• GM BryanSmith
  • | Jan 24, 2013

Regardless of strength, some players make serious blunders more often than others. While obviously most mistakes in chess are due to either a miscalculation or misevaluation of the position, when a 2500-rated player simply puts a piece en prise, you have to look for an explanation in the realm of psychology. Perhaps nerves or other mental health issues. Other players in the same class are better competitors and rarely make simple blunders. Unfortunately I definitely fall into the first category - my brain frequently short-circuits, and it seems this problem has gotten worse in the last couple of years.

I recently played in the Liberty Bell Open, and on the same day I blundered two pieces in two different games. The first game was nevertheless quite interesting, so I decided to comment it.

Before this game, I had 2.5/3 and was in good shape in the tournament. The game against FM Van Kooten (2365 Fide) began like this:

My last two moves, 9.f5 and 10.fxe6 only make sense coupled with the following "combination". Otherwise, it was better to play in a slower way with something like 9.Qe2 or 9.Be3. I had calculated what now happened when I played 9.f5, but suffered from a serious hallucination which is hard to explain.

At this point I made the insane move 11.Ne5??. After 11...fxe5 12.Qh5+, I was aware of three legal moves- 12...g6, 12...Kd8, and 12...Ke7. 12...g6 is of course met by 13.Qxe5, winning the rook. 12...Kd8 obviously loses the bishop on f8. And 12...Ke7 is met by a pretty queen sacrifice - 13.Rf7+ Kd6 14.Qxe5+! Kxe5 15.Bf4+ Kd4 16.Ne2 mate.

Well, we haven't seen this kind of picture much since the nineteenth-century "X vs Amateur" games. But I was willing to believe that he had overlooked the queen sacrifice, and was hoping he would let me play it on the board rather than resigning. In fact, I was rather excited and couldn't force myself to recheck my calculations, and played 11.Ne5 pretty much instantly. It's too bad I didn't recheck, because it could have saved me some trouble. Although I am not sure even looking again would help, because I was obviously in a mental fog that day.

You probably already guessed what he played - 12...Kd7. After this I pretty much wanted to resign right away, but saw that there was at least a little hope, so I played on, with 13.Rf7+, and he sunk into thought...

I was pretty happy about saving the game after blundering a piece against a decent opponent. It was an obviously flawed but still exciting game, so I decided to comment it here. Of course, this was a warning that I was capable of any kind of strange hallucinations.

In the next round (on the same day), however, I made a blunder from which it was impossible to recover.

I reached this winning position, with over an hour on the clock. The black king is trapped  by the passed g-pawn and the wonderful knight on e5, while the black pieces are too far away. Now 42.g6 was the simplest win. I saw this, and thought Black would have to anticipate the threat of 43.Rh2 and Rh7+ followed by Ng4-f6 by playing 42...Kg8. Then White can play 43.Rh2 anyway, and after 43...Rxa2 44.Rh7 Rg2 (forced since Ng4 is a threat) 45.Rxa7 and Black can resign - White will just play Rb7 and collect the b-pawn and then bring the king up.

It turns out that it is slightly more complicated, since after 42.g6 Black can play 42...b4, and White will have to find a way out of the checks - 43.Rh2 Kf6 (43...Rxa2 44.Rh7+ Kf6 45.d4 wins) 44.Rh7 Kxe5 45.g7 Nd1+ 46.Ke2! Rxa2+ 47.Kf3 Rf2+ 48.Kg3 Rf1 49.Kh2 Rf2+ 50.Kg1 and White wins. However, it would not be hard to find that since all of the moves are forced.

42.Kd4 is probably also good enough, but not the most simple.

However, after thinking for fifteen minutes I played 42.Rf2??, simply heading for the same position as 42.g6 in a different way. For example 42...Rxa2 43.Rf7+ Kg8 44.g6 Rg2 45.Rxa7, with the same position as above.

Naturally after 42...Nd1+ I resigned and quit the tournament as well. 


  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago


    7Beaufeet7, the saying you quote is correct, as is what I wrote in how it applies.  Knowledge is useless without understanding.

  • 4 years ago

    NM Petrosianic

    sometimes blunders are a matter of patience and risk management.  to play so many complicated types of positions, to see all lines... this is a skill refined after many experiences, and it is especially easy to do after calculating so many lines... and then switching to another idea at the last moment. especially in a better position or have better strength... just give your opponent rope to hang themselves.

    although gelashvili in particular seems to get away by entering crazy positions, maybe he saves his blunders for blitz games or something.

    and then you have players like gorman, dehmelt, who try to play chess more simply and logically without calculating anything, and dov has been doing very well at that recently.

    LBO seemed a particularly strange tournament to me when I was looking at a few of the top games (the most amazing instance of course was when, Foisor, I think, failing to convert a basic R + P v R ending versus Zenyuk) and some very imbalanced chess positions played.

  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago


    7beaufeet7, in England they say "wood." It basically means forest though.

  • 4 years ago


    The other reason for blunders, is old age. (born in 43)

  • 4 years ago

    NM Bonesy1116

    In the 2nd game it seems like one of those "think long, thing wrong" type events.  I'm sure he was well aware of the knight fork initally but as he sunk into all the variations he simply lost track of it.  He saw an "improvement"  and forgot why it wasn't playable.  Too bad as I would like to see how he did in the tourney without these two games.

  • 4 years ago


    oh! poor BryanFrown

  • 4 years ago


    why did you quit the tournament then?

  • 4 years ago


    The first blunder is easy to explain, he simply wanted it to work and did not look for a refutation.  This is a very common mistake.

    The second blunder is just as easy to explain but less obvious.  The human brain always wants to travel forwards.  This is why people ' look but do not see '.  Simply put, there was too little attention paid to the position on the board, rather than the target positions set in the future.

    To sum up.  Don't fall in love with an idea, and see the wood before focusing on the tree's.

  • 4 years ago


    Is it me, or does this guy always use games he lost?  It's nice since instead of a GM saying "My opponent lost this.  He must have been thinking..." we get "I lost due to this."

    A while ago he posted something about trying GM norms and needing just a few.  I hope he gets them soon!

  • 4 years ago


    I've been playing for a couple of months and the dreaded Knight fork [ and Knight sac ] is a powerful weapon.

    Mu blunders occur all the time, and especially when I am tired or after a couple of glasses of whisky.

    Better to avoid both.  But it is a great game and thanks for letting us share this moment.  

  • 4 years ago


    Comming from rating 1900 Im almost 2 years not myself in chess. I float around 1750 and keep making mistakes/blunders. Maby taking a break helps. You and you alone are responsible for making a mistake, thats why its so hard to swallow.

  • 4 years ago


    Knight forks, my biggest blunder ever OTB was also a completely ridiculous knight fork when I was winning. I had actually already prevented the obvious knight fork 1 move before (moving my rook out of the fork). And next move, I just moved it back into the fork (although different square). It still haunts me.

  • 4 years ago


    So what your sayin is that there is hope for us mortals!

  • 4 years ago


     nd1 forks. my question; why leave tournament.

  • 4 years ago


    Ouch!  That was brutal.  Fork you.  

  • 4 years ago


    oh nevermind, did not see that you moved Rf2. lol

  • 4 years ago


    what does Nd1+ do?

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