I have a question for you. Here are some positions from a tournament in which 30 games were played. How strong do you think the players were?
In position 1 White played 29. Qf3??, losing at once to Nd3, winning the exchange as both Nxc1 and Ne5 are threatened.
In position 2 40. Rb1 or Rh1 would have given White the advantage, but instead he blundered with 40. Rb3?? Rxf3+! 41. Rxf3 Rxf3+ 42. Kxf3 Bh5+, when Black was winning the bishop ending.
In position 3 Black’s position was already difficult, but he could have done better than 28.. Ne7?, when, after 29. Nc4 he had to resign. If 29.. Qd7 White just trades queens and plays Nxb6.
In position 4 Black erred on move 8: 8.. d5 would have been fine, but 8.. f6? 9. Bxc6 bxc6 (9.. dxc6 10. Rxd4 was no better) 10. Nxd4 was already decisive, threatening both Nxc6 and Ne6.
In position 5 it shouldn’t have been too hard for White to work out that 57. Qxg7+! Qxg7 58. Rxg7+ Kxg7 59. Nxc7 was winning, but instead he played 57. Kh4, and, after a long and complicated struggle in which both players missed wins the game was eventually drawn on move 114.
So what do you think? It seems to me that some of these blunders would shame an average club player today.
But these games were played 100 years ago in a Hastings tournament featuring Alekhine, Rubinstein and Bogoljubov (all in the world’s top 7 on retrospective ratings) as well as Tarrasch, Thomas and Yates, who were all in the world top 50.
Yates, in particular had, apart from a rather fortunate win against Alekhine, a nightmare tournament, and Bogo and Tarrasch were also out of form.
There were other positions I could have chosen as well (but note that the score of the game Tarrasch – Alekhine available online is almost certainly incorrect and Alekhine didn’t miss a very simple win). What I think this shows is how much standards of chess have risen in the past 100 years, not just in terms of opening knowledge, but, in particular, in terms of avoiding crude blunders. Other writers, much more distinguished than me, most notably John Nunn, have made the same point over the years.
If you’re interested in the tournament, check out BritBaseand EdoChess .
For your information the positions above came from these games.
1. Yates – Bogoljubov
2. Bogoljubov – Rubinstein
3. Bogoljubov – Yates
4. Thomas – Yates
5. Rubinstein – Thomas