Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Ultimate Blunder

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This is really Tim Krabbé's territory, but since it gives me an excuse to link to him, I'll put it up here. It's always possible that there was an error in the score, but this seems like a plausible version of what Krabbé calls "the ultimate blunder" (his examples), resigning in a winning position.

In this diagram from Bjelobrk (2377) - Watson (2286), Auckland, played a few weeks ago, White just played 36.Qd8-d7 and Black understandably resigned. I was going through games for the Black Belt tactics sections when I came across this, but it shouldn't require any belt at all to figure out what Black should have played. (In case you haven't had your coffee yet today 36...Qxg2+! is mate in 3.) For Mr. Watson's sanity, let's hope there has been some mistake! [As explained by a comment below, there was a mistake. White did play 36.Bc4+ and Black resigned.] White could have mated with 36.Bc4+, so I suppose this is just if it did happen this way. Full gamescore from TWIC below.

Bjelobrk,I (2377) - Watson,B (2286) [A55]
Oceania zt Auckland NZL (3), 31.01.2005

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.e4 e5 5.Nf3 Be7 6.Be2 c6 7.0-0 0-0 8.Rb1 a5 9.Re1 Re8 10.Bf1 Bf8 11.b3 exd4 12.Nxd4 Nc5 13.f3 g6 14.Be3 Bg7 15.Qd2 Nh5 16.Red1 Qe7 17.Nde2 Be5 18.Bg5 f6 19.Bh4 g5 20.Bf2 Nf4 21.Nd4 Qg7 22.Kh1 h5 23.a3 Bd7 24.b4 axb4 25.axb4 Na4 26.Nxa4 Rxa4 27.c5 d5 28.b5 dxe4 29.fxe4 Bg4 30.bxc6 Bxd1 31.Rxb7 Qg6 32.Qxd1 Rxd4 33.Bxd4 Qxe4 34.Bxe5 Rxe5 35.Qd8+ Re8 36.Qd7 1-0


do we know that he resigned, rather than flag fell?

No info as of yet. I'm hoping some publicity might turn up some first-hand information. It would ruin it somewhat if the flag fell, but if he had more than a second or two it would still qualify in my book.

I've swapped email with several of the participants in that tourney, I'll see if they know anything or can put me in touch with the players.

Have some sympathy for Watson. These thing are always their most obvious when someone has kindly set up the diagram at the crucial point. Somewhere in the pages of the Sousse Interzonal book you can find a missed mate in 1 or 2 (too lazy to go look it up and verify, but I will if people squawk enough).

I once watched an extremely complicated tournament game between two senior masters (both rated between 2350 and 2450). Lots of pawns off the board, lots of pieces on. Ferocious attack being defended by mutually supportive rooks and minors. Severe time pressure on both sides.

Only the thing was--one of the rooks was just hanging. Completely unprotected. All the spectators were trying to figure out what happened to the "house of cards" (the interconnected defenders) if the rook was taken, but for 3 moves, it was just left there.

Then time control was made. Both sides took a deep breath, sat back in their chairs. Player A took another look at the board, went "Oh!" and in another minute, simply took the rook. Player B resigned immediately.

This would have made a great Monday chess puzzle over at Chessgames.com

No info as of yet. I'm hoping some publicity might turn up some first-hand information. It would ruin it somewhat if the flag fell, but if he had more than a second or two it would still qualify in my book.


I think, I differ. These things happen in chess all the time.

Here is a Burn-Chigorin encounter. Both players missed obvious wins in their turn more than twice. Perhaps time pressure is subjective.

Here is the game

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 d6 4.Nc3 g6 5.e4 Bg7 6.f4 0-0
7.Nf3 Bg4 8.h3 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 Nbd7 10.g4 e6 11.dxe6 fxe6
12.Bd2 Ne8 13.0-0-0 Qf6 14.h4 Qf7 15.Qd3 Bh6 16.g5 Bg7
17.h5 gxh5 18.Be2 Bxc3 19.Qxc3 Ng7 20.Rh4 d5 21.cxd5
exd5 22.exd5 Rfe8 23.Bf3 b5 24.Rdh1 Nf8 25.Bxh5 Nxh5
26.Rxh5 Re4 27.Qh3 Rc4+ 28.Kb1 Qxd5 29.Bc3 Re8 30.g6
Qe4+ 31.Ka1 hxg6 32.Re5 Qxh1+ 33.Qxh1 b4 34.Qd5+

Sorry to spoil the thread, but Bjelobrk played 36.Bc4+ and not 36.Qd7.
The reason for the notation error is because a DGT board was used to transmit the game live and produce a game score.
After the game was over, Bjelobrk restored the bishop to e2 and showed Watson the mate after 36.Qd7. (Watson had seen it.) Consequently the board then wrongly registered 36.Qd7 as the last move played.
The moral (as has been demonstrated from many Olympiads) is never trust the score of a game played on a DGT board. Most often the mistake is a stupid Ke4 or ...Ke5 added at the end of an otherwise correct game, but if the players have any sort of postmortem before the result is locked in, the moves will go haywire.

Spoil the thread? Not at all. I believe we've learned something new about the use of DGT boards... at least I have.

When I saw the position, of course I saw Qxg2+, but I was puzzled that such a move could've been missed in time pressure given that Black (in a losing position) would been looking exactly for those shots on the back rank. In fact, those shots are easier for white to miss in my opinion!


My ‘favourite’ blunder comes from an Ivkov game from the Havana 1965 tournament. Unfortunately I cant remember the actual game and don’t have any books here to look it up. I know that in his book on the Fishcer-Spasky match in Belgrade he describes the whole ordeal nicely.

It was in the one before last round, when he was still leading the tournament. Up an exchange and two pawns and played the only move that looses and he wasn’t even in time trouble (something unusual for him). Next round still under shock managed only to draw and came out at the end only tied for second.

If somebody has the book, please post the game and the explanation for the blunder; Ivkovs and as well as the one (in the book) given by a friend of his (an interesting theory; stating that Ivkov purposefully made the fatal error so it could be remembered as one of the greatest mishaps in the history of chess, thus gaining sympathy in the hearts of millions of chess players).

There is an entertaining account of Ivkov's blunder in Donner's book ``the king.'' Donner, who played in the tournament describes following the game and suddenly realizing, as Ivkov's hand hangs over the board, that there is one losing move. Donner claims he later asked Ivkov if his thoughts had disturbed him. (``should bystandards not only not be allowed to talk, but also not be allowed to think?'')

I witnessed GM Alexander Ivanov miss a mate in one against a 2000 player at our club once. In the post mortem, when it was pointed out to him, he said, "I'm not interested in silly checkmates." If I remember correctly, he had just come out ahead after a tense struggle, and was just looking to force simplification.


Long time reader, first time poster. Not to change the subject, but was the record broke for daily dirt comments for the Kasparov exits FIDE?
Keep up the great work, its the first thing I read in the morning.

Here's an "ultimate blunder" I recently experienced in a 3-minute internet game (I was playing Black):

1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nc3 Nf6 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d5 Ne7 9. Be3 Ng4 10. Qd2 f5 11. exf5 Nxe3 12. Qxe3 gxf5 13. Qg5 Kh8 14. Nh4 Bf6 15. Qh6 Ng8 {White resigns} 0-1

Luckily for me, White thought the Knight is lost, and did not see the mate-in-one (16.Ng6#). Not a high quality game though..

Dear Chess Ninjas,

A recent Bulgarian organizer introduced an idea of forbidding draw offers in chess. It was an interesting experiment. Not sure of the outcome.

I believe I have an even better suggestion for the LawMakers of Chess!?

Forbid premature resignations! Play untill checkmate and checkmate only!

Here are the pros:

1. One will never lose a game by premature resignation.
2. The spectators will finally see some checkmating positions in top-level games, not only in their post-game analysis.
3. Many believe, wrongly, that being checkmated is humiliating. It is not. Anyway, the new rule would lower the increasing percentage of faked games, as one would have to expose oneself to getting checkmated as well and thus be additionaly "humiliated".
4. Children and adults who checkmate will enjoy the game they love much more.
5. Children and adults who get checkmated will do their best not to let it happen again, thus improving their game of chess.
6. All will learn endgames better, which is relevant in the times of accelerated time controls.
7. All will respect the game of chess even more.
8. Winning techniques will improve for all.
9. It will be easier for individuals to get over a loss, as their temperature would cool down, while getting checkmated, thus improving chess players health conditions.
10. It will raise the level of the game and bring it a big step closer to other major sports, in which there is no such thing as resignation.

Here are the cons:

1. There are none.

Any opinion? Thanks in advance for your reply!
International Master Jovan Petronic
Beograd, Serbia.

Well, I will add a con that I think is tough to argue with: All the extra time spent playing until mate gives less time for post-mortems (or sleep).

ridiculous. what a waste of time.

"All the extra time spent playing until mate gives less time for post-mortems (or sleep)."

Thanks! This comment, as the "biggest con", assures me to work more on promoting checkmate in chess!

"Play until checkmate and checkmate only."

Man that is ridiculous. Can you imagine being down by 2 pawns or a piece,not being able to resign and having to spend another hour losing?
Or conversely having a totally winning position but your opponent can't resign and you end up wasting a few more hours? Already we all know how annoying it is when an opponent refuses to resign in a hopeless position.
Chess like this will be a waste of my time and my life. I will rather give up chess and go home and sleep.

Alright, you go play a 12 round 40/2 SD/1 swiss with a bunch of 1400's who will take the full 3 hours of their time playing like they're seriously going to defend a piece or rook down position. They will be required to play until resignation. If you don't think that's the biggest waste of time, I'm sorry for your life.....

I fail to see the advantage behind 9 out of 10 of the "pro's". I guess I don't see how a checkmate played out over the board is so aesthetically pleasing. If I shell out a hefty entry fee to play in a weekend swiss with 2 or 3 rounds per day I refuse to go along with a plan like that. I'm more concerned with resting up between games than foaming at the mouth with joy in anticipation of my opponents facial expression at the moment of checkmate.

Rather than play through hell for 2 hours down a piece or several pawns, wouldn't this just invent some very clever help mate combinations?

I guess this could have some entertainment value for the spectators!

I see most people are against it, but I am for it. Imagine if NFL games could just be 'resigned' whenever a team felt like it was doomed. Chess has a clearly defined end, which is when one side mates the other or when a forced draw occurs. I so no problem with playing all the way out, and this would make so many of the GM games more instructive as people would actually get to see the 'obvious' endings that are never played out now. I have read peoples' objections to this, but I don't buy them, just like I don't buy the idea of resigning in any other sports.

What you may be missing is, that the losing player, if forced to play beyond the point where he would normally want to resign, will not be interested much, anymore. So, intstead of resigning a lost game, he can blitz it into a quick loss. That will not be instructive unless the losing player is in such a good mood that he makes efforts still, although he is clearly losing.

Comparable are the "no early draw" rules which cannot ban repetition draws, for which both players don't need words to agree upon, if both want it.

I am sceptical that such ideas make much sense. After 100+ years of world class master's chess, it is difficult to come up with good new rules of that type.

(The last good novelties in the "game environment" which comes to my mind, are the time controls with move bonuses, and the sensor boards for automatical transmission and broadcasts.)

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 12, 2005 3:25 PM.

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