I Lost Because I "Didn't See" His Combination

One of the reasons I hear quite often on why someone lost a game is they "Didn't see" something: the bishop that took their queen or the combination their opponent played on them, or the combination they missed that would have won.

But there are many reasons why you didn't see something and, if you want to improve, simply writing it off as "I didn't see it" will not help minimizing your chances to have the same problem recur again and again.

So let's list some of the reasons you might not see something and then briefly discuss what you might do to minimize recurrence:

  1. Failed to look for ALL the opponent's threats from his/her previous move, 
  2. Failed to look for the opponent's forcing moves (checks, captures, and threats) that he/she could make in reply to your move (common!),
  3. Failed to look for your checks, captures, and threats,
  4. Literally did not see the piece that moved before it did (board vision),
  5. Looked for his checks, captures, and threats but didn't calculate that one correctly (analysis error),
  6. Played too fast for the situation (another common one), and/or
  7. Was a tactical pattern I tried to recognize but was unfamiliar (lack of pattern recognition/tactical problem study).

OK, now let's briefly discuss/link what you can do to minimize each from happening:

#1 often occurs when you erroneously ask "Why did he/she make that move?" instead of "What are ALL the things my opponent's move does?" It only takes one reason you miss to lose the game so finding just a reason for the move may be fatal. See The Ways a Move Affects the Board and the chapter "Just Because it is Forced" in my Everyone's Second Chess Book.

#2 is the infamous "Hope Chess" - see The Secrets to Real Chess

#3 is partly covered in Making Chess Simple and many books on how to spot tactics like Hertan's Power Chess for Kids or my Back to Basics: Tactics.

#4 You can improve board vision many ways - see The Amazing Power of Board Vision

#5 A big subject. Some of my articles include Bootstrapping Analysis Skills, Analysis Insights, Quiescence Errors, and Analysis Tips plus included references.

#6 - See Real Chess, Time Management, and Care, Putting it All Together, and Slowing Down.

#7 - see Tactical Sets and Goals and its included links

To summarize, if you can break down "didn't see" to the root cause, that often helps you decide how you can work to minimize that problem in the future. Good luck!


  • 3 years ago


    @Derived, I think most people lose games because of this "Didn't see". The point here is to think about why you missed something and given that reason you can find good tips on how to minimize those mistakes. I think tips like those you can find here are amazing in the sense that sometimes just given the right tips at the right time can cause your play to improve significantly.

    Regarding time management, I think the basic tips here that takes time is to ask "why did my opponent play his last move?", search for the forcing moves (checks, captures, and threats) and to count on the forcing moves. Those things shouldn't hurt your time management too much and they are often important to think about. You can use your common sense (or intuition) to not think too much when the position doesn't require it. I really recommend you to read the article Dan Heisman linked to

    Real Chess, Time Management, and Care, Putting it All Together

  • 3 years ago


    You forgot falling asleep at the board/other environmental factors that may be classed under psychology (though these are far less common than all the points you hit).

  • 3 years ago


    I'll take a number 4 into a number 5, with a touch of number 2.

    And I suspect this recipe might be the main course for most Chess amateurs.

  • 3 years ago


    I'd lose on time every game if I did all that on every move. And I play classical time controls. Believe me, I've tried to do all that, and before move 30 I am down an hour on my opponent and mentally wrecked.

    I always lose due to not seeing stuff. But is it realistic to expect all this from a player?

  • 3 years ago


    I am guilty of asking  "Why did he/she make that move?" rather than the correct "What are all the things that move does." I will correct  my error in thinking!

  • 3 years ago


    This just happened to me. Wish I had seen this blog a few minutes ago!!! Thank you for the info...and I really need to stop moving pieces before I had my first cup of coffee!!

  • 3 years ago


    This is very helpful! I know in my case, when I am SO focused on what I am doing, I forget to ask myself about the checks, captures and threats that my opponent has. Usually happens at a critical time, too!! And sometimes, I'll try to ask myself that and in my mind, I'll try to come up with possibly replies.... Think I've gone over everything possible and then the opponent does me one better and comes up with something I never saw coming! I wonder if some of this is lack of experience, some is definitely miscalculation. Many times, I WILL go through a series correctly in my head but won't realize that at the end of it all, I'm down a piece. In any event, I'll have to keep these things in mind. I believe that this list can help me identify weaknesses so I can Try to improve. Thank you very much.

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