A frequent issue confronted by amateurs is wishful thinking when calculating combinations. This propensity to fabricate beneficial scenarios in our analysis is very typical throughout an amateur’s game, but it is most dangerous when calculating combinations.
You see a pretty combination worthy of Tal, and you analyze it over and over, after you have finished your analysis you are sure that the move is a winner. You make the move and you lose a piece, or it initiates a series of exchanges that cause you to lose your initiative and perhaps the game. Unfortunately, you have failed to see the refutation or you simply missed a defending piece that you have conveniently kept out of your analysis. This very common oversight causes you to lose material and / or the game.
If only you had realized that there was a defending piece all you usually need to do is to combine that information along with the combinational theme to make the winning move. In most cases by adding the bothersome piece to your analysis you can easily spot a sacrifice or deflection that will get the piece out of the way and lead to a winning combination.
Getting rid of this faulty thought process will lead to more accurate analysis and an improved ability to calculate. Here are a few ways you can improve by eliminating this error in your thinking process:
- Play long games with a standard time control greater than 30 minutes
- Pick interesting middlegame positions and spend > 15 minutes analyzing
- Try to visualize the position before making your move
- Double and triple check your analysis