Tips for patzers

Tips for patzers

Mar 23, 2016, 6:44 AM |

I started this blog just over two years ago with the goal to reach a rating of 2000+ within four years. The point of the blog is to document my progress and remind myself of my strengths and weaknesses and thereby what I need to work on in order to get better. I have written down a number of tips and suggestions for improvement over these two years, and thought I'd do a little summary. I thought I might have a list of 20 or so tips, but I realized that there were more than twice that many. However, many of the tips are recurring, which is a suggestion that I am not really listening to myself. Shame on me!

Two years means that I am half way in terms of time, and would have liked to be half way in terms of rating as well. But I don't know if that is the case. When it comes to my online rating here on the site, I have made good progress - from about 1600 to just over 1800. So that is perfectly on track. But my OTB rating has not followed the same tendency. So who knows?

So below is a list of tips I have given myself in various blog posts over the past two years. The tips are in no particular order, adn I have made very little editing, just categorized them to give an indication of which areas are most in need of improvement. Hopefully, these can help you improve your game too. Please let me know what you think. 

  1. Pay attention! Don't hang pieces.
  2. See the entire board. Do not only focus on the area where you are attacking. Long range pieces may be sniping at the position.
  3. Visualize the chosen move as though madefirmly. (thank you, Jeremy Silman)
Strategy and planning
  1. I need to get better at finding plans.
  2. Learn the main ideas of the "standard" openings
  3. Don't let pieces trip over one another
  4. Develop pieces to squares where they have a future
  5. Don't trap your own pieces!
  6. Consider the future of pieces on the squares they're moved to. No future implies a wasted tempo.
  7. Pawn moves can be very weakening if played at the wrong time. And at the right time, they can be devastating for your opponent. 
  8. Push passed pawns!
Calculation, tactics and technique
  1. Double check: Always consider alternative moves, check for tactics and forks.
  2. Always double-check each move to see if there is a counter that stops your plan. Even for the simple two-move plans. If you think you have a mating attack, check another time.
  3. When the position calls for calculation, have a break. Stand up, walk around, get some oxygen to your head. And then take a look at the position. If your head hurts during the calculation. Take another break.
  4. I do not identify and calculate the critical lines well enough
  5. Beware of tricky mates
  6. Analyze the position thoroughly, even when (especially when) convinced that the game is won.
  7. Always look for other options. And don't be afraid of ghosts.
  8. Analyze the lines a bit deeper, and be a bit more critical to the conclusions
  9. Calculate until the position is quiet (quiescence). (thank you, Dan Heisman)
  10. Look for obvious ways to defend "crushing" attacks and tactics.
  11. I need to improve my endgame skills.
  12. Brush up on endgames!
  13. Brush up on endgame technique and do some endgame exercises.
  14. Once again, I need to work on my endgame skills. Time to get to work and figure out how to draw those objectively drawn positions.
  15. I have a hard time evaluating middle games correctly. I need to stop and look deeper to find the truth about the position.
  16. Do not expose the queen in the early part of the game (Chess 101).
  17. Castle early to get the king safe (Chess 101).
  18. When playing theoretical lines, stick to theory. At my level, any 'novelties' are probably bad.
  19. Timing: I found many of the right ideas, but didn't play them at the right time.
  20. Don't "invade" with the rook unless there is a very(!) good reason to do so.
Mentality and chess psychology
  1. Never give up, even if you blunder your queen in the opening.
  2. The game isn't over until it is over. At this level, both players may make critical mistakes right until the very end. 
  3. I did not give up mentally when I realized that I had misplayed the opening and had a worse position. Instead, I tried to make my opponent work for the extra material.
  4. When you have a decisive advantage, it is important to maintain concentration and not give it away. If you are on the losing side, the same applies. You never know when your opponent will give you a gift.
  5. If your opponent appears to give you material for free, don't trust them. Double check and check again before making your move.
  6. From time to time, I make moves without a single thought to my opponent's possibilities and threats. I have to stop this.
  7. Don't play only according to principle
  8. I need to learn when to take breaks
  9. Watch out for the Grünfeld (and other super-theoretical/tactical openings).
  10. Don't engage in a theory battle against a much higher rated player.
  11. When the position changes, the conditions change. And moves that were impossible before may suddenly become playable. Reassess!
  12. Don't get stuck in a dead-end-plan. If your opponent stops your plan, shift focus and create a new plan. Apply that same energy and focus into making it work
  1. Never show your opening preparations if your opponent might see! 
  2. Don't play the Marshall defense as black!
  3. If you face the Marshall defense with white, play 4. Nf3!
  4. Get two queens if you can. Cool
  5. Listen to Dan Heisman!
  6. Don't give up! Smile