I had a couple of games this week that saw me miss things during calculation. Fairly simple things that should have been seen. The problem wasn’t one of awareness, ie. not looking for tactics, I found some ideas but missed others. The interesting thing for me is the thought process that blinded me to these other possibilities.
This is the position from the first game. I am Black and my opponent has just played 14. Qg4 and I found an interesting line with 14…Nf6 15. Qxg7 Bxh2+! 16. Kh1 (to avoid a Knight fork in a couple of moves) 16…Rg8 17. Qh6 Ng4 18. Qxh7 Qg5
19. f4 what I expected but it is actually a slight mistake. White is going to force the Queens off and lift the Rook to h3 via f3 to defend against any h-file attack. The f4 pawn also stops the Bh2 getting to safety so I thought I’d have to let the 2 minor pieces go for the Rook with good compensation because of the open files and being able to double my Rooks as well as White’s undeveloped Knight and Queen’s Rook. After looking at this the next moves were played quite quickly. 19…Qg7 20. Qxg7 Rxg7 21. Rf3 Rh7 22. Rh3
23…Nf2+? 24. Kxh2 Nxh3 25. gxh3 Kd7 followed by Rah8 and winning the h-pawn. The game was drawn on move 47.
There is better in the diagram however. 23…Rxh3! 24. gxh3 Nxe3 and White can’t take the h2 Bishop because Nc2 would win the Rook! Not too difficult to see but I had decided that I was going to lose the Bishop and so was satisfied when I saw a line where I got good play for a 1 point material deficit. When I reached this position, I played Nf2+ immediately, oblivious to the better continuation.
In the second game, I am White and have just played 12. Qg3 which threatens to win the exchange and does after 12…Nd7? (12…Kh8 is necessary) 13. Bh6 Bf6 (my opponent played this quickly and had seen that he could defend g7 adequately) 14. Nxf6 (14. Nf4! is even better) Qxf6 15. Bg5 Qf5 16. Be7 forking Rook and the loose Knight on b4.
16…Nxc1? taking a pawn and attacking my a1 Rook. I had looked at this and, knowing I was winning material, decided that I had a choice of moves. I could play Rc1, Black would move the Knight and then I’d capture the Rook on f8 or I could take the Rook immediately which I did 17. Bxf8? the point being that 17…Nxa1?? fails to 18. Qxg7#. However, 17. Rc1! wins the Knight as it has no safe squares to move to! A simple move but I was so sure I was going to capture the Rook and could do so immediately that I didn’t look at Rc1 properly. 17…Rxc8? natural but tactically wrong. 18. Rac1 Nb4 and now another mistake.
19. Qc7? (I’ll let you find the best move) I’d seen this possibility a long time ago and saw that it would force Black’s pieces into a horrible formation after 19…Bc8 which it did and I won fairly comfortably.
If I had looked at this position ‘with fresh eyes’ I would have found the best move but, having had the Qc7 idea in my mind for a while, I didn’t try to find anything better. We might be reminded of Emanuel Lasker’s “When you see a good move, look for a better one” which is apt but the bigger issue for me was an automatic following of my previous idea, instead of looking at the position afresh.
The hope is that by being aware of this issue in the thinking process I won’t make the same mistake again.