21 September 2010

A Few Careless Seconds

A couple of months ago, commenting on the game in Symmetry Misjudged, I mentioned,

It is rare for competent correspondence players to blunder, with or without computers. The errors are almost always more subtle, like misjudging long term factors.

Not too long after that, I received my first gift via a blunder in a long, long time (*). Moreover, I'm almost certain that it happened because the game was played on a server that allows the use of computers.

I had White in the position shown in the top diagram. Two Pawns down with a King confined to the corner, my position was hopeless. On several previous moves I had already decided to resign if my opponent (rated around 2200) found what appeared to be the killer move. I hadn't resigned because, since gaining the decisive advantage, he had started moving quickly (sometimes taking only a few minutes to respond) and had played a series of second-rate moves. Even so, he retained a huge advantage and my play was reduced to a desperate search for theoretical draws. I wrote about one of those ideas in the post on R vs. B Plus Knight Pawns.

My last move threatened mate by h2-h3+, but this is easily parried by 46...Re3. After this I still had a few tricks to try -- positions with Rook plus a- & h-Pawn ( or f- & h-Pawn) vs. Rook -- but against correct play none of these would have worked.

The bottom diagram is the same as the top diagram, except the board has been rotated to show Black on the bottom. This is the orientation used by the particular server when entering a move for Black. Here I imagine that my opponent let his engine run until he was convinced that 46...Re3 was by far the best move, then made it. Unfortunately for him, he forgot that Black was moving up the board, first clicked the Rook on e5, then clicked the target square on his own third rank, then quickly clicked SUBMIT.

My first reaction on seeing the move 46...Re6 was to think, 'How can he keep making moves that I haven't considered?' My second reaction was to congratulate myself for not having resigned earlier. My third reaction was to send 47.h3+, after which my opponent promptly resigned. What was that about misjudging long term factors?

The moral of this story is not 'Never resign!'; sometimes it's best to abandon a lost game and use your energy for more fruitful endeavors. The moral is 'Double check your move before you click SUBMIT.' There are few situations more frustrating than throwing away months of good work because of a few careless seconds.


(*) In fact it was the second gift in the space of a few weeks, but that's a different story. Does server chess render good players sloppy?

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