Blunder Check!

What is a blunder check?

In simplest terms, a blunder is just a mistake. However, it usually is a significant mistake. A bad move made by a novice, might just be considered a lack of skill, whereas, the same move made my a grandmaster might be considered a blunder (they should be better skilled and not make that type of mistake). A blunder is a move that significantly alters the chances of one of the players to win, draw, or lose the game. Losing a rook, for example, could be a blunder because the loss of such a large amount of material significantly increases your probability of losing the game.

How can I reduce my blunders?

A blunder check is the last step in your move selection process. Before you actually make your move on the board, you should look at your move to make sure it is not a blunder (i.e. losing your queen or another piece, missing a mate-in-1).

You can get lost in all the variations you are calculating and forget that a piece was being attacked. There is something called Blumenfeld’s Rule proposed by Soviet master Benjamin Blumenfeld . Basically, after calculating deep variations, go back to the current position and look for obvious mistakes (as if you are a patzer) and only after confirming there is not catastrophe resulting from you planned move do you make your move.

Sometime we make an assumption that is incorrect. For example, we assume that after we capture a piece that our opponent will immediately capture it back. However, there might be an intermediate move (known as zwischenzug) such as a check or a counter-attack on a more valuable piece. Be careful with your assumptions and look for zwishenzugs in your blunder check.

Avoid tunnel vision. What I mean by that is focusing on one part of the board. You might get so wrapped up attacking your opponent’s king or trying to promote your passed pawn that you miss something happening on another side of the board. Expand your board vision and look for long range moves. It can be especially hard to see a queen, rook, or bishop moving from one side of the board to the other side. These types of moves should be looked at during your blunder check.

Forcing moves are easy to see as they are single moves on the board, so don’t proceed with your move until you have looked at these. Forcing moves are checks, captures, and threats. Learn to identify them and make sure these will not result in tragedy for your planned move. Looking at forcing moves is also important when looking for your own candidate moves, but also looking for your opponents forcing moves will help you stave off blunders.

Hard to see moves such as those made by a knight can be tricky. Before you make your planned move, look to see if there is some kind of knight fork that you opponent can make.

What are the downsides of making your planned move? Sometimes we forget that the piece or pawn we are moving was serving an important function such as defending another piece/pawn/square. If we make our move can our opponent take advantage of our removing that defender?

Can you get better at avoiding blunders? Absolutely! Doing tactics training is excellent for helping you calculate and look for ways your opponent can thwart your plans. If you are doing you tactics training and make a mistake, try to identify what you overlooked and why you overlooked it. This will help you get better at you blunder checks.

Links for further reading

I’ve listed a few things to look for during your blunder check. If you have other good suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

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