9 Rules You NEED to Know to Win Won Games
Getting a winning position isn't enough; you must also convert it. GM Avetik shares 9 must-know rules every strong player uses to win a winning game.

9 Rules You NEED to Know to Win Won Games

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How often do you get a winning position, but then you’re unable to win it? 
When at the end of the game, you’re like, “Ah… I was so close to winning…”

Familiar feeling? happy
Well, you’re not alone. Many players experience such unpleasant moments when they play a perfect game, get a winning position, and then don’t win it.

The problem with winning positions is that they don’t get won on autopilot. YOU must be the pilot and take the won game to its final destination when the opponent resigns.

And as World Champion Emanuel Lasker noticed, that’s the hardest thing to do in chess.

However, my dear friends, there ARE specific Must-Know rules that every strong player uses and converts more won positions than an average player.

I remember once (I was not a Grandmaster yet), I had a won position and was thinking about how to win it. Suddenly my opponent resigned.

His coach was shocked, and ran to our board.
“Why did you resign?”, he asked.
My opponent answered, “You told me before the game to play actively against Avetik. If he starts choking you, you have no chance. You can resign.”

The coach couldn’t stop laughing🙂 Me too.
Of course, it was an exaggeration, but that was an image I had. Indeed, I was winning most of my games. (BTW that tournament, the Armenian Junior Championship, I won with a score of 9 out of 9!)

Me at 18 On my way to transforming from a boy to a man

In this article, I’m going to share with you just three rules of how to win won games, and the other six, please forgive me, but I’ll keep them for myself and my students.

Joking. Haha😄

I’m going to share all of them here.
Let’s go!

Rule #1 - Simplify and Avoid Complications
You got the opponent. You’re winning. The plane goes to its last destination when the opponent will resign. What can happen to the plane? Something unexpected. In chess, it’s a blunder or a big mistake.
And in which kind of positions are there more chances to make a big mistake? If you said, “In complicated positions”, you’re reading my mind🙂

Then our 1st rule becomes very logical. We should simplify and avoid complications.

Here is an example:

White to play

With their last move, Black played 1…Rfe8, threatening a discovered check.
Should we castle short or long? Notice that White is a piece up!

What do you think?

Okay, in normal circumstances, it would make sense to think about castling to the long side, and attack using the light-squared Bishop.
But if we castle long, the fight will become complicated! Fighting in an opposite castled position is what the opponent wants.

So, the correct answer is to castle short, and keep things simple.

Many of the next rules will be closely related to the #1 Rule - Simplify and avoid complications!

Rule #2 - Exchange Pieces
The more pieces that are on the board the more complex the game usually is, and therefore more chances for us to make a big mistake.

Exchanging the pieces, leaving fewer of them on the board, is the easiest way to simplify a position. This rule should be frequently used in your won positions!

Here is an example:

An important tip to keep in mind — Emphasize trying to exchange the Queens and the Knights.
Queen — because it’s the strongest piece in chess.
Knight — because it’s the trickiest piece.

Rule #3 - Keep Your King Safe
What else unexpected can happen to the plane on its way to the last destination, where the opponent will resign? It will be bad if the pilot gets a heart attack.

In chess, it’ll be bad if our King gets checkmated🙂
We were Queen, Rook, Bishop, and three pawns up, but we got mated? No one, including the arbiter or the online platform where you play, will care. We lost🙂

So, we should keep the king safe!
It often means we should even avoid gaining more material if we are risking our king’s safety.

Here is an example:

Rule #4 - Don’t be Greedy
Imagine you have 1 million dollars. Would you risk your million for an additional 10 thousand? 
I hope you said “No”😊

What does this have to do with chess?
Actually, this is what most beginners do in their winning positions.
They’re up a rook, and they try to win a pawn, risking their king’s safety or something else.

Here is an example.

Rule #5 - Be Ready to Calculate
There will be situations where, regardless if you accept the sacrifice or reject it, things get complex.
In these situations, you have to calculate, especially if by accepting the sacrifice you significantly enlarge your advantage or immediately finish the game.

Here is an example from one of my games.
I was playing with Black and was a piece and two pawns up.

Rule #6 - Sacrifice Carefully
In regular positions, it’s okay to consider sacrificing to get an attack or strong compensation. However, in winning positions our strategy dramatically changes. Remember? We should avoid complications!

This is one of the most common mistakes I often see beginners and intermediate players make in winning positions. They can’t handle their desire to sacrifice. As a result, they’re getting into complex positions - doing exactly what the losing side wants.

In this position, one of our ChessMood students is playing with the White pieces.

It’s not that you should never consider sacrificing.
But if the losing side can sacrifice carelessly, your sacrifices should be backed up with solid calculations.

Rule #7 - Make your Pieces Happy
You don’t win the game. Your pieces do.
So making them happy, and bringing them to active positions, is something you should always keep in mind. Won positions are not exceptions to this principle.

The main idea of this rule is that active pieces are more likely to be exchanged! Why?
If both side's pieces are in active positions, what will happen?
Well, there are just 64 square boards on the chess board, so most likely, they’ll engage each other and… they’ll be either exchanged or the opponent will retreat and go to the concession stand! That’s what we want, right?

I’ll show you an example.

One of the common mistakes I see people make in winning positions is that they just move their pieces around instead of talking to them and bringing them into active positions. 
By doing so, as we’ve seen, we can force the opponent to make exchanges or go to the concession stand.

Rule #8 - Prevent Counterplay
Recently I was in a philosophical mood and came up with an interesting idea! Rate it from 1 to 10😊

Well, that’s in normal circumstances, in winning positions things change.

Preventing opponents’ counterchances becomes even more important than trying to achieve our own goals!

Why? Because we are the winning side, and we want to keep things simple - remember the 1st principle?

So, as much as possible, we’re going to prevent the opponent’s counterplay and the activity of their pieces, interfering with all their aggressive plans.

Let’s see an example.

While in normal situations we aim to achieve things and prevent the opponent’s plans as much as possible. However, in the won positions,  preventing the opponent’s counterchances becomes more crucial!   

Always ask yourself, “What are my opponent's plans? And if there is a chance to stop their aggressive intentions, do so, and only then shift your focus to accomplishing your objectives.

Rule #9 - Make Practical Decisions
If I had to keep only two of these 9 strategies, I would keep #1 - Simplify & Avoid complications and this one - Make Practical Decisions!

When you’re winning, the moves that are objectively best are not always the best practical ones. The engine doesn’t understand this.

For it is a common situation.
We’re a piece up and the engine’s top choice is winning an exchange while disregarding potential counterplay. 
It is a computer, and it can calculate 10 accurate moves ahead that defend the attack. 
But we’re human. We can’t operate this way.

Often online platforms might even mark our move as a “mistake” or even a “blunder”, while it was the best practical way to win the game!

Here is an example.

For You
I created this slide, so you can keep it next to you, until these strategies “get in your blood.”

Feel free to download/print it and even share it with your chess buddies.

The WWP Course
Of course, there are more nuances in won positions, and all of those 9 rules have exceptions. I didn’t include them (it would be a 100-page article) to keep it simple and to share with you the minimum information that would make you 10x better in winning won positions.

To learn more about this topic you can check out my course.
The WWP Pilot: Navigating Won Positions to Victory

You’ll learn:

  • What are the exceptions in Rule #2 - Exchange Pieces, and why you shouldn’t accept every concession? 
  • What if the opponent is aware of your strategy and avoids exchanges? How to exploit them?
  • How to punish the losing side when they attempt to bluff. 
  • What are the other 3 scenarios when you have to calculate?
  • When you should sacrifice material back and when you shouldn’t calculate long variations that the engine says, “mate in 7”.
  • Many-many examples of each topic.
  • 5 Psychological tips on how to not relax in won positions and how not to get nervous.
  • How to train this skill further.
  • And much more…

The connection with the SLP and WWP

Both sides, the SLP (Saving Lost Positions) and the WWP (Winning Won Positions) have inverse goals and plans. All of their strategies are opposite of the other.

For example:
The losing side tries to complicate, the winning side tries to simplify.
The losing side tries to avoid exchanges, the winning side tries to exchange.

And so on…

This is the reason, in the order of our courses, the SLP course was 1st, and only then WWP.

SLP Method - The Art of Saving Lost Positions

I wrote the SLP article first, and then this one.

So, if you haven’t watched any of those courses yet, I highly recommend starting with the SLP.

Good luck
I’m 100% sure that after reading this article (if you also watch the mentioned courses, I’m 107% sure😄) you’ll convert many-many-many more of your won games!

Why do I say “many more games” instead of “every single game”?

Well, because even Grandmasters, and the best players in the world, don’t win all of their won games.

Especially in blitz!

So please, should you slip up in one of your games, don’t be harsh on yourself, this happens to everyone.
Instead, focus on raising the percentage of your converted won games. 

And here are my gifts to you.
“My best games” and "Opening Principles" courses are unlocked.

With best wishes and love,
GM Avetik

Related sources

Article - How to Save Lost Positions
Course - The Art of Saving Lost Positions
Course - The WWP Pilot: Navigating Won Positions to Victory

Feel free to share your thoughts and put your WWP games in the comments.

Originally published