Friday, January 1, 2010


Left your Queen en prise, did you? Overlooked that mate in one? No need to be depressed; it happens to the best of us. A game of chess is a struggle, not a mathematical exercise. Under pressure of the opponent and the clock, errors are inevitable.

Some blunders are due to overconfidence. A notorious example is the first game of the Spassky-Fischer match in 1972. In a quite equal position, Fischer captured a pawn, allowing his Bishop to be trapped. He had seen a way out, but stopped his analysis one move too soon. (That Fischer’s confidence not misplaced can be seen from the final score – despite this gift he won the match 12½-8½.)

Others result from relaxing too soon. In 11th game of their 1986 match, Anatoly Karpov had just about equalized against Garry Kasparov. One careless move allowed a flashy, but not very difficult, Queen sacrifice to end the game. (As a sidelight, Karpov devoted several pages in one of his books to proving that his blunders were better than the blunders of other world champions.)
And still others result from the character of the player himself. In his 1951 match with Mikhail Botvinnik, challenger David Bronstein sought to prove that Botvinnik’s scientific approach to the game was not the only one – for Bronstein was a creative artist more than a competitor. In the sixth game, after a fierce struggle, White at the 56th move had only to return his Knight to play, with a check, to eliminate Black’s last pawns and make a draw. But then Bronstein began to think about the position back at move eight. He thought for 45 minutes and ... touched the wrong piece. He soon had to resign. The final score of the match: 12-12 ...

Diagram: From a game von Popiel-Marco. Monte Carlo 1902. Black, seeing that he could no longer defend his pinned Bishop at d4, resigned. But after 1. ... Bg1!, the doomed Bishop makes a powerful discovered attack – threatened with 2. ... Qxh2 mate, White would have to lose his Queen.

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