Beware of Threats

Often in looking over your games in which winning combinations became painfully and obviously possible and were not seen because your play was either due to careless playing with indifference of thought or just failure to look for them is a common problem even with the masters.

If you failed to see a obvious threat and paid a heavy price for not doing so then you may be thinking how can I correct this problem I have of not looking first before I leap on many moves that I make.

If it was caused by time pressure then that is your fault for not playing longer games with larger increments to give you more thinking time.

\ The problem may be that it is so easy to become so wrapped up in your own plans, ideas and threats that you tend to overlook what your opponent is up to.

The most common problem for many chess players is simply trying to stay focused. Many times in trying to tactfully calculate your way out of a problem your mind may wander on other thoughts. Even GM's have this problem and so you then fail to look far enough ahead or fail to calculate and see things that ordinarily would not present a problem to you.

Another problem is when you may have had a good position but then it gradually slips away step by step and you feel you are powerless to gain it back again. The problem is caused by what is called Chess Blindness because you now feel you are going to lose the game and for some reason you just are not seeing the best moves. If this happens to you then you must try to stay focused and not think about whether you are going to win or lose the game, you must instead try hard to stay focused on calculating your way out of that worsening position and try to calculate your self back into improving it.

You must try to think positive and think there is always a way to improve your position, you must think, after all if a master had this position what would he do to improve it? He would persevere and find good moves would he not? He would see what you are not seeing. The lesson here is don't give up so easily. Try to think that if you reversed the board and gave your position to Fritz or a GM, what then? That is the way to give your self a boost to try harder and to be more tenacious in seeing what may seem to be not so obvious. Many times after a game you may review your game and then say now why did I not see that obvious more? The reason may be as simple as you just gave up to soon in looking. You just were not focused enough.

Trying to stay tactically alert and avoid imprudent and pseudo-aggressive moves in your own games is a problem that has no easy solution.

It's going to be a long tough fight with your subconscious mind to change your bad thinking habits and to get you to be aware of this habitual way of thinking and making moves this way. Because it is a serious psychology problem it will require a serious psychology solution.

The subconscious exists in the mind affecting thought and behavior without entering the conscious awareness and as such effects how you behave and think with out you even being aware of it.

To break long time bad habits of just reacting and not thinking first is going to be one of being aware at all times that you are doing this unconsciously through habit, and in order to change this habit you must bring that thought to your conscious mind.

The reason you fail to look first before you jump is one of a long term habit forming process and to break bad habits such as this, you first must slow down, think about changing that habit and force your self to conspicuously and consciously be obvious to the fact that this perception of just letting you think that this knee jerk decision will be the right one as you always have been doing is the wrong way to make decisions and moves.

To play differently you're going to have to do everything in your power to make yourself conscious of the fact that you play that way and now you are going to break this bad habit.

You're going to have to be very inventive in finding ways to keep your self alert to this fact in every way you can so that you don't forget and go back to your old habits.

Each person will have to find solutions that will work just for him as there may not be any one solution for every one. One way may be very effective for some and not others. Maybe resting a small card on your key board and monitor screen that says "Beware of Threats!" may be the way because as I keep saying out of sight is out of mind.

Maybe sitting on your hands before each move may work. Tying a string to a finger is an old trick but not a very good one. Plaster many signs all over the house Beware of Threats, on the fridge door, in the bath room, in the kitchen, everywhere in the house to constantly remind you that you are determined to break this habit by constantly being reminded about it may work, or may not.

When ever you sit down to play a game you must say to your self before you start to play, I am going to look for threats before I make any moves this time. But the problem will be that in a few minutes you may be back to your old habits again and maybe you will get distracted and lose your focus. Maybe if you plaster your environment with many signs where you sit to play chess they will remind you.

Maybe you will come up with some unique method that works for you and if you do then you can tell us about it. Maybe if you get so obsessed with changing your ways that you really get mad at your self for acting so reckless and foolish, maybe then you will find the motivation to persistently act in a more responsible way.

I think the answer may be in trying to find a way to really motivate you to change your habits. Some times others can motivate you, but the best way is always for it to come from within. You must become so obsessed with changing that you will try even writing down each time you forget as you play a game. Then at the end of the game you will say I started out ok but then I started to forget again and I forgot 10 times in this game so next time I play I will try to improve. Then if you date your list and put in the start time you now have a record of your improvement and more important is the fact that you now have a device to motivate you to improve and do better with each game that you play, because you now know that you will have to write on that paper each time you goof.

Also you can put on that list what you did that you are trying to change, like I lost my focus, I forgot to look for threats and I got forked, or I failed to see a good fork because I failed to calculate far enough ahead, etc.

Now do you see what you are doing? You are providing a powerful motivation for your self to correct those faults by forcing yourself to now think of the fact that if you fail to follow your plan you will be punished in that you will have to write the fact down that you did not observe your plans and further more to add injury to the embarrassment you even have to write down exactly what it was. This is now going to be a powerful tool for you because it is you who is punishing your self not some one else. You have to be responsible for your irresponsible actions or your embarrassing shame list will grow.

This is similar to driving down the highway and forget to observe the speed limits and a State trooper stops you for speeding and fines you $197. That ticket is going to provide motivation for you to observe the speeding laws and if you do forget again and receive another ticket and receive more points and the fine is doubled you can bet that in the future you will be very paranoid about closely watching your speed as you drive.

Powerful motivation to change has now come to you.

If you are thinking now that John has gone off the deep end with such ridiculous thinking, then just consider the alternative. Do you really want to change or don't you?

Do you think you can come up with a better plan?
If you are really serious about it then you must start doing something that is really radically different than what you have been doing and you must do the opposite and keep on doing it the right way for so long that eventually the bad habits are replaced by good habits and that is the only way to change bad habits that I know of.