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To Err is Human

  • GM Gserper
  • | Feb 19, 2012

We all make mistakes. In my opinion it is just a natural way to self improvement, so you shouldn't be ashamed of your mistakes. As a roughly translated Russian saying goes "Only a person who does nothing makes no mistakes". Therefore I want to thank a number of readers who pointed out my incorrect quote of the great Hemingway here: http://www.chess.com/article/view/baby-shoes-for-sale-never-worn  Of course it is supposed to be : "For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn." and not " Baby shoes for sale. Never worn." as I mistakenly quoted.  It taught me a very simple and obvious lesson that human memory can easily fail you and it doesn't hurt to check your facts. It is more difficult to prevent the mistake I made in this article: http://www.chess.com/article/view/habla-espanol where I mentioned " Contador's triumph in the Tour De France 2010".  Unless I learn to see the future events, such mistakes will be unavoidable. So, my attitude towards mistakes is simple: "To err is human, but to repeat the mistake is foolish".

As you have probably guessed already, we are going to talk about chess mistakes and how to learn from them.  Of course even the great players make mistakes, but they always learn from them, and that's what makes them very strong! I believe it was Capablanca who said once that he learned more from just one lost game than from dozens of his wins. ( I couldn't find the exact quote, and as you can see, my memory sometimes fails me Smile )  

Amazingly, even the greatest chess players from time to time repeat their own mistakes. Judge for yourself: in the next game Rubinstein makes a textbook tactical mistake. 


Every chess player knows how painful it is to miss such a shot.  So, Rubinstein would never miss the same tactic again, right?  Well, here is a game he played only two years later!

Of course only Rubinstein (who was described in some books as absent-minded) could fall into the same trap twice, right?  Well, let's look at the following games. 

It is difficult not to win an endgame with three (!) extra pawns, but...

Then one decade later Reshevsky has two extra pawns in an endgame against Soviet GM Geller:

Another decade has passed and now Reshevsky has an extra Knight!

As you can see, there is no guarantee that you won't repeat the same mistake again. Still next week we'll discuss how to learn from your mistakes and try to avoid them in the future.


  • 3 years ago


    TQ SIR...

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    Medusa-cascade:  13 ... cxd5  14 Bc7 Nc5  15 Bxd8! white loses the knight and bishop, but black loses the queen.

  • 4 years ago


    this is why I love this game :) thanks for very nice article

  • 4 years ago


    14.Nc5 Rxc5

  • 4 years ago


    Once my king was surrounded by enemy in the centre, suddenly stalemate. I didn't know that, it just happened Laughing

  • 4 years ago


    In the first game

    13...cxd5 14. Bc7 Nc5

    This puts black up a knight, does it not?

  • 4 years ago


    great article! ;) thumbs up!

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    5 star from your fan Sealed

  • 4 years ago


    Dear sunil_goyal13 :

    In this case white will take the queen with 14.Bc7.

  • 4 years ago


    In first 1 can any tell me why black did not cross Knight with C pawn.

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    Fun article and very nice tactics still wondering if the typo in the last problem is deliberate. Thank you.

  • 4 years ago


    Very good lesson, thanx for sharing...

  • 4 years ago


    Cornwall, I also had a hard time trying to find why not simply take the Knight... the problem is Bc7 winning the Queen!!!!

  • 4 years ago


    ~Ah read more carefully and found peeps already have Embarassed

  • 4 years ago


    some reason I can't see the tactic...what is wrong with cxd5 in the first 2 puzzles


    Same question - can someone answer it please - I would have taken the knight in the 1st two examples - why would that be a rubbish move?

  • 4 years ago


    Thanks for sharing! i'll surely look for stalemates in my games instead of resigning.

  • 4 years ago


    does anyone know how to publish these kinds of puzzles in our websites?

    we can use analysis board and editor to publish games in our sites because there is a embed function  .. but here in the toolbar we can edit puzzles and post them but I couldn't find anything about embedding puzzles in the posts.. help me pls..

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