It Ain't Over Till It's Over!
If I ever create a list of things I tell my students most frequently, then the title of today's article would be at the very top. We all make mistakes ( read my series of articles on the subject here: http://www.chess.com/article/view/to-err-is-human ), but the probability of a mistake goes up exponentially when we lose our concentration. There are many reasons why chess players lose concentration ( I discussed it here: http://www.chess.com/article/view/how-to-avoid-blunders ), but the most common case is due to a premature relaxation caused by the favorable situation on the board.
The strange thing is no matter how many times we hear the famous saying that it is the most difficult thing in chess to win a winning position, we still make the same mistake. The thinking process goes like this: "Yes, I had my share of winning positions that I screwed up, but it is different here. It is impossible not to win this position!" Of course, as a wise stock-market saying goes, “this time it's different” are the four most expensive words in the English language! Believe me, it is always possible to ruin your winning position!
To prove my point I want to show you some games where masters and Grandmasters were unable to win a position with a huge material advantage. And when I say "a huge material advantage" I really mean it! So today we are not going to look at games where one of the opponents had a bunch of extra pawns or a piece. "A huge material advantage" today will mean at least an extra Rook! Of course you may have seen countless games where a chess player makes a huge blunder and his material advantage disappears instantly. But today I want to show you only games where the winning side lost his advantage gradually, without making clear, visible mistakes. But of course if you start to seriously analyze those games, you'll find dozens of little and not-so-little mistakes. But that's the problem! In most cases a player who has an extra Rook doesn't take the game seriously thinking that it will be won automatically, and all you need to do is just avoid simple blunders!
Here is Exhibit A: a Grandmaster blunders a whole Rook as early as move 7! Then the game continues as if nothing happened and slowly White's advantage just disappears and 50 moves later a draw was agreed. I am sure that the Master who played White would have won the game if he hadn't expected a resignation "any move now."