Sunday, January 14, 2007

World Championship Quality Blunders III

Kasparov - Short, 1993 (Game 9)

Today’s position, as you see, is a Rook and Pawn endgame. I suspect half of you have already dozed off (and the other half have probably already left me for more exotic chess blogs elsewhere) but WAKE UP. Something interesting is about to happen.

It’s Kasparov – Short, game 9 1993 and Kaspy is about to make his 46th move.

We turn now to “Inner Game”, Dominic Lawson’s book on the World Championship match and Short’s progress to it:-

“… on move 46, Kasparov, moving quickly, committed a colossal blunder, which permitted Short, by a simple manoeuvre, to win one of the champion’s pawns and achieve a dead drawn position. Jon Speelman, who was watching the game, immediately spotted how Short could chop off Kasparov’s pawn and could barely contain himself when, with scarcely any thought, Nigel replied with the wrong move. Five minutes later he resigned, and rapidly disappeared from the stage.

Kasparov then bounced into the Channel Four studio … Speelman interrupted and told Kasparov he had blundered horribly in the ending. ‘No I didn’t,’ Kasparov replied angrily. Speelman then gave Kasparov the relevant position, spelling it out in international algebraic notation. ‘That position never occurred in the game,’ snapped the world champion. But Jon Speelman is a stubborn man. He then directed Kasparov’s attention to the computer which recorded all the moves of the game, and which, too, had instantly recognized that Kasparov had blundered and that Short could have drawn. Kasparov looked, appalled, at the computer screen. He spent the next four minutes staring distractedly into space, and then left the studio without a word.”

So says Dominic Lawson anyway. Curiously, Kasparov’s own account in New in Chess magazine implies that he’d noticed his mistake as soon as he’d made the move!

Anyhoo, the blunder in question is:-

46. e4 ??

which leads to a drawn position after,

46. … Rc5
47. a5 Rc3+
48. Kg4 Kxe4
49. a6 Rc8
50. a7 Ra8

… because Black can get his King back in time. There are a few tricks remaining in this line but its dead drawn.

Unfortunately, Nigel had already mentally surrendered and played 46. … Kd6 ?? and lost quickly.

The blunders, then, simply cancelled each other out. The evaluation of the position moved from clear win for White to certain draw back to easily won. Whatever we might say about this game, however, the match result was already a foregone conclusion. By game 9 Short was already 4-0 down and very much doomed. Indeed, Lawson’s book reveals Short had given up any slim hopes of winning the title by game 4.

Like many club players, I am sadly lacking in endgame technique. My own interest in the sequence therefore is not so much the starting position as the cause of the tandem blunders. It has been my observation in my own games that I often make poor moves after I, consciously or otherwise, stop thinking – e.g. if I believe the game is effectively over. It is gratifying that even World Champions and Challengers can produce awful moves in similar circumstances.

Finally, bonus marks under Artistic Impression are in order for the double blunder and Kasparov's hissy fit after the game. This leaves us with:-

Impact on the Game: 2/5
Impact on the Match: 0/5
Degree of Difficulty: 3/5
Artistic Impression: 4/5

which leads to an Ultimate Blunder Rating of 9/20. That’s good enough for second place on the leader board as things stand but I fear the Kasparov – Short tandem blunder will be slipping down several places in the weeks to come.

Next time … double double trouble.


ejh said...

I have not read Lawson's book. I assume Kasparov went on to say, "God, Jon, you're right. I do apologise"?

Jonathan B said...

I fear not.

How's Spain Justin?

ejh said...

Difficult in a number of respects. Would probably be marginally easier if I had any income!

Tom Chivers said...

Lawson's book is an intriguing read.

& it's a shame youtube wasn't around in 1993, to catch that moment!

I agree Jonathan about this probably being a case of 'drowned rat' syndrome: when you feel you're lost, you give up looking for ways out, waiting for the inevitable. Hard not to...

ejh said...

Not like a rat to give up...

ejh said...

Incidentally, can I hazard a guess from "double double trouble" that the next one is from the Thirties?

Tom Chivers said...

Some psychologists once spent their time drowning rats to the point of death, saving them, and then doing it all again, rather a lot. They found that after a while, rats stopped even bothering trying to swim to safety, and would allow themselves to drown instead.

Those crazy psychologists . . .

Have you read any Joseph Mitchell, who's mentionned a few times in that LRB piece? I have his big collection 'Up In The Old Hotel', plus the smaller collection of what might be termed his juvenalia (although it's too good for that) 'My Ears Are Bent'. I'd recommend both, although his best & the best introduction to him is 'Joe Gould's Secret' (although both of the articles that form that book are included in Up/Hotel, as well.)

Jonathan B said...


you are indeed correct.

The only air of mystery that remains is when it will appear. My nominal schedule of one per week is turning out to be as accurate as South West Trains timetables.

Tom Chivers said...

The mystery has not gone for me!

I have no idea what *double double trouble* refers to...