Saturday, January 17, 2009

Now that I have your attention

When BDK wrote about his latest blunder some time ago a few issues crossed my mind. Since he was focussing on a new approach to his game, that is to say, he intended to pick up his old approach again (CTT), I tried to draw his attention with a few jokes. The message that I had something to say obviously didn't come across.
Since I have no inclination to help people who don't want to be helped, I didn't simply say what I had to say. I never do. But since everybody has the right to be awoken when he signals it, I continued to poke him with hints. As I always do. To no avail, btw.

When BDk wrote an excellent post about lack of chess vision as the main cause of blunders, he covered 90% of the matter, so what I had to say started to look somewhat obsolete.
Due to the law of inertia I continued to poke though. What especially triggered me was his call up:

Fellow patzers: when it is your turn to move, do not waste your time thinking about pawn structure, whether to exchange your Bishop for his Knight, or similar strategic jambalaya before doing a basic safety check.

Well, as you can read in the comments of this post, my latest poke crossed the line of funnyness into the area of insult. Which can always happen with my way of demeanor, ofcourse. But I can never deny someone's right to be awoken when he seems to call me.

Ok, 'nuf said, so what's up?

It is a common thought that there is an imperative relationship between a low rating and blundering. There is not. Not imperative, I mean. Even when I had a low rating, I never have blundered much. There are lots of low rated players who don't.
The cause for blundering lies in [lack of] chess vision, as BDK pointed out brilliantly. But here I talk about the cause behind the cause. Why some people are blunder prone, while others aren't. The idea that blunders are inherent to a low rating prevents the research after these deeper causes.

It must have something to do with habits. Habits tend to become invisible when you think that everyone has the same problem. My attitude in life is one of safety first. Check and double check. No pun intended. These habits, which I can't help, prevents me obviously from blundering much.

During clubevenings and tournaments I noticed a habit which the greater part of the D-players have in common (but not all of them, as said). When the games start at 8 pm, most of the D-players are sitting at the bar at 9 pm. I never understand that. How can you loose a game and have still 1.5 hours left on the clock? That simply can't be.

It's my take that the habit we are talking about here is impatientness. Since the A-players use up all their time in general, the question arises why aren't they impatient? Have they overcome their habit or are impatient players spud out in a Darwinistic manner and just not able to reach the higher ranks due to their habit?

There seems to be a correlation between the length of the game, rating, impatientness and being blunderprone (Sorry, BP). Whether and how this is causal I leave to you. I just wanted to put these invisible habits under your attention.

Another point I want to make is that there is a great difference in level between the level of your blunder and the level of your average chess skill. As BDK pointed out that has to do with chess vision. If you look not at a certain part of the board or look with a biased mindset, you simply do not see what's there. This implies that measures that repair your blunderprone-ity will have no effect at your average chess skill. Since the difference in level of both is to big.

This leaves the question if the raise of your overall chess skills has a causal relation to the level of your blunders. In other words, do grandmasters make subtle blunders in stead of gros blunders? If so, their blunderprone-ity might have nothing to do with impatientness after all since they play longer games and are hence less impatient. Hence I might be talking nonsense.


  1. "...being blunderprone" sounds like the movie sequel to Being John Malcovitch ( for an idea of what I'm talking about:

    You're talking my language when you talk of blunders. True, when I first started playing again, I was playing like a caveman on fire trying to put out the fire with the only thing I had... a club. I feel I have evolved a little past the Neanderthal phase and into early Cro-Magnon but still hunting and gather.. not much industrialization yet.

    There are many words in blunderland that we use. It’s very similar to the Eskimos having many words for snow. I will try to divulge some of my culture upon you. You speak of being a class player yet still not having blundered, yet your … what is it you folks say?... chess vision (?) was what caused your game to go in the toilet.

    1) Blunder-mat is a term used when you flat out blunder material due to leaving it out hanging.
    2) Blunder-coating: Neglecting to keep an eye on your back rank resulting in a mate as you boldly go forward snagging pawns and things
    3) Blunder-tac : This is a result of a premature attack gone bad leaving you with no initiative and all your pieces on the wrong side of the board when your opponent comes storming in.
    4) Blunder-tic : This is a result of a tactic that looked too good to be true fooling you into not calculating the results.
    5) Blunder-fear: Most often occurs with timid players playing “up” with out proper mental preparation. They end up playing so defensively ( as White) that nothing gets developed before Black casts the first check.
    6) Blunder-plan: A bad plan is better than no plan at all is carried to the extreme
    7) Blunder-val: You think, “White really is good here” right before black goes and throws a wrench in it. It’s different than 6 in that you have placed a positional evaluation to the given situation giving you false hope.
    8) Blunder-mess This is also a positional blunder variation different from 6 and 7 in that you had NO plan at all.
    I could go on. But I think you get the picture. My experience has always been that the difference between Class D-C-B-A- Expert is the degree of blundering as described above. In the lower classes, it’s not uncommon to see blunders on both sides. One can recover easily and it’s the last one to blunder who loses.

  2. "It must have something to do with habits. Habits tend to become invisible when you think that everyone has the same problem. My attitude in life is one of safety first. Check and double check. No pun intended. These habits, which I can't help, prevents me obviously from blundering much."

    I agree a class B player can have good tactical vision that spots most tactics, but a poor per-move thought process that sometimes leads him to disaster. I can also name a beginners who rarely hang a piece/pawn outright or make a ??, but often play ?! and ? moves.

    "It's my take that the habit we are talking about here is impatientness."

    My own experience tells me a good per-move thought process and patience are different habits.

    For example, in a recent game my opponent played ...Qb6+. Not only had I forgotten to examine all his possible checks, I didn't realize it was a check until I had spent four minutes contemplating my next move. I put a good fight against the 1960 but of course this was a serious lapse in my process.

    Note: We were one of the last 4 tables playing in the tournament. No impatience there at all! Just poor per-move habits.