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How To Avoid Typical Amateur Mistakes - by Coach Dan Heisman

How To Avoid Typical Amateur Mistakes - by Coach Dan Heisman

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In this new series, Top National Coach Dan Heisman covers a wide range of typical mistakes that amateurs make during chess games. In each video, Dan covers a motif and illustrates it with practical games. And when he talks about mistakes, he doesn't intend to show common mistakes such as leaving a piece en-prise or allowing a double attack. The course is more oriented towards explaining mistakes in thought-process, or mistakes happening because we play too fast, don't consider our opponent's best move, or when a capture can lead us to erroneous conclusions. Behold, there are a lot of different ways to go wrong in your game! Putting on the table all his experience, coach Dan Heisman leads us to learn and identify these hindering mistakes, showing with his clear and easy style how to avoid the most common mistakes we all are prone to make



Video 1: Playing Too Slow

At the amateur level, only 20% of people play at a reasonable time pace. Playing at the right pace is a very important part of chess. Playing too slow means you have no time when you need to think about what’s going on, and to make the right decision. When you’re playing a game, two things tell you how much time you should invest in a move: what’s happening in the position, and the time situation. Checking the time situation means to know which time control you’re playing at, the number of the move you’re going to play and, of course, the time remaining on your clock. And this is true no matter which time control you are playing: speed game, rapid or classical.
It is also important to be able to understand when the move is critical. We want to invest more time thinking on critical moves and save time when the move is non-complicated, such as book moves in the opening.

Dan explains in this video the three main reasons we play too slow:

  • You're afraid of making a mistake
  • You see two possible moves, and can't decide which one is best
  • You underestimate how much time you'll need later when the positions might be more critical

With examples, Dan will instruct you on how to better manage your time and be more aware and careful about time management.

Video 2: Too Good To Be True

Can it happen that our opponent offers us a tactic that is just too good to be true despite he being a decent player? Well, most of you probably know that Vladimir Kramnik, one of the strongest players ever, missed checkmate in ONE playing against a Computer. The operator, realizing that the strong Russian had missed mate in one, was incredulous but checkmated Kramnik nonetheless. It happened in Bonn, back in 2006. Therefore, any player can miss an easy tactic, and you should always check carefully, to see if you’re missing something, but don’t abandon the idea of exploiting your opponent's slips!

Video 3: Playing Too Fast and Changing Strategy When Way Ahead

What is it that makes us play too fast? There are a lot of reasons, from being sure about our knowledge of the opening to anxiety to inexperience. Dan, in this video, shows us how dangerous it can be to move too fast, especially in the opening. Amateurs tend to make a typical mistake when playing too fast. It’s what Dan calls “AWL” error: Attacking with something Worth Less.The second important topic Dan addresses in this video is how to play when you’re way ahead in the game. Getting greedy or wanting to completely destroy your enemy’s forces sometimes can be very counter-productive. Take your time to assess the position, especially when you are being counter attacked, even if your position is overwhelming! The six key points to focus on when you're way ahead in the game:

  • Think defense first (don't play passively either)
  • Keep it simple: Complications favor the player that's behind
  • Trade pieces, not necessarily pawns
  • Use all your pieces 
  • Don't worry about little things
  • Avoid unnecessary time trouble

With clear cut examples to help you grasp each concept.

Video 4: Why Did My Opponent Make That Move?

In this video Dan challenges us to change our thought process. Instead of asking 'why did my opponent make that move?' we should always ask: What are ALL the things that move can do?' Many times we jump to conclusions, assuming a move has one single purchase (for example, to defend a piece) while it could also be threatening a double attack, a pin or even mate. Watch Dan show you how amateurs fall into this trap. 

Video 5: Hope Chess

During a chess game, you can make a bad move and hope your opponent doesn’t see its refutation; you can set up a threat, and hope your opponent doesn’t see it, and so forth. But this is not what Dan Heisman meant when he popularized the “Hope Chess” concept, more than 20 years ago. When you play chess, you try to make safe moves. The only way you have to know if your move his safe, is to visualize it before you actually move the piece, and ask yourself: “what are all my opponent’s dangerous moves?”. The dangerous moves would be checks, captures, and threats; and you should make it sure that for any of those you have a safe answer. If you don’t, and your opponent on the next move poses an unstoppable threat to you, that’s what Dan Heisman calls Hope Chess. In this video he emphasizes the need to avoid Hope Chess, and instead Calculate!

Video 6: Getting Cramped and Sneaky Pins

A typical mistake at the amateur level is that of getting cramped in the opening. It happens when, probably fearing terrible consequences, we miss to make “breaking” moves. We tend to “stay safe” in our half part of the board, missing some natural “opening” moves that would allow our game to become dynamic and full of possibilities.
 Sneaky pins is about practicing and improving your ability to spot pins, they're many out there more than we realize. Dan shows us some great examples.

Video 7: Counting Errors

Counting is the tactic of calculating any series of exchanges to see if they win or lose material. So a counting error is allowing a series of exchanges that unnecessarily loses material. Counting can be a bit hard when the variation is long, but it is essential to take time, try all the possible replies to your moves in the sequence, and avoid counting mistakes. Dan offers some great examples and helps you improve your calculation.

Video 8: Hope Chess: Part 2

In this video, Dan Heisman gets back to one of the most serious and common mistakes in amateurs’ games: Hope Chess. What Dan means by Hope Chess, as we said in chapter 5, is making a move without checking to see if all opponent replies of checks, captures, or threats can be met next move.

Video 9: Removal Of The Guard.

Removing the guard is a simple chess concept. When a piece guarding another piece or pawn is threatened and is forced to move, your opponent may take advantage of the weakness that such a move creates. Here Dan covers the classic error of removing the guard when not forced to and how to avoid this common mistake.

Video 10: Unprotected squares that appear protected

This is a similar concept to the Sneaky Pin. We think that one of our pieces is protected – or guarded – by a pawn, or another piece, but we don’t realize that the guarding pawn/piece is pinned, and it’s not actually able to protect our attacked piece or square. A recurring theme we need to train to spot both in attack and defense.

Video 11: Trying For Too Much

Sometimes, for several reasons, we let our desire to be incisive and winning take away our patience and our calculation skills. And, inevitably, we make mistakes. The consequences can be, in the best case a loss of a tempo; but in the worst scenarios, “trying too much” can lead to losing the game altogether. Dan covers the mental mistakes we make that lead to trying too hard.

Video 12: Summary

In this final video Dan summarizes his whole series and covers two model games with plenty of typical mistakes to review.

Run time: 6 hours, 5 minutes


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