Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Soul destroying chess blunders

Chess can be the most soul destroying sport; in what other game can you play beautifully for 4 hours, dominate your opponent, and then throw it all away in a split second of madness?

That's the way top level (or even club level) chess is, where a single blunder, no matter how good your previous moves have been, can lose you a game in an instant; all that mental effort you've expended over the course of the game just wasted.

Blunders in chess come from a variety of sources: mental fatigue, the pressures of a ticking chess clock (as happened to Nigel Short), impatience, or simple oversight.

Rarer is a combination played in the wrong order, but it happens. You calculate a winning combination, check a few other lines, then go to play your 'win'. Only you don't! In your haste you play the moves in the wrong order or simply forget to play the first move. This position from the Paris Championships back in 97 is a case in point:

After a double edged middle-game, I'd gained the advantage with White against Maria Nepeina-Leconte, a Ukranian International Master. I thought for a while, saw a winning combination, checked my analysis, and went to play the line. I played my first move correctly, but then managed to mix up the variations in my head and hastily played the wrong second move:

1. Ng6! (Ne6!! is even better) fg 2. Qxh6??

I had calculated and intended to play Rf8+ which wins simply, but for some reason my hand moved the Queen.

2. ... Bf5 3. Rxf5?

White could still force a draw with 3. Rb3!, but now Black is winning.

3. ... gf 4. Qe6+ Kg7 5. Qd7+ Kh6 6. Qxf5 Re1??

Which allowed me to escape with a draw by perpetual!


yemon said...

After ...fxg6 Rf8+ Kh7 I take it White plays Rh8+ Kxh8 Qh6+ and mates?

A double shame then, not just the half-point lost but also the chance for the flashy finish. (Or is there a simpler way to mate?)

Roger Coathup said...

Unfortunately against Rh8+, Black has Bxh8 which is rather good for her.

No, there is no flashy mate, the correct follow up is: R8f7+ Bb7; Rxd7 with a big (winning) material advantage.

I'll find a better example next time!

The reason I chose this one is because it still (10 years on) remains vivid in mind. I'd definitely analysed the combination correctly, and can't explain why I made the second move that I did.

Roger Coathup said...

following on the previous comment, after Rxd7, there is a mate in 7 if Black takes on c4, i.e.

Rxd7 Rxc4; Rxg7+ Kxg7; Qb2+ Qd4; Qb7+ Kg8; Qf7+ Kh8; Qf8+ Kh7; Rf7+ Qg7; Qxg7#

yemon said...

Oops! Serves me right for jumping to conclusions.

I guess this illustrates your intended point well though: it's so tempting to look for a mating attack that even after seeing the correct continuation one `finds an improvement' at the last minute...

Years ago (at a much lower standard) I did something similar where I'd misplayed a kingside attack as Black, worked out a saving way to force perpetual involving a bishop exchange followed by a queen check, spent another 5 minutes making sure that in a lengthy side variation I could actually chase the king into a mating net ... and then picked up my queen instead of my bishop, which led to a loss.

I think my team lost the match as well!


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Chess Tales by Roger Coathup: A collection of online articles about chess and chess players.