threatening mate...
• 2 years ago

in the levenfish game cant black play Rh8 after Qh7 and white has to play Qxh8+ (else Rh4mate) which is bad for black but not that bad surely?