Beginners - How to "Stop Blundering"

usernamesaregone

In various forums, including but not limited to chess.com, I encounter a sentiment that's met with unhelpful advice -- beginners asking, "how do I 'stop blundering?'", met with "You'll blunder for the rest of your life; we all do."

I think what most beginners mean is "How do I stop giving away material with easy-to-spot tactics that are only a couple moves?" To which I answer, "By working with the tactics trainer."

When I first joined chess.com, I wasn't accustomed to playing with a clock, I didn't have good "chess vision", and I would give away material left and right and wonder how I could miss such obvious moves. My rating was below 800.

At the advice of some players in local clubs, I started making a habit of tactics puzzles. With 36 Rapid games under my belt and only a couple months of consistent play, I've reached 1050. People in my local club have told me that now it "feels like" I'm playing chess (you know, getting totally wrecked instead of getting epically wrecked), and I've "dramatically improved for such a short period in chess time." I'm inclined to agree with them.

A quote I read about Go puzzles is that they're like individual words of a foreign language - without the words, we can't think about how to structure our conversations. I am coming to feel like chess puzzles are the same way. My ability to perceive threats on the board, assess them, and try to make threats of my own has improved tremendously by regularly doing tactics, and I make moves accordingly. Those same club players have told me that strong tactics alone are enough to get to 1600+. I wouldn't be surprised. 

Now that I feel like I can better feel the board, I have, for the first time, felt like looking over instructive games and other high-level material is productive. And don't get me wrong -- I'm still losing games in small tactical skirmishes. Most recently, I didn't identify that if my opponent took initiative in a small exchange, he could take my soon-to-be-en-prise-knight. I didn't shore up my little horsey with an available pawn, lost my knight, and lost the game.

So, while I think it might be time to learn a thing or two more about the game at large, I'm definitely not giving up the tactics trainer any time soon.

Oh, and P.S. -- if you're rated as low as I am, I've been told by pretty much every respectable player in our clubs (some former experts) to not even bother studying openings. I hear that it's pretty useless until you're 1600+. One player even said it's actively harmful. I mean, think about it - what are you doing memorizing lines if you're going to give away all the material after a few moves anyway? wink.png

notmtwain

 I am glad you are getting a benefit out of the tactics trainer. However, after looking at your last two losses, I believe you would benefit from some of the lessons on how to open the game.  You lost both games to similar tactics made possible by the weakness of your opening. In both games you lost material because your bishop on c5 was rolled back by your opponent's queenside pawns.

I am not saying you should memorize lines but basic things like knights before bishops and not opening holes in your kingside (creating ways to pin pieces against your king) are important and not beyond the current level of your game.

notmtwain

 

I am not saying that bringing your bishop out is bad. But you need to understand where you are going to put it when it gets hit by your opponent's queenside pawns.  I am not an e4 e5 kingside opening player but it seems to me that you need to either wait to bring it out or have a place for it to retreat to if it does get forced back.

This is an area where looking at what masters have done in that opening might pay off.

usernamesaregone

Thanks for your input! I would agree that these principles are not below my level of playing and can be handy to keep at my fingertips!

When I'm aiming to discourage others from studying openings, I really do mean getting all caught up in lines. Knowing automatic replies to a barrage of opening moves is something I've seen other new players get fixated on.

sammy_boi
notmtwain wrote:
 

 

 

I am not saying that bringing your bishop out is bad. But you need to understand where you are going to put it when it gets hit by your opponent's queenside pawns.  I am not an e4 e5 kingside opening player but it seems to me that you need to either wait to bring it out or have a place for it to retreat to if it does get forced back.

This is an area where looking at what masters have done in that opening might pay off.

In the first game you give 13...Bxc4 two question marks, but it's the only way to NOT lose a piece.

Maybe you should work on tactics yourself...

(edit, ok I guess Bxf3 would also work, but Bxc4 wins a pawn)

MickinMD

I'd like to, from the perspective of a teacher with an Advanced Professional Teaching Certificate, point out a key thing to do while using the Tactics Trainer here or at chesstempo.com.

After you finish a problem, including looking for/at the right answer to problems you fail, try to tell yourself the names of all the tactics involved, then look at the tags people have put on the problem.

This will help to see patterns.  Also, memorize and be ready to demonstrate any of the dozens of tactical motifs on these interactive pages:

https://www.chess.com/article/view/chess-tactics--definitions-and-examples

https://chesstempo.com/tactical-motifs.html

MickeyDeadGuys

On the whole openings aren’t important to learn for beginners, I disagree.  For example, you can play e4 as white, or c5 as black against the computer on easy modes, and a few poor moves in the first 3 or 4 moves—I.e. out of book lines—and you’re going to be losing quickly.  If not losing, you will be on the defensive.  So I don’t mean memorizing 10 and 20 move variations, but knowing the early moves is pretty critical.

Strongest_hokage1998

Watch out, all my koodas coming out and making you feel offended. PROVE IT!

Dale

If one gives away pieces left and right that ends the mystery of why it is good to move into the centre.

improveinchess1

you can find advice on https://improveinchess.wordpress.com

FrTom

IM John Bartholomew (Fins0905 here) has a YouTube playlist where he plays rapid games against increasing rating bands ( <1000, 1000-1200, ...) and explains his thought process and the perceived errors of his opponents.

 

This is valuable since he identifies many opening mistakes and suggests better moves.

 

I really recommend internalizing his advice from the first few levels and suspect that it will improve your game.

 

Link to the playlist:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2huVf1l4UE&list=PLl9uuRYQ-6MCBnhtCk_bTZsD8GxeWP6BV

 

Also, you should be aware of:

1) Checks 2) Captures 3) Threats

that your opponent has after a move you are considering. This needs to be part of your thought process and a reflex.

You might not have time to search for an opponent's tactics each move, but being aware of the immediate ramifications is crucial.

 

Finally, unguarded pieces are magnets for tactics. I'm sure that you have learned this in your tactics training but so has your opponent.

 

When you are looking for possible tactics that an opponent could spring on you, start with your undefended pieces. (Here's an idea: minimize the number of undefended pieces!)

 

 

erabin

The biggest thing to overcoming blundering is analyzing psychologically exactly what was going on with your mind when you blundered. 

For more interesting insights about blundering and pedagogy, like www.facebook.com/premierchess.com 

SeniorPatzer

All you can really do is to decrease the rate or the percentage of blunders in your game.  And/or reduce the number of egregious game-losing one move blunders like hanging your queen.  

 

Basically, it just starts with asking yourself about your opponent's last move and your own candidate move that you have nearly decided upon (Is it safe?).