Blunder Removal

One aspect of chess improvement that a lot of players are interested in is how they can remove blunders from their play. So I thought I’d provide my take on this thorny issue.

The first and most important thing is to learn good clock handling as the vast majority of blunders happen when players are short of time. Strictly speaking time trouble is a separate issue which I should expand on in another post. But I can tell you that the primary cause is when players try to calculate things that should decide intuitively.

A popular method of trying to avoid blunders used to be the so called Blumenfeld Rule which involved writing your move down before playing it and then looking at the position through the eyes of a beginner (checking whether you’re losing your queen or putting mate en prise etc). Of course when FIDE made it illegal to write your move down prior to playing it (apparently this is ‘taking notes’ or something) it became illegal to implement the Blumenfeld Rule in this particular way. I have thought that instead of writing it down the move might be artificial ‘announced’ in ways other than writing it down, for example intoning it slowly under your breath might have a similar effect. But I’m still not a fan of this approach.

When I tried the Blumenfeld Rule in my own games it just didn’t feel right, I became very stilted in my thinking. The other problem is that it is quite unsuitable for the real blunder territory which is time trouble, it takes too long to do these checks when you don’t have much time on the clock. My modified version might work for some people but I believe the real cure for blunders lies elsewhere.

I see blunders as being very much akin to computer crashes, when too much is going in your brain the odds of it going haywire increase dramatically. So we need to clear the decks of distracting thoughts prior to playing chess which means not arguing with one’s significant other or taking on jobs such as being the captain of the chess team. And never talk to anyone during your games which I’ve found to be totally destructive.

There are more esoteric approaches which I think can be very effective, for example practicing meditation will quieten what buddhists refer to as the monkey mind. But to do this properly requires a significant time commitment which very few people are willing to make.