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Top 10 Ways to Lose at Chess
If you're going to lose you might as well do it in style.


No one likes to lose at chess, but if you're going to lose you might as well do it in style. Most non chess players assume that chess is a game of pure intellectual skill and that the better player almost always wins. Real chess players know that being outplayed is just one way to lose and that there are other, more sophisticated ways. Here are a few of our favorites, many of which we learned from direct experience.

1. Resign prematurely

This may not be the most common way to lose, but it is without question the dumbest. The simplest variation is to resign when you still have chances to save the game. Even less impressive is to resign when you have a forced draw or a forced win. These two options provide material for anthologists and are guaranteed to make you the butt of jokes. We don't advocate continuing to the bitter end. Give the club champion the benefit of the doubt if you are a Queen down but want his future respect.

2. Play the first move that enters your head

This is usually involves overlooking your opponent's threats. If you have time on your clock, use it. If you aren't playing with a clock, you are entitled to use some time to think. The best way to lose when you have a clear win is to blitz out your moves as soon as your opponent moves until... Oops!

3. Play the last move that enters your head

This may seem to contradict the previous method, but it doesn't. Here's the scenario: You look at one move and see a problem; you look at another move and see another problem; you go back to your first move and see the same problem. After going back and forth a few times and finding nothing new, you suddenly see a move that you haven't considered yet. Without giving it any more thought, you grab that piece and play it... Oops!

4. Play overconfidently

This usually happens in a position where you have a clear advantage or where you think you know how to play instinctively. In other words, any move wins. Three common ways of doing this are to stop calculating tactics, to play without a plan, or to continue with a plan while paying no attention to your opponent's moves.

5. Forget about the endgame

This is sometimes called burning your bridges. It is a sophisticated way to lose used by better players or by players who should know better. It usually involves mangling your own Pawn structure voluntarily. It has many forms like mounting an all out attack that doesn't succeed, or pushing Pawns prematurely so that they are exposed to capture, or leaving holes in your position that are just perfect for your opponent's pieces to occupy.

6. Let your opponent invent new rules

This happens most often when two beginners play, to cheat the player who has managed to obtain a clear win. Two of its most common forms are, 'You forgot to say check; you lose!', or 'You made an illegal move; you lose!' Our favorite example is, 'Your Knight (or any other piece) can't check because it's pinned by my Rook (or Bishop or Queen). Since a pinned piece can't move it can't check either'. The easiest way to avoid this happening to you is to learn the rules.

7. Touch the wrong piece

What can we say? You touch it, you move it, even if you lose it. You may not like the 'Touch move' rule, but it always applies unless agreed otherwise before the game. Mouse slips are the modern equivalent during online play.

8. Forget to press your clock

This is a favorite way to lose by strong players who are prone to being distracted. You make the winning move then watch while your opponent thinks and thinks and thinks some more. You may even get up to look at some other games. Suddenly your opponent extends his hand. To resign? No, to claim the win because your own clock just ran out of time. You think this is poor sportsmanship? Yes, perhaps it is, but the game is still lost.

9. Get caught cheating

This is happening more frequently in the computer age as computing and communication gadgets get smaller. If you get caught using a computer or receiving moves from a friend during a game, you deserve whatever happens to you. If the TD has any sense of fair play you will probably lose the game, be disqualified from the tournament, and be barred from all future tournaments by the organizers. Even if you aren't cheating, you can lose a game if your cell phone rings. Turn it off before the game.

10. Trust your computer's advice and analysis without question

Since we've established that you aren't using a computer during a game (right?), this applies only to pre-game preparation, almost always on openings. Your computer has a built-in handicap called a horizon, which means it looks only so far, and no farther. When your computer suggests a move, look farther. This also applies to moves you find in books. IMs and GMs have been known to make mistakes in analysis. A few have even been suspected of planting bad moves. Trust no one; verify everything.