The 7 Most Shocking World Championship Blunders

The 7 Most Shocking World Championship Blunders

SamCopeland
NM SamCopeland
Nov 22, 2016, 12:00 AM |
43 | Fun & Trivia

Is 51.Qe6? from Magnus Carlsen in game 8 one of the worst blunders in world championship history? Well... probably not  After all, Sergey Karjakin did need to find the incredible only-move 51...h5! to win the game.

However, the world championship has certainly seen its fair share of truly baffling blunders. From time to time, it seems the stakes, emotions, and grueling nature of the world championship produces some howlers that would make even novices hang their heads in shame.

Here are seven of the worst offenders; some have even changed the course of chess history!

#7: 37...Ra1?? from Karpov vs Kasparov 1987, Game 5

Although these days Garry Kasparov has been known to blunder some knights, in the course of his professional chess career, he has made very few blunders.

Against Anatoly Karpov, Kasparov made the following instant and game-losing blunder. The oversight could well have lost him the match. Kasparov fell behind by a point, but he finally caught up to Karpov in a dramatic and beautiful win in game 24 and drew the match to retain the title.

Skip to 0:30 to see Kasparov's error.

#6: 39...Ra1??, Korchnoi vs Karpov 1978, Game 17

In our second Ra1?? blunder in a row, Viktor Korchnoi permitted a spectacular mate from Karpov. It's almost shocking that Black could aspire to a win with so few pieces and no pawns remaining, but to be fair, there were multiple mates for Korchnoi to fall into.

Had Korchnoi drawn, he might still have won the close match which eventually reached 5-5 before Karpov won a victory-granting sixth game.

Photo from chessgames.com.

#5: 32.Qg6+??, Topalov vs Kramnik 2006, Game 2

Prior to this move, Veselin Topalov had played a truly brilliant game. Here he could have polished his brilliance off with 32.Rxg4+!

Presumably, it appeared to him in the moment that the moves were equivalent, but it was not so. Tunnel vision on the kingside prevented him from seeing an immediately winning blow on the opposite wing.

Photo from Kramnik.com.

#4: 26.Kd2?? from Carlsen vs Anand 2014, Game 6

This is probably the most notorious blunder in modern world championship history. Perhaps more egregious blunders have happened, but none have been so public. With the presence of video, thousands of viewers were able to watch the drama play out on Carlsen's face and in his hands as he realized his blunder. His visible relief was even greater when Viswanathan Anand missed his opportunity, passing on the blow 26...Nxe5!

#3: 57.Kc2??, Bronstein vs Botvinnik 1951, Game 6

The stakes could not have been higher as one of the greatest near world-champions, David Bronstein, was moments away from a draw in which his position was perhaps theoretically more desirable. With the key move, 57.Ne6+!, he was able to stop Mikhail Botvinnik's pawn. Instead, he forgot that Botvinnik had two routes to f2 to support the e-pawn.

The win allowed Botvinnik to eventually salvage the match, drawing 12-12 and retaining his world championship title.

Photo from chessgames.com.

#2: 32.Bb4??, Chigorin vs Steinitz 1892, Game 23

Yet again, high stakes produced a great error. Down one game, but with a winning position, Mikhail Chigorin could have leveled the match at nine wins all. Then one more victory would have won the match for either player. Instead, Chigorin's blunder immediately permitted mate and ceded the match on the spot.

Chigorin | Photo from Wikimedia.

#1: 29...Bxh2??, Spassky vs Fischer 1972, Game 1

Some have argued that Bobby Fischer's 29...Bxh2 was not a blunder but merely a misguided winning attempt.

To me, it is irrelevant whether or not Fischer saw that his bishop would be trapped. The decision to play for a win in a drawn position is the height of hubris. Fischer's lack of objectivity lost him the game and might have easily derailed the match as Fischer then forfeited game two before he returned to win game three and later the match.

What do you think? Are these the most stunning world championship blunders, fit to fill one with disgust and empathy? Or are there some glaring omissions?

Tell us your favorites in the comments!

Still blunder hungry? Check out GM Gregory Serper's articles, which include these and many more world championship blunders (parts 1, 2, 3, 4). Want to see some brilliancies instead? Check out "The 7 Most Amazing World Championship Moves."

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