Monday, April 13, 2009

The Thirty-Third Piece

What's the earliest you've blundered? I don't mean as a beginner - when you were probably on the receiving end of at least one 4.Qxf7 check and mate, or were maybe even tempted to avoid all that mainline theory malarkey with 1.e4 f5? - but as a serious player.

Somewhere between move 10 and 20? Maybe a bit earlier, if you play super-sharp stuff like Sicilian mainlines, or something provocative like the Pirc, something off-beat like Owen's? Well, I can out-do you, all of you. Because I've blundered in this position before:

That's right, I've blundered at move zero: I've blundered before a piece or pawn has even been touched: I've blundered right there in the initial position. And not only that, I've done it twice.

The first time was at a Surrey League match toward the end of last year, and my opponent was late. I had black, and I sat merrily watching the clock on my left tick his time away - 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes - and finally, he arrived. We shook hands, he sat down and played 1.e4, at which point I noticed the clock was on the wrong side. So I switched it over to my right, played 1...c5, and pressed it. All jolly good, except a few moves later, in a super-sharp mainline, I looked to my right and wondered how I could already be half an hour behind on the clock.

The second time, a London League match earlier this year. I was on board 6, and when I arrived a bag was on the seat of the white player - my opponent's bag, I assumed. So I put down my pen on the black side, started his clock, and strolled around waiting for him to shift his bag, sit down, and make a move. Except he didn't, because when he arrived quarter of an hour later, he pointed out that he had the black pieces, and that I had the white pieces, and that no, that wasn't his bag anyway. In retrospect this should have been rather obvious, since it was sat between two of my teammates. But alas as usual, I was all Watson and no Holmes; every bit a Hastings and not a jot a Poirot. Rather nobly, he offered to rewind the clocks to reflect his lateness, but of course that's just not fair. It was my turn to move, and thus I had taken fifteen minutes to decide upon 1.e4.

The moral of the story? I don't know. Maybe I could work it out, if only I had given myself more time.


ejh said...

There was an Olympiad in which one of the teams (possibly Uganda?) actually went not just to the wrong venue but the wrong city, getting their blunder in well before Tom's.

Anonymous said...

you'll work it out given enough time

Adam FF said...

Ha ha ha! Very unfortunate! How exactly did the team manage to go to the wrong city?
To answer your original question, I blundered a piece on move 10 a few years ago. I played on for several moves, just to avoid losing more quickly than if I hadn't shown up!

ejh said...

I think they went to a city with similar name, but I can't recall immediately.

ejh said...

Right. It may have been Gambia who may have failed to arrive in Lucerne in 1982 because they may have got confused with Lugano, where it was held in 1968. But I wouldn't rely on any of that (except for the spelling, grammar and punctuation).

Anonymous said...

Does massively underestimating your opponent (or overestimating yourself) count as a blunder?

15 odd years ago when I used to regularly win money in little junior events, I turned up late to a congress, assuming it'd be a typical easy win in the top half v bottom half first round pairings.

I paid no attention to my opponents name, rushed to my seat, saw someone much younger opposite whose legs didn't touch the ground, and expected a quick game. Which was exactly what I got - as I was unceremoniously crushed within 25 moves.

My opponent is now an IM, whereas my grade is now close to what his was then, when he was about 10 years old.

The top half v bottom half first round pairings were indeed in place - with me in the bottom half getting trounced with all the other patzers.

To complete the embarassment I was then given a bye in the next round.

I think it was the last junior event I ever entered.

Adam B.

Morgan Daniels said...

I sometimes wonder if starting to play chess in the first place was the biggest blunder of them all.

Tom Chivers said...

Adam B ~ I think if pregame psychological blunders count, I probably blunder before every single game!