US Chess Championship Blunder

The US Chess Championship is currently being played at the beautiful Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.  The website is, and they even have live coverage with Jennifer Shahade and Ben Finegold giving “play by play”, analysis and post game interviews.  They also have a “Fantasy Chess” league, which is pretty fun, and a very original idea.  I am very impressed with the coverage!

Here is a news story that shows more about the tournament

I sent out one of my chess tactics e-mail newsletters earlier this week from one of the US Championship games, and got a lot of feedback about it.  You can read this newsletter here:

In the newsletter I showed this position, with black to movewhich was a real shocker.  Here is the game it came from:

I mentioned the main takeaways that I had from the game, which were:
  • We ALL make mistakes – even terrible blunders.  If a Grandmaster can make a mistake like this, don’t be too hard on yourself when you make a mistake.
  • You have to think critically on every move – there are no take backs in chess, and every move is important
  • Be on the lookout for tactics on every move, the opening, endgame, etc
  • Don’t get so wrapped up in complex plans and theories, that you are missing the obvious
  • Be careful in unusual openings, or unfamiliar territory, AKA “out of book”
  • Visualize what the position will look like before you make a move
  • Don’t assume that your opponent made a good move, even if he is a strong player. 
 Here is some of the feedback that I got:
Hi Tim,
I wanted to take a moment to thank for your Tactics series newsletters. I coach scholastic chess and I’ve used a few of your recent tactical “shots” with my kids. This one on the US Chess Championship was an excellent example on two levels: first, always be on the look out for a free piece (one of my continuing teaching points), and second, always remember your opponent is human and might make a mistake – if a Grandmaster can do it, anyone can.
Coach Ronn
United States Chess Federation Certified Coach
Author of Chess Handbook for Parents and Coaches

I have looked at a ton of games with amateurs, and a lot of players miss “grab a free piece” type tactics. Especially on turn based sites like where it might be a day or two between moves. Even players in the 1300-1400 range miss these types of moves fairly frequently. I have some of these types of problems in my database that I sell, but don’t include too many in my newsletter because then I will get complains that the problem was “too easy” lol.

It is interesting also because I sometimes do chess tactics on with their chess tactics trainer. One of the nice features of this is that you can see the score that a chess tactics problem has (what percentage of people got it correct). They sometimes have a chess tactic where the solution is just to grab a piece. These problems often have surprisingly low scores – like only 50-60% of the people get it correct. Chess players sometimes get in a trance where they are always looking for queen sacs in chess tactics problems, and then miss the obvious.

Paul Anderson, who writes an excellent chess newsletter at:, wrote:

I loved seeing the 11 move game, as I had just blundered to Anthea and felt like an idiot.

Dan Rusch wrote:

Thanks, it really does help to see that 2500 rated players make blunders too

Bill Broich wrote:

Thanks Tim! This gives me hope. Even at the highest levels players make horrible mistakes.

So I hope this game can serve as a reminder to everyone out there who suffers when they lose, that even the best players blunder, and losing is part of the game.

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