The blunders of Kramnik, Petrosian and Reshevsky

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
'The best knitter drops a stitch sometimes.' This Dutch saying was more than true, this afternoon in the art hall in Bonn, because Kramnik's 34...Qe3 was probably the worst move ever played by a world champion. It's hard to imagine but the Russian, officially the strongest player on earth, made the biggest possible mistake in the game of chess: he allowed a mate in one. And: just like in 2002 he blunders on move 34 against Deep Fritz.

'Well, my boy, don't bother too much. It can happen to the best.' Arbiter Albert Vasse wouldn't have dared to whisper this to Kramnik after the totally unreal finish of the second match game.

DEEP FRITZ-Kramnik Bonn (02), 2006

34...Qe3?? 35. Qh7 mate.

The world champion also had a hard time believing what happened, as can be read at the Chessbase site: "Kramnik played the move 34...Qe3 calmly, stood up, picked up his cup and was about to leave the stage to go to his rest room. At least one audio commentator also noticed nothing, while Fritz operator Mathias Feist kept glancing from the board to the screen and back, hardly able to believe that he had input the correct move. Fritz was displaying mate in one, and when Mathias executed it on the board Kramnik briefly grasped his forehead, took a seat to sign the score sheet and left for the press conference, which he dutifully attended."

(Hier you can download a video with this press conference in WMV format; it starts after 6 minutes and 37 seconds.)

How bizarre. And the weird thing is that Kramnik also blundered terribly in his first match against Deep Fritz, in 2002 in Bahrain. It was the fifth match game, it was also move 34 and Fritz had a queen and knight too.

DEEP FRITZ-Kramnik Bahrain (05), 2002

34...Qc4?? 35. Ne7+ and resigned immediately because Black's knight is lost and White's isn't. In the hands of Deep Fritz, the already infamous combination of queen and knight appears to be lethal. Against a queen and knight it wins a piece, and against queen and bishop it leads to mate!

After today's blunder you immediately start wondering if this has happenend before, a world champion missing a mate in one, and I think the answer is no. Perhaps Kramnik can find some consolation in the fact that both Petrosian and Reshevsky also blundered ter-ri-bly.

Szabo-Reshevsky Candidates tournament, 1953

When speaking about chess curiosities, there's only one source we can look for, and that is Tim Krabb?ɬ©. In his Schaakcuriosa II he writes: "Now you recognize it. In this famous position two of the best grandmasters both overlooked a beginner's mate in two, 'ohne dass ein Spur von Zeitnot vorlag' ['and without a trace of time trouble' - translator's note], according to the tournament book: 20...Bxf6?? 21. Bxf6?? Both overlook 21. Qxg6+. It can't be a coincidence. 21...Bxd5 22. cxd5 Qd6 23. Qc3 Qxd5 24. Rfd1 Qf5 25. e4 Qe6 26. Bg7 b6 27. Bxf8 Kxf8 draw."

Three years later the following happened.

Petrosian-Bronstein Candidates tournament, 1956

36.Ng5?? Nxd6 Jan Hein Donner wrote about this: "At something like this you watch with complete astonishment. Petrosian is known as the best blitz player in the world. And it is him who lets his queen en prise! (...) ...what happened to Petrosian here, is the paralysis of the reflexes."

And ten years later it happened again to Reshevsky.

Reshevsky-Savon Petropolis, 1973

Again I cite Tim Krabb?ɬ©, who comes back to Reshevsky's earlier blunder: "Still, the chess goddess of chess coincidence was right for not allowing Reshevsky to get away with it like this. At the end she punished him horribly, again in a tournament for the world championship. White could have delivered mate in three: 40.g5+ Kxg5 41.h4+ Kxh4 42.Qf4 mate. Like ominous music in a horror movie the move number and Reshevsky's time trouble reputation suspect a tragical incident. This suspicion becomes reality, but the road that led us to it appeared to be nonsense: because 'ohne dass ein Spur von Zeitnot vorlag', he had twenty minutes left, Reshevsky got a hallucination. He thouht he could give a mate in one. Attentive readers of this story understand with what move. The unortunate played 40.Qxg6+. My source doesn't mention if he spoke the word 'mate'. It does mention that after 40...Bxg6 he resigned immediately."

Especially this last blunder by Reshevsky, with no time trouble at all, was unbelievable. As unbelievable as Kramnik's blunder today.
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