We've all been there. We've all played moves that made us wanna go:
as soon as we realized how bad they were. We've all said to ourselves at least once: "well, this game is lost. I am not wasting my time and energy on this stupid game any longer!" Sometimes that is indeed a correct approach. If you are playing a competent opponent and you are a queen down, maybe it is a good time to think about resignation.. AFTER you checked the board for all possible swindling tricks, of course! :)
I encounter this, how I like to call it, mild form of depression way too often. In quite a lot of lessons with my students they tell me things like "well, yes, this move you are showing gave me some good chances, but I was so mad at myself for my play earlier that I was not trying anymore!" or even "well, yes, I am only a pawn down, but I was playing so poorly that I just felt like I had no chance, therefore I resigned"
I am not joking about the last one, it actually happened fairly recently :) Judging from my experience with my students, I thought that this is probably a fairly wide-spread problem and that is why I am dedicating this blog post specifically to it.
Let me use another meme - imagine that I am saying this next sentence in a voice of Morpheus from the Matrix.
What if I told you that the only thing that matters in every current position is your future play, not your past play?
But seriously, think about it. Your past play gave you the position you are currently sitting at. That's it! Why would you dwell on it? Speaking in economic terms, your past play is sunk costs. What happened, happened, so whatever - you forget it and try to salvage the position with good future play. Every single second during the game which you spend thinking "man, I would probably be winning had I played Bc3 on move 13.." or something like that is a second wasted - it does not help you achieve a positive result in any way, shape or form. All it does is make you sad/depressed/unfocused/annoyed/down-on-yourself/etc. Do you see any positive words in that list? :)
To put it in simple words - you have to try to play your best in any given position NO MATTER what happened earlier in the game. It is really that simple. And the amount of rating points that sentence might save you is huge, trust me. You can get mad at yourself after the game, sure. But don't waste time on that during the game :)
So now that we got that out of the way and hopefully you are ready to tackle the bigger challenge.. Let's talk about salvaging horrible positions! This is the fun part :) There are a couple things you have to remember:
1. If your opponent has a great position, it is very likely that he has eased down a bit and is not paying as much attention as he should. (even more motivation to not give up, right?!)
2. You have to keep your eyes open and actively try to spring traps. Usually they don't happen by themselves.. you have to put in some work. Basically, you are a hunter - the more work you put in, the bigger the chance for reward ;)
3. You have to try to hide your traps as much as possible. If you set a very transparent trap and your opponent notices it, it can actually serve as a wake up call to him that there are still dangers in the position and you might not get another chance.
Let me illustrate that with a couple of examples:
1. In this one, I am playing black versus a pretty strong opponent (almost 2200 FIDE if I remember correctly). He has been crushing me the entire game, but I kept trying to fight back somehow and keep at least some tension on the board. As you can see in the diagram below though, it seems that I will finally have to succumb.. And I assume that is exactly what my opponent thought.
2. In this one (interestingly enough, it happened in the exact same tournament!), I am also playing black versus ¬2050FIDE. I've been playing horrendously the entire game, missed so many tactics that it hurts to remember.. As you can see from the diagram, I am, again, ALMOST completely dead. Almost ;) There are almost always some chances in chess..
Of course, Rg5-->Rg4 was not a very hard trick to find. However, there were a couple factors that made it work - firstly, my opponent had eased up a little bit, because he was clearly crushing. Secondly, he was attacking the entire game, so finding and playing a defensive move like h3 was not as easy as it seems. And thirdly, luckily for me Rg5 appeared to my opponent as a fully defensive move - he was threatening Nh6 mate and therefore I pinned the knight. So, Rg5 was not completely transparent.
I could show you a ridiculous amount of such examples just from my own games. The bottom line is - if you don't give up, don't dwelve on your past play and get down on yourself, but instead keep yourself sharp and your eyes open, you give yourself a chance to secure some draws and even wins in absolutely horrible positions. These "bonus" draws and wins add up to quite a nice amount of rating points that otherwise would be lost :)
Keep your chin up! Remember - there are almost always some tricks to be found on a chess board. It would be the best, of course, if your opponent had to do the swindling..
Best of luck, and till the next time.
TVEDAS is out.