Saturday, December 17, 2005

Let's talk about blunders. Actually, make that gross blunders. Yes, I am referring to those moves that defy any explanation or justification. Some of us castle into a direct attack, move the queen to a square where she is en prise, allow obvious pawn and knight forks, or get our major pieces painfully skewered by the opposing bishop. Oh Lord, please help us in our hour of need! Some players pass them off as sacrifices so deeply calculated that their real intention will become clear much later in the game. Only one person would enjoy this kind of stuff, the opponent!

Okay, so we feel very bad about gross blunders. We begin to question our analytical ability, our future in chess, our capacity for improvement, and whether we should just give it up and pursue another endeavour. You know what I mean.

Let's take an example from the " Magician from Riga, " Mikhail Tal. From his book, The Life and Times of Mikhail Tal, we have the position shown above. If it looks a little odd, it is because Tal could not remember the exact position and so set up the pieces just to illustrate the mechanism of his folly. It's black's move and Tal, playing black, was offered a draw by Averbakh. In his own words, Tal looked at the position and realized that he had to defend against the threat of 1. Bh7+ followed by 2. Qd5. He decided to play on and played 1... h6 ???

Although this occurred in a lightning tournament ( Bled, 1959 ), it is still remarkable for a player of Tal's calibre to make such an absurd move. He, in fact, proceeded to win the tournament in spite of this very deep sacrifice. Perhaps, great mental lapses are part and parcel of genius. Let's just leave at that.


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