Bulletin No.29 – Blunders Part 1: World Championship Matches

Bulletin No.29 – Blunders Part 1: World Championship Matches

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Love them or hate them, we all make many blunders in chess, and they add lots of entertainment to the game! Indeed, in the bar after, it is the blunder move that is most talked about!

How often are we left frustrated and bewildered when a well played game over a three or four hour period or following a good opening is spoilt when we allow our brains to momentarily switch off and create the most humongous blunder to gift wrap the full (or half) point to our opponent!

Today, in Part 1 we are kicking off with chess blunders at the very highest and most important level, the World Chess Championship itself and we (Peter & Martin) have had a stab at sorting them into a Top 10 order, which is never an easy task given the quality of the players involved.

But are we right and have we missed any other World Chess Championship classic blunder? We would love to hear from you and challenge our assessments, please use the Feedback Form at the bottom with your views or email us directly.

In Part 2 we will be covering other International blunders and next month we will look at why blunders happen and some howlers by some of our top local players.

The Near Misses

Here are 5 blunders that did not quite make our top 10. In chronological order…

Spassky – Fischer 1972, Game 1

Playing black in this dead level position, Fischer essayed 29…Bxh2 and after 30.g3 h5 31.Ke2 h4 32.Kf3 Ke7 33.Kg2 his bishop was lost. There has been much debate over the years about whether Fischer miscalculated and thought he could extricate his bishop or whether he knew it was trapped but was trying to win. Fischer being Fischer never revealed what he was thinking. In fact the endgame is still drawn but from a practical point of view 29…Bxh2 was a terrible move as black then has to play very precisely to hold the draw.

Fischer – Spassky 1972, Game 8

Spassky playing black is fractionally worse and plays the thematic 15…b5 but in this position it dropped an exchange to 16.Ba7. Did Spassky overlook Ba7 or did he misjudge the amount of compensation he had? Regardless he went from a bit worse to a lot worse. Play continued 16…bxc4 17.Bxb8 Rxb8 18.bxc4 Bxc4 19.Rfd1 to reach this position.

Now Spassky uncorked 19…Nd7? losing a pawn to the well known tactical idea 20.Nd5 Qxd2 21.Nxe7+

With two blunders in 5 moves Spassky was an exchange down and hopelessly lost.

Fischer – Spassky 1972, Game 14

Spassky playing black is a pawn up. He should play something like 28…Nxd4 29.Bxd4 Bxd4 30.exd4 Rb8 and try to squeeze a win out the rook ending. Instead he played 28…f6? and after 29.Bxf6 he has lost his pawn advantage and the position is dead level, e.g
29…gxf6 30.Nxb5
29…Bxd4 30.Bxd4

The game was drawn a few moves later.

Kasparov – Karpov 2nd 1985 Match, Game 11

Either 22…Rd6 or 22…Rdd8 is fine for black. Instead Karpov played 22…Rcd8 which was met by 23.Qxd7 Rxd7 24.Re8+ Kh7 25.Be4+ and Karpov resigned as after 25…g6 26.Rxd7 he loses a minor piece as well as the two rooks for the queen.

Topalov – Kramnik 2006, Game 2

It’s the infamous Toiletgate match and Topalov has a dominating position. He plays 32.Qg6+ which should win but is complicated and requires accuracy a few moves later. In fact Topalov soon went wrong and eventually lost.

Instead 32.Rxg4 Bg7 33.Qc7 would have won on the spot.

The Top 10

And here they are our 10 (actually 11) best, or rather worst, blunders from world championship matches

Joint Number 10

We couldn’t split these two (actually we didn’t agree, which just shows how different our chess brains are!) so we have two games at number 10.

Carlsen – Anand 2014, Game 6

There are quite a few cases in world championships of double blunders: a player blundering and their opponent missing the opportunity – perhaps the psychological aspect of trusting your esteemed opponent too much.

Carlsen played 26.Kd2? which was met by 26…a4? whereas 26…Nxe5 27.Rxg8 Nxc4 check would have picked up two pawns and given Anand excellent winning chances. After this Carlsen went on to grind out a win.

Kasparov – Karpov 1986, Game 2

Another double blunder. Karpov could hold easily with the solid 38…Rf6 but went active with 38…Rf3? which should lose on the spot to 39.Rc7. The dual threats are 40.Nxb6 and 40.Rxd7 followed by 41.Nxe5+ forking the king and rook. E.g.
39… Ke6 40. Rxd7 Kxd7 41. Nxe5+ Ke6 42. Nxf3
39… Rb3 40.Nxb6 Kd6 41.Rxd7+ Kc6 42.Rd3 Rb2+ 43.Rd2 Rxd2+ 44.Kxd2 Kxb6 with a won pawn ending for white.

Kasparov missed what he would normally spot in a blitz game and met 38…Rf3? with 39.Ne3? and the game was eventually drawn.

Number 9

Botvinnik – Smyslov 1958, Game 18

Botvinnik, playing white, had been much better and putting black under pressure; indeed he had missed a difficult forced win a few moves earlier. Now standing worse, perhaps he had not switched out of attack mode as he played 26.Qg5??

Smyslov now has the not hard to spot 26…Rd2 leading to a quick mate or the win of a lot of material. But seemingly he was still in defence mode as he played 26…Rde8? and went on to lose.

Number 8

Alekhine – Euwe 1937, Game 16

Alekhine had just played 25.Nc3 attacking the black queen. c6 or f5 would have been reasonable squares for the queen, but instead Euwe chose 25…Qe5? overlooking 26.Qh8+ with 29.Nxf7+ to follow. Luckily for him, so did Alekhine, one the world’s most imaginative players and all time great tacticians.

The game continued, 26.Bb2? Bc6? 27.a3? as the players overlooked the tactic for a second move, until finally Euwe played 27…Bd6 defending the queen. Our only example of a double double blunder!

Number 7

Carlsen – Anand 2014, Game 2

Black is under pressure but 34…Qd2 is the obvious and correct way to fight on. Instead Anand chose 34…h5?? and had to resign after 35.Qb7

Number 6

Korchnoi – Karpov 1978, Game 17

It has been a long and difficult game in which Korchnoi held a sizeable advantage at several points. Karpov has worked some magic with his knights to reach this position which should be drawn after 39.g3 or 39.g4. Instead Korchnoi played 39.Ra1 and resigned after 39…Nf3+ since both 40.Kh1 Nf2 and 40.gxf3 Rg6+ 41.Kh1 Nf2 are mate.

Number 5

Spassky – Fischer 1975, Game 5

Fischer has played superbly to arrive at this position where he stands better. But whilst white has a very passive position he should be able to hold it with a little care, starting with say 27.Qb1 or 27.Qf3.

Instead Spassky played 27.Qc2?? and after 27…Bxa4 resigned in view of 28.Qxa4 Qxe4 leading to a quick mate or 28.Qd2 Bxd1 29.Qxd1 Qxe4 with a hopeless endgame

Number 4

Kasparov – Short 1993, Game 9

With the pawns split this wide the endgame is won even with one of the pawns being an a-pawn. Both players would have known this and were perhaps on autopilot as Kasparov played 46.e4? and Short replied 46…Ke6?

But 46…Rc5 is an easy to spot and easy to calculate way of reaching a draw e.g.
47.a5 Rc3+ 48.Ke2 Kxe4 49.a6 Rc8= or
47.Ra3 Rc4 48.a5 Rxe4 49.a6 Rf4+ 50.Ke3 Rf8=

And here is our top three which was easy to agree, each blunder having a special something that makes it stand out!

Number 3

Karpov – Kasparov 1987, Game 5

White is a pawn up and putting black under pressure. Kasparov thinks he sees a tactical solution and plays 37…Ra1?? figuring on meeting 38.Rxa1 with 38…Qxg4 mate. But he had overlooked the simple 38.Qxg6+ defending g4 and allowing the rook to be picked up (and in fact white can weave a mating net after 39.e6 without taking the rook).

Number 2

Bronstein – Botvinnik 1951, Game 6

Bronstein had seen that 57.Ne6+ drew and was intending to play it. However, at that point he went into a daydream and spent 45 minutes thinking about earlier in the game. When he stopped thinking he absentmindedly picked up his king instead of the knight. Realising his mistake instantly he played the best king move, 57.Kc2 but resigned after 57…Kg3

Number 1

Chigorin – Steinitz 1892, Game 23.

It’s game 23 of a 24 game match and the score is 11.5-10.5 to Steinitz. Chigorin is a piece up and should win comfortably to pull level in the match. Instead he played…

32.Bb4?? Rxh2+ resigns


Have we missed any first rate World Championship blunders?  Do any of your own blunders remind you of one of these?   Please let us know using the form below