Blunders, although rage-inducing aspect of any chess game is necessary to identify a true winner.
After all, nobody can outcompete the opposition without them making a form of concession that allows some opportunity.
A blunder is the worst of three positional misjudgments in chess (blunder, mistake, inaccuracy) that cause severe material, tactical, or strategic loss, usually costing a player the game.
Some of the common causes of blunder include playing too fast, inattention, rashness, time pressure, miscalculation, lack of vision, and the likes.
So, how do you avoid blunders in chess?
To avoid blunders it is advised to perform a blunder check just before a piece or pawn has left the hand, this way, the player can easily change moves. It is also important to spend at least 3 seconds on each move to make sure they are not intuitional decisions that are likely to be a blunder.
Here are the list of tips to avoid chess blunders:
1.) Perform the “blunder inspection” to avoid blunders
The blunder inspection is essentially a plan to identify possible weaknesses of a given move before deciding something to be played.
A blunder occurs when a move has already been inputted over the board, an extra effort to feel the position before resolution should help spot problems.
Taking the time to analyze threats each step of the way can help you avoid hanging a piece, pawn, or some positional compromise.
I recommend implementing this idea throughout the way after the opening phase where safety is not assured.
2.) Understand opponent motives in order to avoid blunders
Every move that any player has tried would have a certain theme behind it, either passive or aggressive.
Properly identifying the opponent’s plan in every move can allow vision for obvious threats, or even subtle ones.
In order to maximize this advice, put yourself in the shoes of the opponent, what are they trying to accomplish with the move? Is this strategic or more tactical?
Once you acquired the general scheme behind the inner workings of your opponent’s game, interventions can easily come.
3.) Visualize possible replies so you can avoid blunders
Piggybacking from the previous point, every move that you play should consider possible responses from the opponent’s side of the board.
By changing perspectives of placing yourself in the framework of the opponent, you can easily pinpoint ways they can exploit a certain move.
Obviously there will be instances where you’ll miss certain position agendas made by the opponent, but that simply means they’re the better player.
But you don’t know that! expecting potential replies is an important aspect of every chess game, something you can build over time.
Which brings to the next point:
4.) Polish your board vision in order to avoid blunders
Board vision refers to the degree of analysis a player can press in certain situations, or simply their ability to find moves.
It comes to no surprise that having a more broader skill set in understanding chess positions should correlate to fewer blunders, since that is literally the hallmark of a good player.
“Chess is rarely a game of ideal moves. Almost always, a player faces a series of difficult consequences whichever move he makes.”– David Shenk
Such capability can be acquired by working on your tactical strength, strategic knowledge, or just pure hard experience.
However, targeted efforts (of improving chess vision) can lead to better results than just randomly playing games.
5.) Be a tactical maniac so you are more likely to avoid blunders
By definition, blunders are absolute worst moves that usually ends the game for the said player, a decisive factor.
That is something that cannot be accomplished by slow maneuvering moves! It’s through tactics.
“Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do; strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.” – Savielly Tartakower– Savielly Tartakower
If you really want to significantly reduce the instances of committing blunders, be good at tactics, since such is made through them.
Fortunately, there are tons of puzzles and challenges both offline and online to accommodate your needs, a larger resource than improving strategic play.
6.) Delve deeper on attacks in order to avoid blunders
We’ve just talked about blunders proliferating on tactical play, which is the focus of an attacking game!
Lots of players have lost pieces or pawns from surface-level sacrifices played from just “looking too good”.
Go deeper (several steps ahead) in cases of giving up pieces, since you can’t legally take back moves even with all your regrets.
Obviously there are occasions where you’ll miss a tactic or two, but spending time before actually going through such is the best plan.
7.) Don’t fall for “Intuitional traps” to avoid blunders
This is a more prevalent problem for players with experience especially in faster time controls, which is playing through “autopilot”.
Most advanced players will initially have a move or two upon first five seconds of glancing the board, which is seductively attractive to play immediately.
However, that is also a leading cause of blunders! Since investing less time on analysis can make you miss stuff.
This is more forgivable in faster time controls where the pressure of time is more significant, but you should at least take a second or two for making sense of the moves.
8.) Limit your positional suppositions to avoid blunders
These are certain beliefs in the general sight of things that blinds a player’s ability to make conclusive decisions.
“When you see a good move, look for a better one”-Emanuel Lasker (Third world champion)
Such presumptions include “Black can only attack here”, “White should trade queens”, and the likes that will position your mind in a singular direction.
These assumptions are of course inevitable, but such will focus your thinking in a single state forgetting that chess is a game of branches full of possibilities.
Limiting such beliefs can significantly reduce the chances of putting yourself in situations of “no going back”.
9.) Remove the winning stigma in order to limit blunders
Tons of theoretically won games have suffered the hands of defeat by simply not paying attention when they’re winning.
Being attentive is a very important quality necessary to accurately play a game of chess, having a winning position while relaxing, can also loosen this mentality.
“Give me a difficult positional game, I will play it. But totally won positions, I cannot stand them”.-Hein Donner
Being in a complacent state will make you susceptible to blunders long term since you’ll be likely to pay less attention to the moves.
This is why it’s helpful to treat winning positions as not won games, this would help you focus before the game is actually over.
10.) Avoid underestimating your opponent if you want to avoid blunders
Speaking of putting yourself in a position to make blunders, don’t underestimate your opponent ever!
If you’ve seen my complete timeline of chess history, multiple chess champions in their prime have been dethroned simply by underestimating their competition.
“Don’t underestimate the power of being underestimated”.-Tim Fargo
This actually makes sense since a player is more unlikely to invest time thinking of proper replies when expecting an opponent to not follow through.
It is a dangerous mindset, it would make you more vulnerable to giving opportunities that even a weaker player can exploit.
11.) Let the blunder unfold in order to avoid blunders in the future
This is one of the most important advice in all of this compilation, see through the blunder without resigning!
Missing a tactic or two is normal even for professional calibers, but what they don’t do is give up in moments where things get hard.
A blunder may actually become a positional sacrifice if a proper combination is formulated, an opportunity missed by just shaking hands.
Also, it is a learning experience (to attempt saving a loss position) that would give chances for the opponent to make a blunder of their own.
12.) Restrain your speed in order to limit blunders
Another issue that could heavily affect your decision making, playing too fast!
Of course there are ways to think fast in chess without making a blunder, but this takes a lot of intuition. Most people are playing faster than they are capable.
Speed can arguably be used as a formula to win games, yet will also inevitably increase the chance of making blunders.
After all, significant analysis should be applied to at least understand sophisticated plans, something playing fast wouldn’t allow.
This may be acceptable though in formats of faster time control, yet you should still be aware of when to start thinking about the moves.
13.) Maximize your time in order to limit blunders
Similar to the previous point although not exactly, time pressures will prompt blunders!
“Time trouble is blunder time”.– Alexander Kotov
Stresses over the playing time will undoubtedly force any player to rush moves likely without any thought, a formula for disaster.
So manage your time properly (although not obsessively), to not suffer having to splurge out replies haphazardly.
Again, another one of those cases that every player will face at some point that should at least be limited in some way.
14.) Restrict premoves to limit blunders
Now, this primarily applies to individuals frequently playing in online environments contrast to over the board (you can’t premove on the board, lol).
I don’t think someone actually premoves often in longer time controls but rather on the faster one, which is another chance to make a blunder.
There’s a whole strategy involving this, which is attacking the queen or another highly valued piece when someone premoves, ultimately making them lose the piece.
Premoves only makes sense in pawn pushes for promotion (where it can’t be stopped), or some hyper-fast bullet format.
Blunders are part of the chess game that people have been seeking to avoid over centuries, yet failed to do so.
It is undoubtedly an imminent aspect of becoming a player, everyone will commit such every now and then.
But there are definitely ways to at least limit its occurrence which I shared here; i hope it really helped you in some way.
Sleep well and play chess.