Blunder (chess)

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In chess, a blunder is a very bad move. It is usually caused by some tactical oversight, whether from time trouble, overconfidence or carelessness. While a blunder may seem like a stroke of luck for the opposing player, some chess players give their opponent plenty of opportunities to blunder.

What qualifies as a "blunder" rather than a normal mistake is somewhat subjective. A weak move from a novice player might be explained by the player's lack of skill, while the same move from a master might be called a blunder. In chess annotation, blunders are typically marked with a double question mark, "??", after the move.

Especially among amateur and novice players, blunders often occur because of a faulty thought process where they do not consider the opponent's forcing moves. In particular, checks, captures, and threats need to be considered at each move. Neglecting these possibilities leaves a player vulnerable to simple tactical errors.[1]

One technique formerly recommended to avoid blunders was to write down the planned move on the scoresheet, then take one last look before making it.[2][3] This practice was not uncommon even at the grandmaster level.[4] However, in 2005 the International Chess Federation (FIDE) banned it, instead requiring that the move be made before being written down.[5][6] The US Chess Federation also implemented this rule, effective as of January 1, 2007 (a change to rule 15A),[7] although it is not universally enforced.


Grandmaster examples[edit]

Strong players, even grandmasters, occasionally make elementary blunders.

Mikhail Chigorin vs. Wilhelm Steinitz[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
e7 white rook
h7 black pawn
d6 white bishop
e6 white knight
f6 black king
g6 black bishop
d5 white pawn
f5 black pawn
h4 black pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
d2 black rook
e2 black rook
h2 white pawn
f1 white rook
h1 white king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to make his 32nd move
Mikhail Chigorin v. Wilhelm Steinitz

This position is from game 23 of the 1892 World Championship in Havana, Cuba. Chigorin is a piece up (Steinitz lost a knight for a pawn earlier in the game) and his bishop is forced to stay on d6 to protect both the rook on e7 and the pawn on h2 against a possible mate. If he won, Chigorin would tie the match and send it to a tiebreak. After 31...Rcd2, he played 32.Bb4??—a blunder thought by many as the greatest blunder ever in a World Championship. Steinitz replied 32...Rxh2+ and Chigorin immediately resigned (in light of 33.Kg1 Rdg2#), losing the match.[8]

Tigran Petrosian vs. David Bronstein[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
b8 black rook
c8 black bishop
f8 black rook
h8 black king
b7 black pawn
d7 black knight
g7 black queen
a6 black pawn
d6 white queen
g6 black pawn
a5 white pawn
d5 white knight
e5 black pawn
f5 black knight
h5 black pawn
c4 white pawn
e4 white knight
h4 white pawn
g3 white pawn
b2 white rook
f2 white pawn
g2 white bishop
b1 white rook
h1 white king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to make his 36th move
Tigran Petrosian v. David Bronstein

The position in the diagram here arose in the 1956 Candidates Tournament in Amsterdam. Petrosian, playing White, enjoys a clear advantage with strong knights, active rooks and plenty of mobility while Black's position is congested and he is hardly able to move. In fact Bronstein, playing Black, has for the last seven moves been making only apparently aimless knight moves, Nc6–d4–c6–d4, and now has played ...Nd4–f5, threatening White's queen, while White has been slowly strengthening his position. White can now easily preserve the positional advantage by a move like 36.Qc7, but overlooking that the queen was en prise, he played 36.Ng5?? and resigned after 36...Nxd6.

Miguel Najdorf vs. Bobby Fischer[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
b8 black rook
e8 black knight
f8 black queen
g8 black king
b7 black bishop
f7 black pawn
g7 black bishop
a6 black pawn
h6 black pawn
a5 white knight
c5 black pawn
d5 white pawn
f5 white queen
a4 white pawn
b4 black pawn
c4 white knight
f4 black pawn
f3 white bishop
h3 white pawn
b2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
d1 white rook
g1 white king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Black to make his 30th move
Miguel Najdorf v. Bobby Fischer

This game between Miguel Najdorf and Bobby Fischer from the 1966 Piatigorsky Cup is an example where a player in a bad position breaks under the pressure. According to Mednis,[9] Fischer's decisive error came earlier in the game and here the black pawn on f4 is about to fall. Fischer played the blunder 30...Nd6?? cutting the game short. After Najdorf played 31. Nxd6, Fischer resigned because he realized after Najdorf's response that 31...Qxd6 32.Nxb7 wins a piece because 32...Rxb7 33.Qc8+ is a fork which wins the rook on b7, so White wins at least a minor piece.

Najdorf commented on Black's 29...Rb8: "There is no satisfactory defense. If 29... Ba8 then 30. Nb6 or 30. Qf5 would win. ... I had to win minor material (the pawn at f4) but this [30... Nd6?] decides immediately. Fischer, demoralized because of his inferior position, did not notice the simple point."[10]

Viktor Korchnoi vs. Anatoly Karpov[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
h7 white rook
c6 black rook
a4 white pawn
e4 black knight
a3 white rook
d2 black knight
e2 black king
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
g1 white king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to make his 39th move
Viktor Korchnoi v. Anatoly Karpov

This position is from Game 17 of the 1978 World Championship between Viktor Korchnoi, the challenger, and the World Champion, Anatoly Karpov. Karpov, playing Black, is hoping for a back rank mate with his rook with the possible move 39...Rc1#. However, Korchnoi could have prevented this by moving his g-pawn (but not the h-pawn because 39.h3 or h4 leads to 39...Rc1+ 40.Kh2 Nf1+ 41.Kg1 Nfg3+ 42.Kh2 Rh1#), providing an escape square for his king. Korchnoi did not notice Karpov's mate plan with his knights however, and played 39. Ra1??. It allowed a nice finish for Karpov, 39...Nf3+!, and Korchnoi resigned the game. Otherwise, Black would checkmate after 40. gxf3 Rg6+ 41. Kh1 Nf2# or 40.Kh1 Nf2#. Karpov went on to win the match and later beat Korchnoi again in 1981 in the "Massacre in Merano".[11][12]

Murray Chandler vs. Susan Polgar[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
g7 black king
e6 white king
h6 black knight
g5 white pawn
e4 white bishop
h2 white pawn
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to make his 54th move
Murray Chandler v. Susan Polgar

In this example, from a tournament in Biel in 1987, the game did not result in a loss for the blunderer, but led to an embarrassing draw for the British GM Chandler. Susan Polgar has just played the wily trap 53...Ng8–h6!?, hoping to turn the game around. Chandler though, realizes that after 54.gxh6+ Kxh6 he will be left with the considerable material advantage of a rook pawn and bishop against a bare king. However, since the bishop is unable to control the promotion square h8, Black will draw if she is able to get her king to control h8 due to the wrong rook pawn fortress. But Chandler calculates further, and realizes that it is he who will win control over the h8 square after 55.Kf6, and thereby win the game.[13]

Therefore Chandler played 54.gxh6+??, but instead of the expected 54...Kxh6 came 54...Kh8! This is in fact almost the same king, bishop, and rook pawn versus bare king situation as Chandler had calculated that he would avoid, and the small difference that White has two rook pawns rather than one has no effect on the result. Black controls the h8 square and cannot be chased or squeezed away from it, and so White cannot promote his pawn. After 55.Bd5 Kh7 56.Kf7 Kh8 the players agreed to a draw.

Chandler had numerous moves which would have maintained his winning position, the fastest according to the Shredder tablebase[14] are 54.h4 and 54.Bf5.

Viswanathan Anand vs. Garry Kasparov[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
c8 black rook
e8 black king
h8 black rook
b7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black bishop
a6 black pawn
d6 black pawn
d5 black knight
e5 black pawn
e4 black queen
g4 black pawn
b3 white pawn
d3 white knight
e3 white bishop
g3 white pawn
h3 black pawn
a2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
e2 white queen
f2 white rook
h2 white pawn
e1 white rook
g1 white king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Black to make his 33rd move
Viswanathan Anand v. Garry Kasparov

Anand and Kasparov were competing in the final of the Credit Suisse Masters 1996. After a Sicilian Defence, Najdorf Variation opening, Kasparov, playing as Black, gradually built a positional advantage. At the point in the diagram, however, Kasparov made a major blunder with 33...Qxe3??, overlooking Anand's subsequent move 34.Qxg4! making a discovered attack on Kasparov's queen and forking his rook and bishop. Although Kasparov played on, giving up his queen, he ultimately resigned at move 54.[15]

Alexander Beliavsky vs. Leif Erlend Johannessen[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
f7 black pawn
h7 black king
c6 black pawn
g6 black pawn
d5 black pawn
f5 white pawn
g5 white queen
h5 black pawn
d4 white pawn
h4 white pawn
e3 white pawn
f3 white pawn
g3 white king
b1 black queen
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to make his 69th move
Alexander Beliavsky v. Leif Erlend Johannessen

This example, from a game played in Linares in 2002, is one of the very rare circumstances where a grandmaster makes the worst move possible, the only one allowing checkmate on the next move. In this queen endgame, White has some advantage after 69.fxg6+ fxg6 70.Kf4 due to Black's weak pawn on c6. However, Beliavsky playing White played 69.Kf4??, overlooking the response 69...Qb8#. According to Johannessen, it took a few moments for both players to realize that it was checkmate, and Beliavsky was a good sport over this mishap.[16]

Deep Fritz vs. Vladimir Kramnik[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
f8 white knight
h8 black king
a7 black queen
g7 black pawn
h6 black pawn
e5 white pawn
a4 black pawn
b4 black pawn
e4 white queen
b2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
c1 black bishop
h1 white king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Black to make his 34th move
Deep Fritz v. Vladimir Kramnik

In November 2006, reigning World Chess Champion Vladimir Kramnik competed in the World Chess Challenge: Man vs. Machine, a six-game match against the chess computer Deep Fritz in Bonn, Germany. After the first game had ended in a draw, Kramnik, playing Black, was generally considered in a comfortable position in Game 2, and he thought so himself apparently, as he refused a draw by avoiding a potential threefold repetition on 29...Qa7. Kramnik's troubles began when he decided to play for a win and pushed his a-pawn, 31...a4. Commentators, including American grandmaster Yasser Seirawan, voiced concerns about Kramnik's intentions and the situation became more uncertain as the game went on with 32.Nxe6 Bxe3+ 33.Kh1 Bxc1 34.Nxf8, turning it into a likely draw.[17] The game could have ended with 34...Kg8 35.Ng6 Bxb2 36.Qd5+ Kh7 37.Nf8+ Kh8 38.Ng6+.

However Kramnik's next move, 34...Qe3?? (a move which was awarded "???" originally, by ChessBase on a story covering Kramnik's blunder, and even "??????" by Susan Polgar), came as a big surprise and was described as possibly the "blunder of the century" and perhaps the "biggest blunder ever" by Susan Polgar, as Kramnik—incredibly—overlooked a mate in one.[18] Deep Fritz immediately ended the game with 35.Qh7#, checkmate. Seirawan later called Kramnik's move "a tragedy".

ChessBase described the events as follows, "Kramnik played the move 34...Qe3 calmly, stood up, picked up his cup and was about to leave the stage to go to his rest room. At least one audio commentator also noticed nothing, while Fritz operator Mathias Feist kept glancing from the board to the screen and back, hardly able to believe that he had input the correct move. Fritz was displaying mate in one, and when Mathias executed it on the board Kramnik briefly grasped his forehead, took a seat to sign the score sheet and left for the press conference, which he dutifully attended."[19] during which he stated that he had planned the supposedly winning move 34...Qe3 already when playing 29...Qa7, and had rechecked the line after each subsequent move. After an exchange of queens Black would win easily with his distant pawn; after 35.Qxb4 Qe2 or 35.Ng6+ Kh7 36.Nf8+ Kg8 Black also wins eventually.

Chess journalist Alexander Roshal attempted to explain the blunder by saying that the mating pattern of a queen on h7 protected by a knight on f8 is extremely rare and not contained in a grandmaster's automatic repertoire.[20]

Étienne Bacrot vs. Ernesto Inarkiev[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
f8 black rook
g8 black knight
h8 black rook
b7 black pawn
g7 black king
a6 black pawn
c6 black pawn
d6 black pawn
h6 black pawn
f5 black queen
g5 black pawn
d4 white pawn
f3 white knight
h3 white pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
e2 white queen
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
a1 white rook
c1 white bishop
g1 white king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to make his 23rd move
Étienne Bacrot v. Ernesto Inarkiev

This game was played in May 2008 at the Baku Grand Prix from the FIDE Grand Prix 2008–2010. In round 11, Étienne Bacrot played White against Ernesto Inarkiev. On move 23, he checked the Black king with 23. Qe7+??. Both players calmly wrote down the move. Bacrot then realized that his Queen was under attack by the Black knight, and resigned.[21]

Magnus Carlsen vs. Levon Aronian[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
f8 black rook
g8 black king
c7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
b6 black pawn
c6 black pawn
e6 black knight
e5 black pawn
h5 black pawn
b4 black bishop
c4 white pawn
e4 white knight
d3 white pawn
e3 white bishop
f3 black rook
g3 white pawn
h3 black queen
c2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
d1 white queen
f1 white rook
h1 white king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to make his 27th move
Magnus Carlsen v. Levon Aronian

The game between the World's two highest-rated players in the 2012 Grand Slam Master's final in São Paulo and Bilbao (this game was played in São Paulo) featured a double blunder. Carlsen, with White, played the tactical blunder 27.Bf4??, and saw almost immediately that this loses to 27...R8xf4!, in effect winning a piece since taking the rook gives Black a forced mate: 28.gxf4 Nxf4 29.Rg1 Qxh2+ 30.Kxh2 Rh3#.

Carlsen waited for Aronian to make his move, and Aronian eventually played the otherwise solid 27...Bc3??, allowing White back into the game. Aronian had seen 27...R8xf4, but playing quickly to avoid time trouble, he thought that White could strike back with 28.gxf4 Nxf4 29.Ra8+ since both 29...Kf7 and 29...Kh7 lose to the knight fork 30.Ng5+, and had missed that the retreat 29...Bf8! ends White's brief counterattack and leaves White defenseless to the mate threat.[22]

The game was eventually drawn by perpetual check on move 48.

Complete game scores of the examples[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The principle of looking for checks, captures, and threats are repeated often by Dan Heisman, see e.g. Heisman, Dan (March 2002). "A Generic Thought Process". The Chess Cafe. Retrieved 2 August 2010.  and Heisman, Dan (June 2006). "Is It Safe?". The Chess Cafe. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  2. ^ "When you have finished analyzing all the variations and gone along all the branches of the tree of analysis you must first of all write the move down on your score sheet, before you play it." Alexander Kotov, Think Like a Grandmaster, Chess Digest, 1971, pp. 73–74.
  3. ^ Simon Webb, Chess for Tigers (3rd ed. 2005), pp. 121–22.
  4. ^ Webb wrote of the practice, "You've seen other players doing it". Webb 2005, p. 121.
  5. ^ FIDE Laws of Chess, see article 8.1 on recording of the moves
  6. ^ The editors of Chess for Tigers noted that after author Webb had submitted his manuscript, "FIDE ... passed new laws forbidding a player to write moves down in advance and also insisting that a player's scoresheet be visible to the arbiter throughout the game". Webb 2005, p. 6.
  7. ^ The United States Chess Federation
  8. ^ http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chess.pl?tid=53817
  9. ^ Mednis, Edmar. How to beat Bobby Fischer. 
  10. ^ Kashdan, Isaac, ed. (1968), Second Piatigorsky Cup, Dover (1977 reprint), p. 93, ISBN 0-486-23572-6 
  11. ^ Daniel King's Chess: From first move to checkmate
  12. ^ http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chess.pl?tid=55014
  13. ^ Andrew Soltis, Chess to Enjoy in September 1997 Chess Life
  14. ^ Endgame Database
  15. ^ "Viswanathan Anand vs Garry Kasparov (1996)". Chessgames.com. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  16. ^ Johnsen, Sverre. "Find the Losing Move" (in 26 March 2008). Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  17. ^ "Late game blunder costs Kramnik in loss to Deep Fritz chess software". International Herald Tribune. 27 November 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-12-01. 
  18. ^ Blunder of the century, blog by Susan Polgar, 27 November 2006
  19. ^ Man vs machine shocker: Kramnik allows mate in one
  20. ^ How could Kramnik overlook the mate?, ChessBase News, 29 November 2006
  21. ^ Baku R11: Wang Yue beats Svidler to join Grischuk, ChessBase News, 3 May 2008
  22. ^ Doggers, Peter (28 September 2012). "Caruana extends lead even further in Sao Paulo". ChessVibes. Retrieved 29 September 2012.