Blunder and win – A Grandmaster Guide

The following position is from last weekend’s 4ncl. Not the vital league-deciding match, but one of my less significant efforts with Black.

Black to play

D. Bisby – J. Shaw, 4ncl 2014

Identify the candidate moves and make a quick assessment. I would suggest spending no more than a couple of minutes, 5 at the absolute most.

Answer below the fold.


In my brain this “forced an exchange of queens.” I spent 4 minutes deciding on this move, so time trouble was not an issue.

Defending f7 was my original intention, and the only sensible move. I saw the line 29… Rc7 30.Bb6 g4 and was unsure what was happening. Unclear/equal/with compensation. Yes, something like that.


This move was supposed to be illegal because of my pin. But it now appears I am pinning his rook not his queen.


I made the excellent decision not to resign.

31.Qh5+ Kg8 32.Qf7+

Good practical play. The time control was at move 40 with an increment of 30 seconds a move, so White gets 2 moves closer with an extra minute on his clock. I think he had about 10 minutes to reach move 40.



White cannot believe I simply blundered a piece, and defends against my alleged threat of …g5-g4.

33. Qxf8 wins a bishop for nothing. 33…g4 34.Qf5+! (My blunder on move 29 would make some sense if I had seen this far and overlooked this move, but no, I just thought 30.Qxf7+ was not legal.) 34…Qxf5 35.Rxf5 Just check one more move. 35…Kg6 Almost trapping the rook… 36.Rf8 and wins.

33…Qxg4+ 34.Rg3 Rf4!

My brain was back in action.


White offered a draw, but I spotted a good move in reply, and anyway, I am much better and the momentum was with me.

The toughest defence was  35.Rxg4 35…Rxf7 36.Be3 Be7 when Black has good winning chances.


Now a7 and b4 are both hit.

White resigned before I could take his bishop.

So what is the lesson? No lesson is intended but I can make something up:

‘I am lucky.’

‘A rusty GM can play bafflingly bad moves.’

‘Never trust your opponent.’

Yes to all that, but also note the devastating effect of a surprising move. My opponent is a 2310 FM (with a classy attitude, as shown by his willingness to have a post mortem, despite what must have been an unpleasant experience for him) and he had played a sensible game for 32 moves (he was much better for most of it) but one shocking move threw him.

So unleash the element of surprise, but ideally your ‘shock move’ should not be a piece-losing blunder.

8 thoughts on “Blunder and win – A Grandmaster Guide”

  1. Hi, im 2060 elo rated player, bought 3 of yours books. Calculation, Positional play and Strategic play.
    With which book should I start working?


    1. Jacob Aagaard

      Calculation and Positional Play first. At the same time or apart. It does not matter. Strategic Play is the one to wait with until you have been through a good deal of Positional Play.

  2. I played a game saturday I did not deserve to win. First I got better out of the opening, then I played some bad moves, my opponent activated his pieces and won two pieces against a rook by force, I had to exchange queens. He had two bishops and a rook and I had two rooks. I tried to fight on and complicate matters; chased his king somewhat but then blundered an exchange for one pawn. So now I was a piece down for one pawn. I thought about resigning; I felt miserable about the blunder. But I also was down to one minute with 5 seconds increment so I thought what the hell, this will not take long, I am going to play each move instantly. Then the miracle happened: he started to think for a long time, also got in time trouble, and suddenly gave me two passed pawns vs a blocked 3-2 majority on the other wing, but he still had the bishop. It looked drawish; I offered a draw. He refused and tried to win but then I could Queen a pawn and win his bishop and he had to resign…I felt very lucky and the sun was shining. Next game that day I felt I was invincible; I played very passive to let the opponent overextend which happened and suddenly I got chances, won a piece and the game and the tournament! So undeserved losses can be very good for your mood. But should they????

  3. Jacob Aagaard

    @Indra Polak
    But is it undeserved? You did not play perfectly, but you kept the game going and when you got a chance you took it. Sounds like a “normal” game to me.

  4. Michael Bartlett

    I chose the same move, John, and did so for practical purposes. To confuse, and also because it was more active than bringing the rook back to defend. I did not see the bishop being lost but in a sense you were a bishop down anyway, positionally speaking. I saw white with a perpetual check but missed the fact they could take. But I liked the move a lot.

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