# Err less and Win more

**Is amateur chess a losers game?**

I’ve played sports my entire life from grade school to the Collegiate Division I level. Obviously, with every sport, you either win or you lose. However, if/when I lose, I want to know why. And, that’s no difference with chess. I honestly feel that if you analyze your performance, you can learn from your mistakes (which most likely led you to lose) and improve (lose less in the future). Having said that, I’ve been known to analyze too much, too deeply, which leads to ‘paralysis by analysis’ or ‘analysis paralysis’. If you don’t know what that is, or what it means, you can Google it.

I read a pretty interesting blog/article recently that said, “*In expert tennis, about 80 per cent of the points are won; in amateur tennis, about 80 per cent of the points are lost. In other words, professional tennis is a Winner’s Game – the final outcome is determined by the activities of the winner – and amateur tennis is a Loser’s Game – the final outcome is determined by the activities of the loser. The two games are, in their fundamental characteristic, not at all the same. They are opposites.”*

The link to the article is here: https://fs.blog/avoiding-stupidity

After reading this article, I wondered what percentage of my games are lost (by errors) versus won. But, there really isn’t a metric to show this percentage. At least I don’t know of one. So, I created one. A simple one that uses the information that Lichess provides in its computer analysis. I call this metric the ‘Error Score’. Here’s the equation and I’ll explain each of the errors:

**Error Score**= 1 (inaccuracy) + 2 (mistake) + 4 (blunder)

**Note:** The number of inaccuracies, mistakes and blunders are provided by Lichess’s Computer Analysis for both sides.

Now, let’s define each of these errors. According to Google AI, an "inaccuracy" is a relatively minor misstep where a player chooses a move that is not optimal but still maintains a reasonable position, while a "mistake" is a more significant error that gives a noticeable advantage to the opponent, and a "blunder" is a critically bad move that severely weakens a player's position, often leading to a large loss of material or even checkmate; essentially, a blunder is a much more serious mistake than a regular mistake, and both are considered worse than an inaccuracy.

What differentiates an inaccuracy from a mistake and a mistake from a blunder? It's the severity of the error. A mistake is more severe an error than an inaccuracy and a blunder is more severe an error than a mistake.

Now for the controversial part- the weighting factors. For simplicity sake, I gave ‘inaccuracy’ a multiplier of 1. I gave 'mistakes' a multiplier of 2 because I assumed a mistake was twice as bad as an inaccuracy. And, finally, I gave a 'blunder' a multiplier of 4 because I assumed it was twice as bad as a mistake and four times as bad as an inaccuracy. Again, before you start throwing darts, I know there is zero science behind the multipliers/weighting factors. The multipliers were from ‘POOMA’- pulled out of my a$$. Hey, I was just trying to keep it simple. No paralysis by analysis here.

The next thing I did was to look at 70 games I played in June and July. Again, no darts, I know the sample size is not that high. I recorded all the errors for each of my games. I looked at the number of inaccuracies, mistakes and blunders for each of these games (for both sides). I also looked at whether I won (W) or lost (L). I didn’t look at the draws (D).

Here is what I found, to my surprise. In every game (and I mean every game) that I won my Error Score was less than my opponents. And, in every game that I lost, my Error Score was more than my opponents. So, similar to amateur tennis, where 80% of points are lost, in my amateur chess, 100% of my games are lost. That is, when my Error Score exceeds my opponents Error Score (when I make more mistakes) I lose. Conversely, my Error Score is less than my opponents (when I make fewer mistakes) l win.

So, what does this all mean? For me, an amateur chess player with an Elo rating of approximately 1700, it means if I make less errors than my opponent- I win 100% of the time. Well, how do I win 100%? Obviously, to reduce the number of errors compared to my opponent- particularly blunders since they are weighted the highest. And, how do I reduce the number of errors, particularly my blunders? That’s the harder question to answer. It’s because you have to look at how you blundered and where you blundered and what caused the blunder. You have to look at trends not just single games.

I haven’t done any 'real' analysis/research regarding where and how I blunder during a game. But, I do know that most of the time when I blunder, it’s usually during the middle game. If the average chess game has 40 moves, it's usually around the midpoint or 20th move. And, it’s usually just a ‘bad’ move..an oversight on my part. Most likely due to overlooking my opponent’s threat(s).

Here’s a recent example. It was my 23rd move (for white). I moved my queen to Qe2 because my queen was threatened by black’s previous knight move, Nce5. And, I wanted to defend the f3 square because black now had 3 pieces attacking it (queen, knight and bishop).

Lichess Figure

At this point in the game the computer engine said we were equal (score 0.0). Black had a pawn advantage but I (white) had a better pawn structure and/or position on the board. When I made the move Qe2, the score went from 0.0 to -4.0. The move was so bad (a blunder) that I lost 4 points. The better/best move was for my knight to capture the attacking knight (Nxe5). Or, I could have moved Qb3. That move would have allowed me to continue defending the f3 square while simultaneously defending the c2 square and bishop on b5. That’s because the next best move for black would have been Rc2. I eventually lost this game.

So, what’s the morale of the story? Obviously, error less and win more. More importantly, determine when, where and how you’re blundering and try to learn from it so you don’t repeat it. How could I have prevented the blunder on my 23rd move? Probably through CCT (Checks, Captures and Threats). I should have seen the threat that black’s next best move was Rc2. And, the better way of defending against that, while still protecting the f2 square, was either 23. Nxe5 or 23. Qb3. I probably rushed my 23rd move too. The middle game is where you should spend more time thinking of the best move, especially when things are tied up.

Here's another example of a 'blunder' midway through my game...which eventually led to my demise. In this example, the computer engine said we were at near even strength (+0.3). White had a slight advantage. I was playing the black pieces. White had just moved the bishop to b7. On my 20th move, I made the move Rcd8- a blunder. The better move was Rb8. I remember considering the move Rb8, but I thought the white bishop would take the a6 pawn regardless. What I didn't realize is that I could have possibly trapped the white bishop if it did capture the pawn on a6.

If you’re an amateur chess player, like me, see what your winning percentage is when you make fewer errors than your opponent. Use my Error score equation.

% Winning= # games you won (where your Error Score was less than your opponents) + # games you lost (where your Error Score was more than your opponents)/ total # games

Is it 100% like it is/was for me? If you’re an expert chess player (Elo 2000+), see what your winning percentage is when you make fewer or more errors than your opponent. Let me know. I’m interested to see if most games are won or lost by good/brilliant moves rather than from errors.