Blunder or Brilliancy? A Tata Steel Story

Blunder or Brilliancy? A Tata Steel Story

GM Illingworth

Have you ever blundered in a chess game...only to find out later that your 'blunder' was a great move?

You are not the only one...even World Champions do that sometimes!

'But hang on, it's not really a "blunder" if the move is good, right?'

The lines between perception and reality can blur so easily on the 64 squares, in the heat of battle...

Anyway, you obviously came here for the story and not my three profound chess tips for the day, so I won't keep you in suspense any longer. 

What would you play as White in the following position?

In an interview after the tournament, Carlsen admitted to being embarrassed by this move, as he had 'blundered' that Black can win a pawn by taking on g2 and then e5. Then he played 27.Nd5 because 'what else', and as his opponent was sitting and thinking, he realized that Black doesn't have a move, and White is just winning!

While I don't doubt that the story is true, to me it reflects Carlsen's fantastic intuition. Subconsciously, he sensed that 25.e5 was strong, and played it on reflex. Of course, you don't get to be World Champion without always try to play even better chess, so one can also relate to this 'perfectionist' tendency of the very best.

I am obviously not Magnus Carlsen, but I have had so many situations in games where I played a move, missing something obvious, but it turned to be strong all the same! What can I say...the better you are at chess, the luckier you are in your games! And I have a feeling these 'lucky oversights' happen more often among strong players with a more intuitive approach to decision-making at the board (compared to the more calculating types). 

This game was already analyzed quite well by Dejan Bojkov in the report on Round 8 of the 2019 Tata Steel Masters super-tournament. There isn't much overlap between our notes though, so I've shared my commentary on the game below:

There are a lot of lessons one could draw from this game! Why don't you share your main takeaway from Carlsen's great win in the comments below?

I'll be playing a tournament for the next week, but I'll make sure to share some puzzles! 

What's that one chess goal you really want to achieve, but haven't yet?

We know you've played tournaments, read some chess material, solved some why aren't the results showing for you yet?

Everyone who became an expert at something received help from other experts. 

I've been coaching chess for nearly two decades now, and I still remember what it was like on each stage of my chess journey. I remember what I did to get from one rating range to the next, and the challenges I faced. 

Chances are, I've overcome the same challenges that are stopping you from improving your results right now. 

If you're ready for coaching with me through the next stages of your chess journey, send me a message on, or email me at I can't take on everyone, so make sure to share your chess journey and what makes you a fantastic student!