Monday, August 15, 2011

How to Avoid Blunders, Part 6 -

How to Avoid Blunders, Part 6 -

How to Avoid Blunders, Part 6

Submitted by GM Gserper

In the final installment of our discussion about blunders I would like to talk about one of the most popular kinds of blunders. This kind of blunders is extremely popular in the games of not very advanced chess players, but from time to time even chess giants suffer from it. Here is one notorious example:

(Just like in most of my articles I give you a chance to test your chess skills, so the game is given as a Quiz. Please remember that you can always replay the whole game from the first move if you click "Solution" and then "Move list".)

Christiansen, Larry Mark (2620) vs. Karpov, Anatoly (2725)
Hoogovens / Wijk aan Zee
Round 2 | Jan 1993
ECO: E12 | 1-0
White to move
11... Bd6??
How could Karpov make such a childish mistake as early as move 11? Was he confused by an unfamiliar opening or did he follow someone's faulty recommendations? I don't think so, since the Queen's Indian Defense is one of Karpov's favorite openings and he is one of the World's biggest experts there. Maybe he underestimated his opponent? It is hardly the case here, since Larry Christiansen has been one of the best US Grandmasters for the last 25 years or so.
Maybe Karpov got distracted during the game? Well, I wasn't there when the game was played, but I know Karpov very well (and we played in the same tournaments a couple of times). Believe me, you'll be hard-pressed to find another player who keeps a higher level of concentration throughout the whole game. So, what's the reason for Karpov's blunder? Our life is full of mysteries...
Now let's look at the game of another World Champion:
This inconceivable blunder in a completely winning position is especially amazing if we take into account Petrosian's famous 'iron hand' in this kind of a position.
Here is one more blunder played by the World Champion:
Alekhine, Alexander vs. Blackburne, Joseph Henry
St Petersburg preliminary / St Petersburg
Round 2 | 22 Apr 1914
ECO: C61 | 1/2-1/2
Black to move
11. Nd2??
When after the game Alekhine was asked how he could possibly blunder like that, his answer was pretty simple : "I just forgot about the Bishop". Forgot about the Bishop? Alekhine?? For God sake, the man set the world record by playing 32 blindfold games simultaneously and here he forgot about the Bishop??
I could give more examples like these, but the picture is pretty clear already. Sometimes blunders happen just because as they say 'to err is human'. This is the most difficult kind of blunders to fix, because they happen with no warning and without any visible reason. And while the strongest chess players commit such blunders once in a Blue Moon, the average club player suffers from them pretty frequently.
I remember a certain period of my chess life when this problem got out of control. I was about 11 years old and even though we didn't have ratings at that point, I would estimate my strength was around USCF1500-1600. But suddenly I started blundering in almost every single game. I tried everything I could, but the blunders kept coming. It was very depressing because I knew I was going to blunder, I focused at every single move and yet, in the end, I always found a way to blunder! Sometimes when my move was not a blunder per se, it was still a blunder! I remember one of my stupidest blunders. In the Sicilian Defense my opponent played a typical Sicilian move b7-b5 and I played some typical Sicilian move like Kh1. Unfortunately, my opponent's move b7-b5 was a horrible blunder since his Nc6 lost protection of the b7 pawn and therefore I could just win his Knight for free by playing Nd4xc6!
I noticed my miss immediately after I executed my move. I almost cried during the game. I didn't know what to do with this problem since the typical advice "be focused" clearly didn't work. Salvation came from an unexpected source. When I was in a library, I was browsing through an old book for beginners (I don't even know why I grabbed that book since I wasn't a beginner already ). Suddenly I found an unusual advice.
The author ( I think it was an old Soviet Master Chekhover, or was it Panov? I don't remember) recommended a simple algorithm. Before you play any move ask yourself: If I play my intended move, what are the possible checks of my opponent? If you don't see dangerous checks, ask yourself "what are the dangerous captures of my opponent"? And then ask yourself if your opponent can threaten any of your pieces. This simple procedure will pretty much insure that you are not making a stupid blunder because in practically all the cases when you blunder it is either a check a capture or a threat. Also look at all available checks, captures and threats of your own, to make sure that you are not missing a blunder of your opponent (as I did in the above-mentioned game). Initially when I read this advice I thought that the author was insane. If I follow this algorithm every single move, then I'll run out of time by move 15 or something like this. But as I said, I was desperate, so I decided to give it a try.
At first I felt kind of awkward doing this, but with a little practice I noticed that the whole blunder-check would take no more then one minute per move. And you'd agree that one minute per move is not a big price to pay in order to avoid blunders. The most important thing is that I was cured! Of course, just like any human chess player I still blunder. But not in every single game! If the problem that I described here sounds pretty familiar to you, I recommend you to try this recipe of an old Soviet master whose name I forgot (shame on me!).
I sincerely hope that our six part discussion will help you to avoid blunders in your games and consequently improve your chess results.
Good luck!

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