Losing a winning position is arguably the worst experience a chess player can ever have. It’s also probably one of the most common phenomena that can occur in a game of chess. How many times have you heard “I was completely winning but lost!” when you ask your friends how their game went? How many times have you yourself experienced defeat from the jaws of victory? Like everyone, I have bungled and lost multifarious chess games. While there is no way to completely avoid losing games you have no business in losing, through my many years of playing as well as asking experienced masters about this topic, I have come up with a couple of strategies which I hope can help you avoid this dilemma.
- Manage Your Time Well
While this is an important attribute to always have during a chess game, it is especially important to display good time management practices when you’re in a winning position. How often do you hear people complaining about “being winning but not having enough time”? Blunders most commonly stem from having low time on your clock, and while it always depends on the position, it is usually not necessary to spend vast amounts of time on positions where you have a huge advantage. While rushing should be avoided, so should spending obsessive amounts of time each move. I find that people do this usually because they’re scared of messing up which leads to my next point.
- Be Confident … But Not Too Confident
Overconfidence often leads to ruin but so does underconfidence. In order to find the right balance, it’s important to have the right mindset in managing a winning position. The way I try to think about it is this: Believe in your chances while also believing in your opponents. While some winning positions are relatively simple to win, not every position is set in stone. Even though you might be winning, all it takes is one bad move to throw everything away. By keeping that in mind, you’ll likely be more cautious to any counterplay your opponent might have. To avoid underconfidence, simply be positive. Trust that you can convert your chances and never give up hope even if you mess up.
- Stay Calm
It’s easy to get nervous when you’re winning. It’s easy to have thoughts about what might happen if you mess up and lose. It’s also easy to let your nerves overcome you and cause you to lose the game you’ve fought so hard to acquire a winning position in. Not being able to manage your nerves can easily cost you the game. To avoid this try not to focus on the big picture. Instead, try and focus on the task at hand which is converting your position. If you think that you might mess up your position, that will probably happen. Instead, just focus on the position and finding the best moves you can.
- Be Patient
And for my final piece of advice, we will be discussing every chess player’s worst enemy, impatience. It’s so easy to get bored when you’re winning. We’ve all had thoughts like “why hasn’t my opponent resigned yet?” or “Can my opponent move already so I can win?”. This impatience can have disastrous consequences and cost you the game. To avoid being impatient, just try to remember that the game is never over until your opponent pauses the clock and offers you his hand in resignation. Remember that your opponent has no obligation to resign. It’s up to you to win, and if you’re not willing to put in the hours of work it might take into achieving the win, then you didn’t deserve to win in the first place.
I hope this article helps you avoid losing winning positions. I know that these strategies have certainly helped me in my chess career and I hope they can do the same for yours. If you have any of your own tips and strategies, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. Until next time!