Blundered? Bounce back with this 5-step Grandmaster method!

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  • GM Avetik Grigoryan GM Avetik Grigoryan

Blundered? Bounce back with this 5-step Grandmaster method!

Knowing how to respond after you've made a blunder, can save you many lost points. GM Avetik shares useful tips on what you should do in such cases...

Psychology and Mental Toughness | 6 min read
Blundered? Bounce back with this 5-step Grandmaster method!

“Our greatest glory isn’t in falling, but rising every time we fall.”
- Rocky Balboa

Have you ever felt like giving up after blundering? Losing your mood and not wanting to continue the game?

Or you kept playing, but you made more blunders and badly lost the game?

Well, you’re not alone.
It’s not easy to handle the blunders, keep the right mood and continue fighting like nothing has happened.

The bad news is that blunders are inevitable.
Even Grandmasters and World Champions blunder.

The good news is…
There is a way to recover after the blunders, keep the mood, bring back the spartan spirit and keep fighting.

This is what I’ll teach you in this article.

During my professional chess career and in my journey to the Grandmaster title, I created a 5-step method, which has served me and my students very well.

It’ll give you a huge competitive advantage over your peers, and save you lots of rating points in the long run.


Let’s get started!

Step 1 - Freeze

Most of the time, the worst and the most stupid things we do in our lives are in a very angry mode.

The same is true for chess.

When we blunder, our heart rate goes up, our mood gets down and our anger level reaches the top.
This is the worst time to make any decision.

Yet, many players instantly play their next move after making a huge blunder. And often it leads to an even bigger disaster.

If we make an impulsive move, there’s a low chance it’ll be the best move and a high chance you can make another blunder or a stupidity, including resigning in an okay position.

So the 1st step after you blunder is – Freeze!
Don’t take any immediate action or make any impulsive decisions. Don’t make any moves on the board!

Step 2 - Calm Down

You froze, you didn’t make a move. Good!
Now, Breath… Don’t die 😅

And breathe deeply! This is one of the best ways to slow down your heart rate and cool down.

Also, you can move your body or change your posture. Relax your muscles and nervous system, which got tight after the blunder.

Then move on to the 3rd step.

Step 3 - Remove the Past

The position is from a blitz game between 2 Fide Masters.

It happened in front of me.

And here when White could take the d3 pawn with a King, and be a Bishop, and pawn up, they took instead with 1.Bxd3??

Black played 1…Re1+! And now… Oops, White is going to lose their e8-Rook.

Rook skewers

The interesting thing is that after 2.Kf3 Rxe8, it’s still a theoretical drawish position.

But White lost their mood, got mad at themselves, made another 3 mistakes, and lost the game. It’s sad, but understandable at the same time.

You were absolutely winning, and now you had to defend to make a draw. But looking at the past is what will make us lose such games.

I love the following quote:

So thinking about the winning position you had moments before the blunder isn’t going to help much.

Instead, the right approach is to forget about the winning position and the past!

Chessbase has a very nice feature.

Delete previous moves in Chessbase

You right-click on the move and then “Delete Previous Moves.”

Boom! All previous moves are gone!

ChessBase doesn’t see what has happened before. Chessbase just sees this position – what’s NOW on the board.

That’s exactly how you want to approach the situation – with fresh eyes and without the burden of the past.

Step 4 - Switch the Mode

Most of the time, a blunder will dramatically change the position on the board.

You need to adapt to this new reality. So say if you were winning, and now you’re totally lost, you need to switch to SLP mode!

Say to yourself “I switch to SLP - Saving lost positions” mode.

Or if you had a big advantage and now you’re trying to fight for a draw, like in the above game, say to yourself “I switch to Defense” mode.

This “Switch the mode” technique will help you a lot with focusing on what you have now and forgetting the past.

Step 5 - Awaken Your Hero

The final step is to rekindle your Spartan spirit by awakening your inner hero.

It can be like “Hey, hero. You’re a hero. What’s this? Are you crying? C’mooon. Let’s get up and kick our opponent’s ass. Look at his happy face and the annoying smile. He thinks he has won already. Let’s show him his place!”

You can go with whatever works best for you. Just have a pep talk to awaken your hero and bring back your spartan spirit!

You’re ready

Now finally, you’re ready to move on!
Think about the position with a fresh look and make your next move.

Here’s an image you can just save on your computer/tablet/phone:

5 steps to handle painful blunders

Now, can you imagine what advantage you’ll have over your peers who tilt after blundering, lose the mood, and make more blunders?

Practice this 5-step method, and you’ll be surprised to see your new rating after a month.

Turbo recovery

The mentioned 5-step method will take time from your clock.
And that’s fine. It’s better to sacrifice 2-3 minutes and continue playing a good game than to lose the mood and make more mistakes.

And if you blundered in time trouble or blitz you might not have the luxury to spend a few minutes to recover and then continue fighting.

Fine! We’ll need to recover in turbo mode.

Now with time, you’ll learn which one is the most effective for your recovery from those 5 steps. Use only those when you need turbo recovery. It can be like this.

Freeze for 2 seconds, a deep breath, and affirm something strong in your mind.

Like “Everyone blunders, but not everyone comes back. I will, I’m different.”
Or maybe just tell yourself “All right, I switch to SLP mode.”

Experiment, and make your turbo recovery routine.

Here’s another tip for turbo recovery.

You might have some bracelet, ring or something with you, that if you just look at it, and it reminds you of all the mentioned steps.

Imagine your name is John, and you have a bracelet engraved with “John the Fighter.” You look at it, maybe touch it, and you get recharged.

Personally, I have this bracelet, “Billy the Great.”
You might remember it from the article legal cheating.

Any time something goes not as I wish, I look at it and remind myself, what Billy the Great, my future best-self would do in that situation. It helps me!

Feel free to experiment and see which one works for you the best.

What’s next?

Now, you know how to recover after blundering and keep fighting like nothing has happened.

Imagine you also learn how to reduce your blunders to a minimum.
What if I say you there’s a way, and I cover your back?

Will you send me a box of chocolates? 😊
I hope you do 😊

But in any case, here we go!

I’ve recorded a full course on how to reduce the blunders, going into details on every reason behind the blunders, and their solutions.

And, I also wrote an ultimate guide on reducing blunders.

It’s your chess journey and your next click…

P.S. Which of the 5 methods you’re most excited to use next time you blunder? I’m very interested. Please share it in our forum.

If you want to send me a box of chocolates, ask for my address there too 😁

Originally published May 23, 2019

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