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There is no worse feeling then losing a won chess game. And I don’t mean that you were simply “better” during part the game. I mean that you had the advantage early on, worked to keep it only to have it all go to hell because you hung a piece or lost a critical race to queen a pawn. Every chess player has had this happen to them before. It doesn’t matter if you are an amateur or a professional. A loss is a loss and it never sits well. If losing a won chess game is an art form then I must be Pablo Picasso.
Chess is not always fair. We all know this but it’s a hard thing for us to absorb. We think that the time invested in getting a winning position is enough to force your opponent to resign. The game will simply play itself. That’s not how it works. Just because you are materially better in a game does not guarantee a victory. If anything, it means you need to pay closer attention to your opponent’s counter play.
This next game played on Lichess is a great example of this. I outplayed my opponent early on and had a dominating position. A time scramble ensued and I hung a rook. All that hard work…down the drain. There is a silver-lining to this story though. These kinds of losses should never be dismissed as trivial. Saying, “Well, I was low on time and that’s why I lost” is certainly a valid reason but not a good one. The question you should ask is, “Why was I so low on time?” and “What was it about the position that caused me to hang a piece?”. Tough questions that we’ll try to answer during the post-mortem analysis.
Game#30 – Losing a won chess game
Paul H. – Deep_swindle
c3 Sicilian Defense [B21]
3 minutes 2 seconds
Retain the bishop pair. Having the bishop pair is almost always an advantage in chess but it depends on the position. Open positions almost always favor the bishop pair. Controlling the long diagonals can support the pushing of passed pawns. The bishops pair can rake the board, preventing your opponent from advancing his pawns. So, playing 21…Bc3 was just bad. An open position like this is made for the two bishops.
Avoid one-movers in favor of logical moves. Losing a won chess game is great, so long as you are on the winning side. This brings up another bad habit. Everyone likes to land a cheapo on their opponent. We hope that they won’t see our idea but once they do we scratch our head trying to understand why we played it. Look at the position below.
I just played 27. Rf7 with the idea of playing e5, threatening the queen with my bishop. That’s cute, but what happens when he plays something like Qh4? I’ll tell you what happens, I have a misplaced rook on f7.
Building your advantage is so important in chess. Playing 26…Rc3 with the idea of a later Rfc8 makes all the sense in the world. The rooks are coordinated. They threaten to take the bishop on c2 and infiltrate into the back rank. Simple, fundamental chess.
Improve the scope of your pieces. This is always true when you have a winning advantage. Whether you advance a passed pawn or simply move a bishop to an active diagonal, improving your pieces is essential. Look at the position below. I didn’t annotate this during the game but it’s important to cover. I just played 28…Qe5 with the idea of offering a trade with Qf6. Not a bad idea. But thinking about what I just said, can you find a better move?
The move is Bb5! A multi-purpose move. First, it gets the bishop on an active diagonal, menacing the enemy king. Second, it allows the simple Rfc7, doubling rooks.
Conclusion – Losing a won chess game (Game #30)
It’s hard to look at your losses. It’s even more difficult when they should have been wins! However, doing so can reveal insights in your play that can help you improve and play better chess. After all, that’s what it’s all about — getting better through practice.
The insight from this game showed me I still have work to do in converting won positions. This is particularly true when I am playing someone like deep_swindle, a player who revels in finding attacking opportunities in any kind of position. So, once a game is won make sure to turn the screws on your opponent. Lock down the position. Take away any counter play ideas your opponent may have before going in for the kill. This is especially true during a blitz game. Time is critical and has to be used sparingly.
Reviewing your blitz games can always teach you something about your game you didn’t know. Sometimes, it instills something you already know. Either way, going through this exercise will lessen the pain of losing a won chess game.