As I look through many amateur games, I am identifying recurring mistakes that are made. A lot of these (seem to) go unnoticed and, in my own games, I know that it often appears that no mistake has been made, that play has continued normally and suddenly one side just ‘happens’ to be winning.

Exchanges and tactics are massive here – especially the exchange decision that simplifies to a won endgame (maybe for the decider, maybe for his opponent!).

Other key areas include the move order of multiple exchanges resulting in one side coming out on top (or missing out on the opportunity to do so) and another area is the fixation on tempting moves.

Some positions suggest a clever, tactical idea which appears to gain an advantage. When we see these, the temptation to play the clever combination can make us want to play it even if we can’t see the win in every line. It ‘looks’ winning and in a couple of variations it does win, we can’t see the win in a 3rd variation but we play it anyway – and it fails.

Sometimes it doesn’t even fail, it’s just that there is a far stronger move available. If your move leads to a winning game then that is fine, if it doesn’t then you’ll be kicking yourself for missing the stronger move – especially if it is a simpler, more obvious move.

This ‘problem’ is tricky to address as it is not always a ‘problem’. There are many cases where our intuition/experience suggests an idea to us and we are right to devote our thinking time to it and it is often good to play the move even if we are not sure that it wins in every line. However, the tip here is to be aware of this habit and if you find yourself fixated on one clever move almost trying to force it to be a winning move, look away and then back at the board and consider the logic of the position with emphasis on the real weaknesses (undefended pieces, King safety) of your opponent’s position or counter-threats and defences.

Below are a few positions to have a look at, all from real games where tempting moves were played that were either out-right mistakes or missed simpler and stronger alternatives.

1. Does White have a tactic to grab a pawn here?



2. What is White’s strongest move here and why?
3. Loose pieces, pins and discovered attacks… what is White’s strongest move?


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