The Top 5 Blunders in Chess History
Let’s face it: everybody loves to see a great chess player making a huge blunder.
Even the very best have had their “off-days” where a blunder decided the game.
This article is dedicated to all of you who need some comfort after losing a game in a shameless way. These blunders makes us cold sweat, our heart beat faster and can even cause fainting (in people with more delicate complexion).
A move that puts everything to lose. That ruins a position that took hours to be worked on. That makes you swear you’ll never play chess again (a feeling that usually lasts for 5 to 10 minutes).
How many times did I blunder myself? I have lost count. I have been checkmated, I have forgotten to recapture a piece, I have lost a game with a queen up (and I was already a grandmaster at the time). In one of my recent tournaments I lost a game in a position that the computer assessed as +4 advantage.
But this article, fortunately, is not about me. Because who am I in this high constellation of blunder stars?
Let’s look at the top five blunder’s in chess history. Read and reread this article whenever you need to boost your morale. Or whenever you want to have a good laugh with the misfortune of others.
5- Saemisch x Capablanca
Friedrich Saemisch was a strong German chess player who participated in some of the major tournaments in the 1920s. His opening system for white against the King’s Indian is one of the most popular and bears his name.
The legendary José Raul Capablanca needs no introduction. What many do not know, however, is that Capablanca was one of the greatest “womanizers” of his time. This, it seems, did not really help his chess. The legend tells that at the very moment of the position in the diagram below, the wife and the lover of Capablanca entered the playing hall at the same time. The result: the worst move in Capa’s career.
Black to play
Capa played here 9 … Ba6?? and lost a piece immediately after 10.Qa4.
4- Christiansen x Karpov
Larry Christiansen is a strong American grandmaster, winner of numerous international tournaments. He is one of the few grandmasters that achieved the title directly, without becoming an international master before. He won the American Championship 3 times and played in several Olympiads.
Anatoly Karpov is one of the best chess players of all time. He is known to pay close attention to the resources of the opponent and to have a special talent to put the pieces in the best squares. It seems that this day Karpov’s talents had magically disappeared, as it is difficult to explain the move he made at the diagram position. This game is a unique case of a World Champion being defeated in only 12 moves.
Black to play
Karpov played here 11… Bd6?? and resigned immediately after 12.Qd1!
3- Petrosian x Bronstein
David Bronstein was one of the best chess players in the world for several years, especially in the 1950s. He wasin the blink of becoming World Champion in 1951, when he was close to beating Botvinnik – the match finished 12-12 and Botvinnik kept the title.
Petrosian was the World Champion from 1963 to 1969. Known for being a very solid player and dominating his opponents in the positional game, Tigran must have had some hallucination in the diagram position. Otherwise how to explain what he did?
White to play
White’s queen is attacked, but that did not bother Petrosian, who played 36.Ng5??. He probably felt some discomfort after 36… Nxd6.
2- Deep Fritz x Kramnik
Duels between man and machine used to be very interesting and mediatic (Kasparov vs. Deep Blue was a milestone) until everyone realized that chess is a game for humans – the machine is already invincible. In 2005 there was a match between Deep Fritz (a software accessible to all) and Kramnik, the World Champion at the time.
That was ugly…
One of the differences between man and machine became clear: we, humans, can lose concentration. In my list we already had a World Champion losing in 12 moves… now let’s see a World Champion getting mated.
Black to play
Black could equalize with 34… Kg8. But Kramnik decided to force the exchange of queens after 34…Qe3??. This ended up forcing only laughter around the world after 35.Qh7#.
1- Steinitz x Chigorin
Chigorin and Steinitz had a great rivalry in the late 19th century, having played two matches for the World Title. In 1889 Steinitz’s won easily: 10.5 to 6.5 – the curiosity is that only the last game of this match ended in a draw. But in 1892 the match was very difficult.
In the 23rd game Chigorin was totally winning and could tie the match. But then it happened: the most dramatic blunder chess history.
White to play
After 32.Rxb7 the match would have to be decided in the last game. But Chigorin removed the protection of the pawn of h2 with 32.Bb4??. The match ended after 32…Rxh2+.
Message of encouragement for all chess players
No one is immune to mistakes, however strong he may be. Remember that, whenever you make a huge blunder, someone much stronger than you have already done something worse. So forget about it! Many other blunders will still be waiting for you in the not so distant future.
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The word "woomanizers", does not exist
Great article and I just made a real blunder which lost me a am so it did make me chuckle
I think you should include Ivkov's infamous blunder in Capablanca Memorial. Ok, he was not such a huge name like the ones in your article - world champions or contenders. But he was a very good GM, and the significance of the blunder was really enormous. Having beaten Fischer and Spassky, he lost the 1st place due to this. Nice article, anyway, thank you very much!
Great suggestion! Thank you.
In my comment I made a mistake; he had beaten Smyslov, not Spassky.