How To Lose At Chess (Guaranteed Ways of Getting Checkmated)

Over recent years, chess has gained a spike in popularity. This has brought new players who are scrambling to learn its rules. Most initiates, however, find themselves losing most games. So, if you really want to know how to win at chess, it pays to know how to lose at chess.

Most people lose because they think learning the basic rules of how each piece moves is enough to win. They forget that one of the aspects that makes chess great is its subtle complexity.

There is so much more to the game that some people dedicated their entire lives to learning. Thanks to them, everyone can now have a solid foundation when playing. In this article, you will learn the guaranteed ways of being checkmated to effectively avoid them.

How To Lose At Chess

Chess has deceptively easy rules but mastering it is nigh Sisyphean. Listed below are the most common mistakes and game-losing habits of new players.

Ignoring the Center

Playing for the center is the first principle that you’re taught when learning chess. It’s because capturing the center allows you to have more space. Its importance is reflected by the sheer number of openings developed from a central pawn push.

The majority of openings listed in the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings begin with either 1. d4 or 1. e4. All else that doesn’t follow suit is deemed irregular in the 19th century.

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Though some of these irregular openings have become standard, albeit less common, today, 1. d4 and 1. e4 are still the most played moves, especially in top-tier chess games.

Mathematically speaking, in an open board, all pieces except the rooks and pawns have the most moves when they’re in the central squares. So, avoid horsing around and actively fight for it in order not to immobilize your pieces.

Not Developing Pieces

Speaking of horsing around, when I learned how chess pieces moved, I found the knight so amazing due to its uniqueness and ability to jump over other pieces.

So, what I did every game was to bring the knight out, keep jumping all over the board like a fool, and then end up being down a knight because it was trapped. Now, that’s horsing around properly.

Don’t do that. Each time you move a piece aimlessly, you lose a tempo and get behind in development. It’s best to use your moves to improve each of your pieces. Push your central pawns, and get your bishops out.

Keeping Your King In The Middle

If you had those habits listed above, there’s a high chance that you’re now down a knight with no pawns in the center and have undeveloped bishops. This is very dangerous because your king is still in the center, unable to castle.

Many chess players, beginners and masters alike, have fallen prey to their opponents because of not castling. An example that comes to mind is the aptly named Evergreen Game, one of the most beautiful games ever played.

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In the game, Adolf Anderssen checkmated Jean Dufresne’s king in the middle of the board with two bishops after a spectacular rook and queen sacrifice. What was Dufresne doing all the while? Moving his queen all over the place.

Now, Dufresne was a great player and a great chess composer, but he’s famously remembered as the loser of the Evergreen game. That’s one way to put your name in the history books.

Failing to React to Threats

Let’s say you unknowingly made bad choices in the opening. Now, you have a weak center, bishops blocked by pawns, and a king not castled to safety.

The opponent, on the other hand, has a three-pawn chain in the middle, two bishops pointing at you, two knights ready to jump, a queen aligned to your king, and a king castled.

Your opponent is looking for potential pawn breaks to attack your king. Recognize the threat and keep your center closed, then start developing pieces to defend your king.

Not Looking for Tactics

Chess is a game of evaluation. When you evaluate and think ahead, you will see combinations of moves that provide advantages like winning material, better position, or straight-up mating the king.

These combinations are called tactics. You can find tactics in almost every position, whether in the opening, middle game, or end game. Below are the essential tactics you have to spot:

  • Double attack
  • Discovery attack
  • Pin
  • Skewer
  • Deflection
  • Decoying

There are also advanced tactics that use a mixture of these principles. It’s important to know these to successfully employ and defend against them.

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No Strategic Planning

As Tartakower puts it, “Tactics is what you do when there is something to do; strategy is what you do when there is nothing to do.” This means that strategy pertains to the long-term plan that you develop based on how you follow the principles.

For example, fighting for the center, ensuring your king’s safety, and developing your pieces on optimal squares constitute a strategy called “positional advantage.”

The importance of a sound strategy manifests itself in the highest level of chess. For example, Former World Champion Magnus Carlsen is a great positional player. His strategy is to continuously improve his position. He then trades and grinds for the endgame.

Another great player with a different strategy is Mikhail Tal, the Eighth World Chess Champion. He is very tactical and loves creative moves.

His strategy is to develop pieces fast and sacrifice them for an early attack, habitually overwhelming his opponents with the complexity of the position. This gained him the moniker “Magician from Riga.”


With its newfound popularity, chess has only become more competitive. It’s paramount to avoid the bad habits mentioned above.

Even if you find yourself losing many games, don’t be disheartened. Remember what Capablanca said, “You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player.”

Losing is integral to chess. The best method to practice chess is to play. Always remember that winning is only second to having fun.