Chess blunders

A blunder in chess is a disastrous move, a move which confers misery on its perpetrator, and which causes in most instances the immediate termination of a game. It is the player who commits the blunder who perishes. Also sounds familiar to non-chess players? Yes, because chess relates to life, and remains an integral part of our existence.

In chess, a blunder may be caused by carelessness or overconfidence; a tactical oversight or time trouble. Chess is played with a time control, or a chess clock, which has two faces on it. Upon the completion of a player’s move, he presses the button on his side of the clock, and thereby activates his opponent’s clock. In a time control situation, one has to beware of phrases like ‘time trouble’ and ‘time pressure.’ When one is required 20131215chessto play quickly, especially in rapid and blitz games, the probability of making a blunder is increased. It is easy to understand this when a rapid player is only allowed a meagre 25 minutes on his clock for the game’s completion. In a blitz game, widely referred to as speed chess, a player gets five minutes to conclude his game.  But how does this relate to a classical game, with say 90 minutes per player for its completion, when unbelievable blunders have been committed? Like the one Kasparov suffered at the hands of Anand when he lost his Queen due to a devious discovered attack by the Indian grandmaster! Or in the 1892 world championship match between Chigorin and Steinitz, when Chigorin made a colossal blunder and resigned forthwith in a hopeless position. It is felt that Chigorin’s mistake [?] reflects one of the most famous blunders in all of chess history, and it cost Chigorin the world championship match.

In life we all make blunders in whatever situation we are placed. No one is infallible. This is the lesson that chess teaches us. What qualifies as a blunder, rather than a routine mistake, remains subjective. One view is that a blunder is the culmination of a series of infinitesimal mistakes. In chess, blunders often occur because of a faulty thought process. In particular, attention should be paid to checks, captures, and imminent threats. Neglecting those factors may be the cause of “tactical oversight”  which presumably leads to blunders. Consider last month’s example of the Nakamura-Carlsen game at the Zurich Chess Challenge where Nakamura blundered as he was beating his opponent. Nakamura is the US champion while Carlsen, well, he is the world champion. The event was a triathlon, in which the chess superstars tested their opponents in blitz, rapid and classical games, the latter being the most important of the lot, because they carried a greater number of points. The tournament featured six superstars: Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, Gelfand, Caruana and Nakamura, and was touted to be the strongest in chess history, owing to the accumulated FIDE ratings of the players. The Nakamura-Carlsen encounter presented a swing game, in which had Carlsen lost, the outcome of the tournament may have been different. Carlsen won the tournament, one point ahead of the Armenian grandmaster, Levon Aronian.

Nakamura had never beaten Carlsen at classical chess, but he came close in the Zurich Chess Challenge. He chose a variation that had presented difficulties for the world champion during his match with Anand last November in Chennai, and convincingly outplayed his opponent until move 37. d6 ?? (two question marks signify a blunder, while one question mark signifies a doubtful move). Carlsen seemed to have committed no obvious error in his game with Nakamura, other than perhaps a strategic plan going awry. Nakamura’s sorry blunder occurred four moves before the stipulated time control, when players are prone to making mistakes. When asked how could he have survived if Nakamura had not blundered, Carlsen said he kept the game going one move at a time. He intended, I suppose, to play on, hoping that Nakamura would go wrong. Carlsen explained: ‘’If you keep fighting, you will be rewarded.’’

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