Stop Making The Same Mistakes Over And Over

Stop Making The Same Mistakes Over And Over

| 34 | Fun & Trivia

In the movie Groundhog Day (1993), Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, a weatherman who inexplicably starts repeating February 2 every day in the groundhog-crazed town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

Connors spends an unknown amount of time stuck in this unbreakable loop — one exhaustive analysis pegged the number of repeated days at a horrifying 12,383 (34 years!)  — trying everything to escape the repetition.

Eventually we start to see that perhaps Connors is doomed to repeat his mistakes until he gets everything right, including broadening himself as a person and curing his mild case of misanthropy.

Although you won’t ever get everything in chess totally right, you can do your best to stop repeating your mistakes. The good news is that it won’t take 34 years and it will be a lot easier than escaping from a time loop in early 1990s Punxsutawney.

First, check out the seven dumb chess ideas to steer clear of this year. And even if you lose a game, take heart in five reasons it might be a good thing.

But even if you can learn valuable lessons from bad ideas and errors, there’s no reason to keep making them.

As George W. Bush once said: “Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.”

Here are chess five mistakes you’ll want to avoid repeating:

1. Misplaying Your Own Openings

Unless you’re a professional chess player, it’s hard to keep current on opening theory for the myriad ways to begin a game.

But there’s no excuse for having large gaps of knowledge in the openings you choose to play.

For example, I often found myself reaching the following position in blitz after electing to play the Scotch:

I kept repeating the same mistake of playing Be3 here, which is a terrible move. It was only after losing game after game from this position that I looked up the opening and discovered the easy move Qf3, which solves all of White's problems. (By the way, Be3 a move earlier instead of taking the knight is also fine.)

Although I might not have known the move the first time I reached the position, there was nothing stopping me from looking up the answer after the first loss.

For an excellent lesson in the Scotch, see GM Sam Shankland's video.

Oh, and unlike the man in the photo above, make sure to set up your chessboard correctly.

2. Messing Up Easy Endgames

Many beginners cannot accurately play simple endgames that come up all the time, like rook and king vs. king, king and pawn vs. king, or queen and king vs. king.

If you cannot play those basic endgames practically in your sleep, you need to practice them more, until they become second nature.

Other endgames are more difficult but still require practice not only for the chance they come up over the board, but to understand how the pieces and king work together. These include endings like two bishops, bishop and knight, and rook vs. bishop

3. Neglecting Development

Why do so many beginning chess players fail to develop their pieces? Is it because they are greedily taking material and ignoring the other important aspects of the position? Are they so easily distracted by “side quests” with a single piece that they forget the rest of their army?

Watch lower-rated games on and you will see it time and time again: players losing because they don't bring out all their pieces. 

GM Roman Dzindzichashvili urges you not to skip development in his enlightening member-analysis video. 

4. Missing Common Tactics

The vast majority of amateur games are decided not by ingenious and subtle strategic maneuvering, but by a simple missed tactic. And I don’t mean brilliant, Tal-level combinations, either. I am talking about the basics: pins, skewers, discovered attacks, forks, and double attacks

If you are losing games because of basic tactics or tricks, you should watch every one of IM Daniel Rensch's videos in the "You Must Know" series.

You can also run your games through a computer engine to see where you and your opponent missed tactics.

5. Resigning Too Early

Sure, if you’re playing a master, down a queen, with plenty of time on the clocks, resign away.

But if you’re down a piece in a blitz or bullet game? A pawn in a long game? Fight back!

No one ever won a game by giving it up. Sure, you probably will lose, but by playing on in bad positions, you’ve got nothing to lose.

Not only will you have a chance to save the game, but you might also learn important technique ideas if your opponents is able to successfully convert his advantage.

To learn how to save seemingly hopeless positions, see FM Mike Klein's supremely entertaining video series on how to make a comeback. You can also read GM Daniel Naroditsky's article on how to play a counterblow

Which mistakes do you repeat again and again? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook


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