To Err is Human

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  • Tactics

We all make mistakes. In my opinion it is just a natural way to self improvement, so you shouldn't be ashamed of your mistakes. As a roughly translated Russian saying goes "Only a person who does nothing makes no mistakes". Therefore I want to thank a number of readers who pointed out my incorrect quote of the great Hemingway here:  Of course it is supposed to be : "For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn." and not " Baby shoes for sale. Never worn." as I mistakenly quoted.  It taught me a very simple and obvious lesson that human memory can easily fail you and it doesn't hurt to check your facts. It is more difficult to prevent the mistake I made in this article: where I mentioned " Contador's triumph in the Tour De France 2010".  Unless I learn to see the future events, such mistakes will be unavoidable. So, my attitude towards mistakes is simple: "To err is human, but to repeat the mistake is foolish".

As you have probably guessed already, we are going to talk about chess mistakes and how to learn from them.  Of course even the great players make mistakes, but they always learn from them, and that's what makes them very strong! I believe it was Capablanca who said once that he learned more from just one lost game than from dozens of his wins. ( I couldn't find the exact quote, and as you can see, my memory sometimes fails me Smile )  

Amazingly, even the greatest chess players from time to time repeat their own mistakes. Judge for yourself: in the next game Rubinstein makes a textbook tactical mistake. 


Every chess player knows how painful it is to miss such a shot.  So, Rubinstein would never miss the same tactic again, right?  Well, here is a game he played only two years later!

Of course only Rubinstein (who was described in some books as absent-minded) could fall into the same trap twice, right?  Well, let's look at the following games. 

It is difficult not to win an endgame with three (!) extra pawns, but...

Then one decade later Reshevsky has two extra pawns in an endgame against Soviet GM Geller:

Another decade has passed and now Reshevsky has an extra Knight!

As you can see, there is no guarantee that you won't repeat the same mistake again. Still next week we'll discuss how to learn from your mistakes and try to avoid them in the future.


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