Revisit your losses
It’s important to learn from your losses. Reviewing your losses can be a harrowing experience. No player wants to sit down and relive the moments they hung a piece or lost to a sudden checkmate. However, to improve your chess you will need to learn from your worst losses — even ones where you are checkmated in under 10 moves! Too many players I know dismiss their losses. “I was tired” or “I got distracted” are common excuses. To be fair, those are legitimate claims. The question we need to ask ourselves is why did we lose our attention? So, how to stop losing at chess? Look at your losses.
This was a game from 1991. My friend Dave, whom I thought knew very little about the game of chess, taught me a valuable lesson in losing. He and I played close to 50 games over the next few years. Our games are chaotic as they are aggressive. Amateur chess games are full of mistakes. This game is no exception. Playing these games was a valuable lesson and it taught me how important it is to learn from your losses.
Write comments in your games
For every game you lose, write a sentence or two on your score sheet or in the comment section if you use a chess database. Give yourself an honest appraisal. For this game I wrote this:
I lost this game because I did not look at my opponents threat. In the future, I need to put myself in his shoes and look to see what he is attempting.Paul H.
When you review your collection of games, read your comments. Don’t be afraid to look at your losses. Be honest with yourself. Analyze carefully. Take them as valuable lessons. In addition, remember what you did wrong. Above all, realize that this will make you a better chess player. How to stop losing at chess? Learn from your mistakes!
This is a video analysis that can be viewed here.
Note: Anatoly Karpov lost in just 12 moves to another grandmaster. Review the game here.
Calculate your opponent’s threats. Clearly this didn’t happen during the game. The move e3 was preparing Qh5# and I never bothered to consider it.
Recapture to improve your pieces scope. Playing a move like gf6 opens the g-file for my rook but little else. At this early stage of the game, it’s more important to play ef6, opening the long diagonal for my bishop.
Watch for king safety. This should go without saying but it’s always important to remember. Make sure your king room to escape. Ideally, this is done through castling but if that is not an option, make sure it can go to a safe square.
Don’t underestimate your opponent. Frankly, this was one of the main reasons I lost. A combination of overconfidence and a sense that my opponent didn’t know what he was doing. It turns out, there are many strong players out there that have never played in tournament chess. This is especially true at the amateur level.
Humiliating losses like this happen all the time to amateur players. It’s part of the learning process. Don’t make excuses for yourself though. Be self-critical. Point out the bad moves you make, and more importantly, the reasons for why you made them.
Strong players are very objective about their play. I want to show you one such example that took place during the 2020 Tata Steel Chess Tournament. It is a post-mortem analysis between two grandmasters, Fabiano Caruana and Alireza Firouzja. Both players are over 2700 ELO. Firouzja was Black and lost to Caruana. Look how objectively and honestly Firouzja replies to Caruana’s suggestions. This is how we should all act during our post-game analysis.