By Donny Gray
In the chess world we call a horrible move a “blunder.” If you have played chess for very long, you know that for some unexplained reason you sometimes make the absolutely worst move on the board! To make it worse, it usually happens when others are standing around your board watching. Of course, those who watch chess games see everything and are quick to let you know of your horrible blunders after the game.
We could spend days trying to analyze why this happens. But let’s just admit that it happens even to the best of us. Of course, the best of us are called Grandmasters. Yes, even they make horrible moves; sometimes even the worst moves on the board. Let’s take a look at some of these famous blunders. (All games are given in full at the end of this article.)
We start with GM Alexander Beliavsky. He has an impressive chess resume. He won the World Junior Chess Championship in 1973 and the USSR Chess Championship four times (in 1974, 1980, 1987 and 1990). In the 1982–84 World Chess Championship cycle, Beliavsky qualified for the Candidates Tournament once, losing to the eventual winner Garry Kasparov in the quarterfinals of the 1983 Candidates matches.
So with credentials like this you would think he could see mate in one. But you would be wrong!
In this position GM Beliavsky played 69.Kf4???? The game was over when black played Qb8 mate!!
Our next example is from the 2006 Man vs. Machine competition. Reigning world champion Vladimir Kramnik was playing against the chess computer Deep Fritz. This was game #2 of the match, and Kramnik was black.
Here on move 34, Kramnick picked up his queen and put it on e3!! There is one problem with this move, however. It allows mate in one!! It didn’t take the super computer very long to figure out that 35.Qh7 is mate!
Here is how ChessBase reported what happened: “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.”
For our next blunder we go to a game played by GM Etienne Bacrot, who at the time was rated 2705!! In this game he apparently forgot how knights move!
This game was played in May 2008 at the Baku Grand Prix from the FIDE Grand Prix 2008–2010. On move 23, he played Qe7+???. Both players calmly wrote down the move. Bacrot then realized that his Queen was under attack by the Black knight, and resigned.
What could possibly be worse than hanging your queen or failing to see a mate in one? How about resigning while you are winning!!?? Our next example is a fine example of that.
Here we go all the way back to the year 1902 for the game Popiel vs. Marco. White has just played 36.Rd1, and Marco playing black resigned!! However, black has the game ending move of Bg1!!! After this move it is white that should resign. Black will at least win a rook. White cannot stop the mate threat and the attack on his major pieces. All he could try is Qh3, stopping the mate, but then Rd1 wins a free rook.
In closing, how about we take a look at possibly the most famous of all chess blunders. In fact, we can call it a double blunder. This game is between two powerhouses, former world champion Tigran Petrosian and world class grandmaster David Bronstein. The game was in Amsterdam back in 1956.
Petrosian was not only winning on the board, but Bronstein was so low on time that spectators said it would be physically impossible for him to make four moves in the few seconds left on his clock. So in other words, just about any move would make Bronstein run out of time.
In the diagram we see that world champion Petrosian has just played 36.Ng5??? leaving his queen hanging to the black knight on f5!! Bronstein saw immediately that he could take the queen for free and did so by playing Nd6. Bronstein did not have time for any other moves, but before he ran out of time on the clock, Petrosian was so disgusted with himself, he resigned!! A double blunder!