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Converting Winning Positions

Converting Winning Positions

Jul 27, 2010, 12:00 AM 55 Scholastics

Every chess player fails to convert a winning position once in a while. Sometimes it happens even in situations when any move seems to secure the whole point. What is the reason for this?

Chess is a sport, so the following three aspects are important:
1.    Until the game is over, the score sheet isn’t signed, anything can happen.
2.    The best player doesn’t always win.
3.    Losing one’s concentration often leads to trouble.

Now let’s talk about chess in particular. So, let’s say you had a serious advantage (enough for a win), but you somehow failed to take home the whole point. This may happen due to:
1.    Premature relaxation.
Chess players often consider the game finished after obtaining a decisive advantage, mentally putting a 1 in the scoring table and starting to play carelessly.
Advice: always stay alert and watch out for potential counter-play until the game is really over.
2.    Time factor.
Myriads of promising positions have been thrown away in time trouble. There is also another problem: anxiety to win asap, i.e. playing too quickly after getting a winning position.
Advice: in the first case you should keep an eye on the clock and avoid getting into time trouble. In the second situation you had better calm down and play as if nothing special happened. Don’t be in a hurry.
3.    Tiredness.
After a few hours of play, especially if the game required a lot of efforts on your side; you didn’t sleep well; spent a few hours preparing; hardly had any dinner, etc., chances are high you just won’t be able to keep up the level.
Advice: practice sports, work on your endurance, sleep well, don’t over-exhaust yourself by preparing too long, mind your nutrition, take walks during the tournament, lead an active and healthy life.
4.    Defensive resources.
Chess has enormous defensive resources. Sometimes if one desperately fights for survival, he/she may find some saving chances, surprise the opponent and avoid losing.
Advice: stay calm (even if your opponent comes up with an unexpected trick) and don’t get into time trouble.

Factors 1-3 depend on the player him/herself, #4 has more to do with the opponent. Even if you do your best to follow the recommendations, you will still end up messing your game up from time to time. There are just too many issues to control. Nonetheless, the percentage of converted winning positions should increase.

Not let's get back to the Mulhouse 2010-GM event and take a look at my round 4 game there:


After having obtained a decisive advantage I still couldn’t win the game and even lost it. There were two main mistakes: 1. Relaxing too early and neglecting my opponent’s counter-play 2. Getting into time-trouble. Then I became upset about not converting a technically won position and started playing really badly instead of pulling myself together and making a draw.

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