The Blunder Gland: Playing Blind

  • IM Silman
  • | 2012. okt. 10.
  • | 11855 megtekintés
  • | 27 hozzászólás

IMPORTANT: [At the end of the puzzles, you should click MOVE LIST so you can see my instructive notes and variations. If you are having trouble solving a problem, just click SOLUTION, and then MOVE LIST. Even if you solve everything, DO click MOVE LIST or you might miss an important bit of prose.]

The examples that follow are all from the same game. Here both players ignore positional plusses that need to be nailed down, miss basic tactics, and generally care about two things: Taking free stuff and playing for mate.

Okay, everybody loves to take free stuff! But one should look around and make sure your house isn’t on fire before lighting up the barbeque! And who doesn’t want to behead the enemy King? Alas, chess isn’t that easy, and planning a mate before the first move has been played is more delusional than realistic.

Having said that, both players are in the rating range where doing this stuff is the norm and is expected. Over time, experience beats the importance of castling into you, and basic tactics become… well… basic! Finally, 1000 coaches can tell you that you shouldn’t go after a kingside attack in every position, but until you finally believe it by the pain of many defeats, the prose in books and the words of a coach mean absolutely nothing.

Due to this “I won so I must have played well” fantasy, I’ll be a bit harsh in pointing out that neither side played well. And… perhaps some of the lessons from this game will rub off, either now or down the road.

HilarioFJunior (1095) – Roycharles80 (1150), 2012 [30/0 time control]

1.c4 e5 2.e4 Bc5

It is move two and black is already better! How can this be? White’s mistake is pushing the only two pawns that could protect the d4-square. On e2, the e-pawn can eventually move to e3 and keep enemy pieces off that square. But once the pawn goes to e4 that possibility is extinguished. But there’s no need for White to worry after 1.e4 (which gains space and hits the d5- and f5- squares) since his c-pawn can eventually move to c3 and babysit d4. But if you combine e2-e4 and c2-c4 then d4 becomes a hole that Black can fight to control.

Sure enough, Black instantly leapt on this with his second move, 2…Bc5. Suddenly that Bishop is a laser beam down the g1-a7 diagonal, and d4 has already been annexed.

3.Nf3 and now Black should have played 3…Nc6, which defends e5 and adds to the pressure against d4. Note how the Knight, the e5-pawn, and the Bishop are all working together in their desire to own d4.

Instead of 3…Nc6, Black played 3…Qf6 no doubt hoping to create some kind of attack. But the game’s just started! Both sides are trying to develop! There’s a fight going on for central squares! A kingside attack should be the last thing that one decides on here. Perhaps later, but not on move four! Finally, a general rule: Don’t bring the Queen out too early.

We will now step into the same game's future (leaping from move 3 to move 10):


Castle! Please castle!

Prepare for another leap, this time to move 17!

White Will Compromise His Own King!

In this position, White played 17.h3?? Other than the fact that White had some really strong choices at his disposal, this is the kind of move you just don't want to play in this kind of situation. The reason is that a ...g5-g4 push (after that dark-squared Bishop on d4 moves back to c5 where it's safe) will now open kingside files. If the pawn remained on h2, it would have been very difficult for Black to get the open files he ends up with in the game. 

Play the Position Correctly

Okay, so far we've set the tone, and now it's time to leap into the game face first. Are you ready? Then...

Gentlemen, Start Your Blunder-Engines!


Why? White had no intention of taking on a6 since that would free black's pieces. So what does this do (yes, your moves should actually accomplish something)? Instead, 17...Bc5, retaining the important dark-squared Bishop, was the way to go.


Noooo! The idea is good, but White could have gotten so much more from the position. Show me the right way in the puzzle:

The Blunders Continue


18...Bxb6 19.Nxb6 cxb6 White’s still better, but the battle would be far from over. After 18…c6 Black loses a whole Rook.


19.Nxd4 followed by 20.Nc7 was more accurate.

19…Qe7 20.Nxa8 g4


21…gxh3 22.Qxa5??

Rome is burning on the kingside and White decides to ignore it for a pawn. If you are going to be a traitor to your own cause, at least get some serious money for your betrayal. But selling out for a pawn? I think not!

Correct was 22.Bh4 with a clear advantage for White. 


It seems that neither side noticed the pin along the g1-a7 diagonal. Correct was 22...Rxg3 and, thanks to the mighty d4-Bishop and the pin along the g1-a7 diagonal, White will soon be ravaged.

Position after 22…Rxg3

23.Kxg2 h4 24.Nc7


Noooooo!!!!! Earlier, White sold out for a pawn, and now Black will sell out for a check. Sad. Instead a piece could be taken by 24...hxg3 (Actually, 24…Qd7! is even stronger) 25.fxg3 Nxe4 26.dxe4 Qh4 27.Rf3? (27.Ng4 is forced when Black is still much better but the game will continue) and now we have a puzzle: 

After 24…h3+ White Wins Easily


Both sides are still blind to that pin along the g1-a7 diagonal. Instead, 25.Kh1 was an easy win for White.

Black’s Move Should be a No-Brainer


The blunder count grows higher. 25...Nfd7 is blunder 9. Instead, 25...Rxg3+ was obvious and very strong.

For those that want to see the last several moves flowing from one to another, check this out:

We’ll now zip ahead to move 34:


White thinks, “Let’s see, I can take a Bishop or a pawn. I’ll go for the pawn!”

Alas, this turns the game completely around. Instead, 34.Bxc8 (winning a piece and also threatening a mating attack by Qxb7+) would end matters right away: 

After the horrible 24.Bxh3?? we arrive at the following diagram:


Correct was 34...Bxg1:

Here’s the rest of the game after black’s 34…Rxg1+?? blunder (a quick mate!):


* Experience is the best teacher IF you play people a bit better than yourself. That way your opponents will punish your mistakes and help you make the proper adjustments to your game.

* Whenever you push a pawn, you lose control over squares that it once was able to protect. Since pawns can’t go backwards, every pawn advance must be well-considered.

* Don’t bring your Queen out too early!

* Pins are a key tactical motif. Both players in this game (and everyone else!) need to master the pin!


If you want me to look over your game, send it to

I need your name (real or handle), your OPPONENT’S name (real or handle), both players’ ratings, where the game was played, and date. If you don’t give me this information, I won’t use your game! BTW: I’ve noticed that many people are reluctant to give me their opponent’s name. This is very strange! Showing the names of both players is the way chess games are presented in databases, books, magazines… everywhere! Permission from the opponent isn’t necessary. If permission was necessary, everyone who ever lost a game wouldn’t allow their name to be on it!


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    IM Silman

    First off, anyone of any rating that has the courage to offer a loss for all to see is to be commended. This type of person clearly wants to learn from his mistakes. I like low-rated games – I enjoy them and think they help tons of other players who are also starting out. 

    Then we have those egomaniacs (who are most likely children or emotionally damaged adults) that think putting down those that wish to learn should be ridiculed. Stop doing this.

    I do games with ratings that cover the whole spectrum. If more low-rated players send me interesting games, then there will be articles with more low-rated players. It’s that simple.

    Finally, if a move is a blunder I’ll call it a blunder. If a move shows a lack of understanding I’ll point this out. I will also do my best to add a bit of energy and humor to things since we can’t take bad moves too seriously (we ALL make them – I see the humor in my blunders, and I see the humor in yours too). I’m not Oprah. I’m not going to hug you (if you need a hug, don’t send me your game). I WILL do my very best to point out your weaknesses and to teach you.

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    I agree laser I love these articals but that rating range is so much better even for the 1000 player who can learn alot from real games this game was a joke.

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    I thought for a moment that was me in the photo at the top of the page. Another blunder, as I very rarely wear a tie.

    Good article, Mr. Silman, as usual.

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    Okay, my pennyworth, Mr Silman, if I may: I think the article is way too harsh and judgemental.

    As context, I remember watching a game between two Indonesian teenagers on a beach in Bali. It was intense! They were concentrating furiously, fighting every step of the way. Seeing how engaged they were, how much fun they were having, reminded me what chess is really about. The fact that thier game was riddled with mistakes and missed opportunities is entirely secondary to the fact that they were hooked and loving the game we all love.  

     We all played like these players when we were starting out, including Magnus Carlsen (okay, in his case, when he was a 3 yr old, but still). I bet most members of  play around this level, or close to it. Yet, imagine Roger Federer pouring scorn on new tennis players. Or David Beckham sneering at soccer players with less talent than him? Or Jack Nichlous sniggering at amatuers, when they duff their 9 iron. We cant imagine it, cos it never happens. 

    Proposal: I suggest a tone that is more generous in spirit, more encouraging, less belittling and sneering. Instead of a 'blunder count' - really crude and rude- may I suggest you talk about 'missed opportunities' - which is what most of the examples are. There were some genuene  blunders - eg,  Black not taking the B on g6 - and naming them as such is appropriate. But mostly the so called blunders were simply not the best move. For instance, the mate starting with the Q sac, missing that very clever line simply does not qualify as a blunder. 

    More love, less hate, in brief.

    Trot on:) 


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    This time you made me laugh with your comments!. Thank you for posting! :)

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    I felt like I was reading a story here. This game was so back & forth that I could not predict the result! Typical of beginner play though.
    I would like to pose an open question: Why do beginning players think a B + Q combo will work when the other side develops a knight to f3/f6??
    When I was a pure beginner, I used to think the Italian (Gioco Piano) set-up would work against everything and that 'nothing was better.' Foot in Mouth 

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    As much as I love Silman and look forward to his column, I do wish he would analyze the games of at least SLIGHTLY stronger players.  I'm not saying they have to be masters, but there really isn't much to be gleaned from games between 1000-rated opponents.  At that level, yes, every other move is a serious tactical blunder.  There isn't much to write except "oh, another tactical oversight".  

    His analysis of games played by opponents in the 1600-2200 range is way more beneficial, since it includes more subtle and instructive errors by both sides.  

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    Hey guys, don't act like you never played like this. Don't give me that "beginners are so weak" - you are not too far from that level yourselves. Give some respect to the game and don't act like chess-primadonas.

    Very good analysis btw. Thank you Silman.

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    LOL, it's so funny watching low rated players make silly blunders...

    no, hessmaster, it says at the top that it was a 30 min game...Sealed

    I could play better in a one minute game though...LOL but great analysis anyways.

    Fritz 12. my pal, criticizes my openings a lot, but that's expected.... So usually whenever my coach analyzes it it's more learning.

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    So basically, every other move was a blunder Smile

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    I'm stoked that you were apparently never a beginner at chess, obviously advancing directly to a higher level. Most people start out as beginners though and could probably do without your pointless and nonconstructive ridicule.

    And once again, thank you Silman - always an interesting read :)

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    Darn you Silman, analyze my game!  Whazza matter, are ~1800 level players too hard to belittle?  Here I'll feed you some lines to criticize me:

    • "Scaredy-cat black is afraid to exchange his dark square bishop on b4 because he's down a poor wee pawn"
    • "Ooh look at me!  I'm going to threaten a fork on c2 because I still play like a fifth grader!"
    • "Black benefits from white's nonsensical wedge pawn grab, which failed to appreciate the brutal RQO after 0-0-0."
    • "Black plays unnecessarily conservatively trying to keep his piece".
    Seriously, go to town. I'm not very sensitive.

    It's not like you don't have a thing for the Albin c-g.  And c'mon it ends with one of the greatest mate traps ever.

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    Someone once told me that castling is for cowards and refuses to do so.  After all of the games I've won against them, you'd think they'd change their minds.

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    in-depth as usual.  I really like your articles.  Thanks!

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    I really should sleep more, can't believe I didn't even see that, it's waaay too early XD

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