Here we are again, folks, bursting the balloon which is the apparent invulnerability of top players. Yes, we’ve all done it: made howlers at vital moments while rehearsing our victory speech at the prize giving – “I’d like to thank….oops, what happened there?” Somehow, though, we have this idea that blunders are the preserve of mere woodpushers like us. Well, it may be that by definition more mistakes are made by weaker players otherwise we would all be grandmasters. However, while sympathising with anyone who makes a howler – unless, of course, it is your opponent – we can’t avoid affording ourselves the smuggest of smug grins. For this example, I have to thank Geoff Chandler, a contributor to the English Chess Forum who has a team of spies whom he calls his Blunder Hunters. This game was played in Round 5 of the Irish Championship. After seventy moves the players had reached the following position where White has just played 70.Kc2. Have a look at the position and before you see what Black played, think carefully and – be honest – what would you do?

White:   GM Alexander Baburin (2432)    Black:  Killian Delaney (2247)

Irish Championship 2019

Black played 70…Qxa5?? It is debatable who was more surprised, White on seeing this move, or Black when White replied 71.Qb2+ whereupon Black resigned. In fact, although it looks like it should be a draw, the only move that guarantees this for Black is 70…Qe2+. All other checks allow a trade off of queens and the a-pawn romps home. If you were thinking of 70…Qc4+ 71.Qxc4 stalemate, think again because White simply ignores the capture and plays 71.Qc3+ again forcing off the queens. And if you looked at this position for a long time and still would have played 70…Qxa5??, then that is why you (and I) are the grade we are.

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