Blunders in Modern Play, Part 2

  • WIM energia
  • | Aug 30, 2013

Today's article is the continuation of the topic of Blunders in Modern Play. Last week we went over the examples of opening blunders from the World Cup tournament. Today I would like to concentrate on one example that features the position from a late opening, also taken from the World Cup.

GM Shimanov lost the first game of the mini-match against GM Kamsky and needed to win as White. He opened the game with the King's Gambit, which according to my database he had never played before. The King's Gambit does not have a good reputation among the elite, however top-players (who also happen to be very creative players) Ivanchuk, Nakamura and Morozevich experiment with it more often than others.

This opening turned out to be an excellent choice against Kamsky, as he knew how to equalize in the opening only up to a certain point and ended up in a worse position out of the opening.


Kamsky facing the King's Gambit

Although the opening stage was interesting, it is bleak compared to what happened later on. Many websites stated that the fireworks of mistakes that occurred in the game were unprecedented at such a high level of competition. Kasparov's tweet summarized well the chess followers' reaction:

"If the score of Shimanov-Kamsky is correct, amazing. You usually only see games go from totally won to lost over & over in kids' games!"

Overall, I think besides Kamsky's one blunder that commentator Susan Polgar called "criminal" to play, the other mistakes were far from obvious in such a complex position. Here, we will look at the game starting from this critical position:

In this late opening/middlegame position White has a clear advantage. Black has a hard time to offer something in exchange for his opponent's strong center. White's pieces are harmoniously developed, while Black's are scattered around the board. Moreover, the black kingside pawns soon will become targets. And, like in most 1.e4 e5 openings, the f7-pawn is a real weakness. In combination with the soon-to-be-opened f-file, the black king's position can become very dangerous.

The f4-pawn ties White's hands to the kingside, and because of this Black's only chance of counterplay is on that flank. Rh6-Bg4 or g5-g4 are plans to consider. Although at the moment the white king is well defended, White might consider to play Qd3 or Ne5 to avoid the Bg4 pin and in case of Qd3 to target the weakness on b5.

Shimanov found a very concrete tactical solution to the position which exploits the weakness of f7. He didn't manage to follow through the plan correctly, but the idea nevertheless is very strong. It is a bit risky as it allows Black to get his heavy pieces closer to the white king. However, I cannot find an alternative where White can exploit his position risk free.

White's last move is logical: the queen defends the king along the third rank but at the same time attacks the b5-pawn. However, in the position after the 18th move White had a much stronger solution: 19.Bxf7. I am sure GM Shimanov considered it, and so the question is: what did he miss?

If you go over the line shown in the annotations, at one point Black has four pieces and the f4-pawn attacking the white king. The computer evaluates this position as winning for White but over the board it is hard to see whether Black has something or not. It turns out that 23.Rxa5 is a critical move as the queen and the rook along the fifth rank manage to protect the king. Although 19.Bxf7 is objectively stronger than 19.Qd3, the latter move is more natural and human.

White's last move is a terrible blunder. The positional evaluation changes from about +2 to -7! This is as extreme a change can be. It is not easy for White to find a continuation that does not involve the idea of either Nxf7 or Bxf7. However, there is no excuse for playing Rf2 - this move is simply losing!

Black does not have a direct threat, so White could have opted for the slower Bd2, for example. After Rf2 Kamsky did not play the queen sacrifice, which White cannot really take due to checkmate in two.

With 20...Ng3 Black reversed the positional evaluation back from -7 to +5. I wonder if Kamsky right away noticed 20...Qxh2 after 20...Ng3 had been played. If so, the remainder of the game must have been very painful for him. However, things did not calm down after this, because after winning the piece, White did not find the strongest move 23.Rf1 and ended up in slightly worse position.

31... g2 is a planned move; now Black is threatening ...Rf1. I suspect Kamsky simply missed the defensive idea Rf2, since the pawn moved to g2 and does not control the f2-square. The idea of g2 is to play Rf1 and to win the knight on g1. The knight is pinned, hence if we put some piece on f1, it will be lost.

Once can find the idea here easily: it is indicated in the annotations above: 31...Bh3!! - Black adds one more piece to the attack and threatens ...Bf1. If you look carefully at the position, you'll see that the white king finds itself in a mating net! From f1 the bishop takes away the e2 and d3-squares, and therefore Qh6 would be a checkmate - a beautiful geometric idea!

In the last part of the game Shimanov masterfully exchanged all the pieces to end up with a winning endgame.

Next week we will continue with the same topic and look at some more examples from middlegame positions.



  • 23 months ago


    There's even yet another blunder in the end game 7..Rh4

  • 3 years ago


    Grat article; especially since I'm using it as a source to learn more aCoolbout the King's Gambit! Now I know that it is much better for offensive purposes usually than defensive!

  • 3 years ago


    Kamsky won both tie-break games (time control 25|10) to win the match and advance to the third round.

  • 3 years ago

    IM JMB2010

    So how did the match end? Who won?

  • 3 years ago


    @hugoeustaquio: No, it is written correctly.  All the diagrams relate to just the one game, which was won by white.  Although I agree it was easy to mistake the chaos for multiple games ... it seemed that way given how much the momentum shifted at times!  :)

  • 3 years ago



  • 3 years ago


    The result of the first game is wrong. It's writed 1-0 insted of 0-1 (black wins)

  • 3 years ago


    @TheMathProf: Interesting lines ... I appreciate you working out this analysis.  I agree that short of 24. Rxf4, white seems to be in a very disagreeable situation each time (and even after 24.  Rxf4, white doesn't look great, except for the rather uncomfortable counter-attack possibilities that exist against f7). 

    I also looked at possibly answering 24. Rxf4 with 24. ... Rh1 or 24. ... Rh2 as a good option for black, but then white has a lot of pieces lined up against f7, and I don't see an immediate win for white here either (and of course white would have an immediate material gain in taking the knight on g3).  I think your idea of Qxg2 would still be the better response.

    Thanks for taking the time to experiment with the position and bringing all this information to help answer my question!

  • 3 years ago


    What was the time control for this game?

  • 3 years ago


    23...Qg1 is probably why.

  • 3 years ago


    @loftheHungarianTiger:  I'm not 100% certain, as 23. Kd2 seemed the more "natural" move to me as well, but looking deeper, it seems that 23. ...Qg1 is hard to meet.  What does white do?

    24. Rf1?? is just a blunder that loses the rook outright.

    24. Re2 loses the exchange, and after 24. ...Nxe2, 25. Qxe2 Rh2, Black is still attacking.

    24. Rf3?? saves the rook for the moment, but 24. ...Qxg2+ leads to mate.

    24. Rxf4 is better than 24. Rf3 because it adds e3 as an escape square, but it still seems like it's hard to play White after 24. ...Qxg2+, 25. Ke3 Rh3.  Then 26. Nf3 Nh5 seems to once again trap the rook while keeping the attack on, and 26. Rf3 seems to allow 26. ...Nf1+ (since the f3-rook now doesn't actually watch f1 for the moment due to being pinned), where 27. Kf4 gets mated by 27. ...g5#

    24. Qf3 seems to watch everything, except 24. ...Nxe4+! still gets the exchange.

    There may still be other tries, but the one thing I was noticing that White had as defensive resources at other times that he doesn't have here is the option of moving the dark-squared bishop.

    Just my two quid.

  • 3 years ago


    thts why i prefer falkbeer counter gambit in reply to king's gambit

  • 3 years ago


    for me the best move is 20. ....QH7+

    thank you

  • 3 years ago


    Pretty weird game.

  • 3 years ago


    why not first move bxf7? then once the king takes you check with your knight

  • 3 years ago


  • 3 years ago


    Very interesting article! Thank you for all the lines and analysis you provided for us!  Not only were the blunders on move 20 rather fun to follow (not unlike some of the daily puzzles here on but it was nice seeing all the other chances and opportunities that were present for the players in this game that I would definitely have otherwise missed.

    I did have a question about one of the lines following the errors on move 20: If Kamsky had played the Q-sacrifice on move 20, and if Shimanov had retreated to avoid the mate, why would Shimanov have played 23. Kf3 instead of 23. Kd2?  To my very inexperienced eyes, it seems somewhat safer, but I suspect I'm missing something obvious.  Is there a way for black to win the rook if the King pulls away?  Or is it a bad idea because it immobilizes white's bishop and rook (on c1 and a1)? 

    I think I'm going to feel kind of stupid when someone answers this, but I guess I'm looking for a knock-out reply by black, and I'm not seeing it (maybe because that's not the nature of the position), and I'm curious about it.  So I'll risk it ... Smile

    Again, great article!

  • 3 years ago


Back to Top

Post your reply: