The 10 Silliest Ways To Lose A Chess Game
Don't think that you can only lose by checkmate.

The 10 Silliest Ways To Lose A Chess Game

| 229 | Fun & Trivia

If you've ever felt a little bit silly after allowing your opponent to take your queen or after missing a mate in one, I have good news for you. It could be much worse.

Stop feeling guilty whenever these things happen to you. The chess world is full of crazy stories, and there are much more surprising ways of losing than by making bad moves.

Here are the 10 silliest, strangest and most surprising reasons for losing a chess game.

1. Your phone rings.

Teléfono móvil

Don't let your phone catch you unawares.

Nowadays, very few people leave home without their phone. They are our camera, our navigator, our internet browser and our connection to a significant part of our world.

But watch out! It is also an enemy of chess tournaments. For quite a long time now it's been forbidden to carry a phone on you while playing a tournament game. However, we keep seeing forgetful players whose phones ring in the middle of games.

What happens then? Immediate forfeit of the game! Don't try to tell the arbiter that you are up a queen or that the phone magically appeared in your pocket. You lost the game. Yes, you read correctly: a zero for you!

This measure is not new; it's been around for a few years. Maybe the first to suffer a forfeit because of his phone was the former world champion GM Ruslan Ponomariov, during the 2003 European Championship, when the rule had just been introduced. The funniest thing about it is it was his birthday, and it was the FIDE president calling to wish him a happy birthday.

2. Writing annotations on your scoresheet.

As you most probably know, at classical events tournament organizers provide players with scoresheets for writing down the moves. And that's what you have to write on them! You must write down the moves and you are allowed to write down the times. But you cannot write whatever you want on your scoresheet, since it belongs to the tournament organizers and notes can be seen as extra assistance to yourself. 

GM Wesley So forfeited a game against GM Var Akobian for writing annotations on his scoresheet. And, logically, they weren't moves. Apparently, the Filipino-born American grandmaster used to rely on motivational sentences that could give him energy. And he had to pay a whole point for that. You can read the whole story here.

Planilla So obtained one of Wesley So's earlier scoresheets, from the 2014 ACP Golden Classic in Bergamo, Italy.

There are some players who get creative, such as Spanish GM Juan Bellon, who decorates every scoresheet he uses at tournaments. He is known for his creativity on the board, but as you can see in the image below, he is also quite creative off the board. 

Planilla de Bellón

"My famous scoresheets, which caused some to call me mad. Blessed be my madness!" said Bellon, who has been Spanish champion several times.

3. Not shaking your opponent's hand.

Chess competition includes a series of rituals and obligations. You must stay silent during the game, you must not disturb your opponent, and you must shake their hand at the beginning of the game.

What some people don't know is that shaking your opponent's hand at the start of the game is not only a custom. You should never refuse, unless you want to suffer the same consequences as GM Ivan Cheparinov against GM Nigel Short in 2008.

Apparently, the Bulgarian GM had read an interview with Short in which he said some things that offended Cheparinov. His way of protesting was ignoring the hand that the English player offered, even twice.

The story doesn't end there. The arbiter declared the game as forfeited for Cheparinov, but the tournament committee allowed for the game to be played if the Bulgarian player apologized and shook Short's hand at the start of the game, which ended up happening, as you can see in the following video.

4. Not knowing the tournament's time control.

You may think that this is impossible, that everybody knows perfectly the time controls of the current tournament. What if I told you that Magnus Carlsen himself lost a game for not knowing it? No, I'm not kidding! And it happened a tournament in his own country.

In the first round of 2015 Norway Chess, the world champion arrived late so he missed the arbiter's indications reminding that after the first time control at the 40th move, they would add one more hour to the clock plus 30 seconds of increment per move. However, Carlsen thought that after the 60th move they would also get more time.

Carlsen - Topalov

An outcome that the world champion will never forget.

So, with a totally won game and to his opponent's (GM Veselin Topalov's) surprise, the young Norwegian lost on time after reaching the 60th move.

5. Playing drunk.


Chess and alcohol don't mix.

One of the most famous incidents of playing chess drunk happened in the third round of the 2009 Kolkata Open, where a very strong grandmaster and former European champion sat down to play with clear signs of being under the influence. He dozed off several times during the game, until he finally lost on time while asleep.

I personally remember something that happened to me at a tournament game. I know what you're thinking now, so I want to start by stating that it was not me who was drunk. However, my opponent, a strong grandmaster, seemed quite clearly to have had too much. It was actually quite unpleasant to play against him, as he could barely sit up on the chair, and smelling the foul alcoholic odor in his breath.

At a certain point, I put him in check, and by mistake he grabbed the queen instead of the king. So, when he realized his mistake, he put down the queen and grabbed his king. Then I said to him: "No, no. You touched your queen."

The grandmaster looked astonished at the board, realizing that he had one legal move with his queen. He had to put it in front of his king, in order to stop the check, after which I would capture it. "Are you really going to beat me like this?" he asked. He didn't like my answer at all: "I'd rather beat you like this than let you beat me like THAT."

6. Wearing shorts.

This story became famous all around the world last year. GM Anton Kovalyov left the 2017 FIDE World Cup after he was asked to change his attire. According to the organizers, his shorts were not in compliance with the dress code specified in the tournament's rules. 


Anton Kovalyov leaves the playing hall after arguing with organizer Zurab Azmaiparashvili. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Before the beginning of the third round, the player had an argument with chief organizer GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili. The player insistently asked why he couldn't play in those clothes, to which the organizer answered in a mean and racist way: "Because you look like a gypsy!" 

So, Kovalyov forfeited that game after leaving the playing hall and the competition.

7. Clicking on the wrong button.

As you can imagine, I'm talking about online chess. In fact, I can give you a very recent example from the strongest online chess tournament in the world: the Speed Chess Championship. In one of the games between Hikaru Nakamura vs Hou Yifan, the Chinese grandmaster accidentally clicked on "resign" instead of "offer draw." The worst part is that she had a king and pawn against Nakamura's bare king!

We were all shocked; we couldn't understand what happened. But if you look at Hou Yifan's reaction, you will see that no one was as surprised as she was!

8. Thinking that you're lost...when you're actually winning!

There are many cases of resignation in winning positions. You resign, and your opponent says "You could have played this!" And you want to die. Sometimes it's an onlooker who tells you, or you find out when you arrive home and check with the engine, and then you find out it wasn't you who should have resigned.

A very recent case happened at this year's Leon Masters, in a game between GM Paco Vallejo and GM Jaime Santos.

Going back to Nakamura's match with Hou Yifan, I would like to show you a funny moment. The Chinese player resigned, this time not by accident, but because she missed that by promoting she could defend the mate on h3. It's interesting to see the live reaction on Nakamura's face as he realizes what just happened.

9. Going to a Madonna concert.


The American singer was responsible for this loss. | Picture via Wikipedia.

I love this story that my colleague Peter Doggers told me. At the Open Dutch Championship in the early 1990s, a player lost a game in a peculiar way:

The main character of this story, who happens to be the current press chief of the famous Wijk aan Zee tournament, admitted after the game that he had tickets to Madonna's concert...and he wasn't going to miss it! As Peter pointed out, this line is known in The Netherlands as the Madonna Gambit. 

10. Playing the silliest move.

So far we have shown reasons that aren't too related to what happens on the board. But, of course, playing a very bad move is still the most frequent reason for a silly loss.

However, even the best chess players sometimes make ridiculous mistakes that would surprise anyone.

A. Following "theory"

In the following diagram you will find the quickest loss in the career of the former world champion Vishy Anand. There was an important predecessor to the mistake he made, but it had gone unpunished. The game Miles-Christiansen had appeared in Informant 44, where the sad ...Bf5 appeared as a theoretical novelty. It seems incredible that none of the players, or even Anand afterwards, realized the mistake.

B. Improvising a theoretical novelty

The feelings we experience during a slow tournament game are very special. Sometimes we notice details that we hadn't noticed before, even if we'd seen that position a thousand times before. Then we ask ourselves: "Why not play this move here?" That must have happened to Karpov in the following game, where he improvised a theoretical novelty that was drastically refuted.

C. Making your own life complicated

The 1972 world championship match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky had many dramatic moments. In the first game, the American player captured a pawn that almost any beginner would have rejected. Didn't Fischer know that those harmless a- and h-pawns must not be captured? Of course he knew, but no one knows what went on in his mind.

D. Missing mate-in-one

Can a world champion miss a mate-in-one? How blind can you be to allow your opponent to take his queen all the way to your kingside and give you an elementary mate? As you can see in this article, even the best players in the world have a bad day sometimes. This time it was Kramnik's turn. His opponent didn't even smile. Of course, it was a machine.

E. The not-so-good old days

The masters of the past also made big mistakes. We saw how Fischer, in the first game of a world championship match, played a beginner's move. Look what happened many years ago in the 1892 world championship.

What is the silliest way that you've ever lost a chess game? Leave a comment and tell us your story! 

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