What is a blunder in chess?

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2024-07-08 23:00:04

What is a blunder in chess? The tension between the qualitative and quantitative answers to this question is at the heart of different approaches towards chess, and more broadly, how quantitative metrics may lack context, but qualitative metrics lack precision.

There are many qualitative answers to this question, especially when comparing “blunders” and “mistakes”:

An issue with these qualitative answers is that while their words may be correct, smart people may still disagree with their applicability at the margins. For a suboptimal move to have a “significant” negative effect, it requires that the opponent notices and takes advantage of it.

The quantitative answer considers a move which causes a significant drop in probability of winning to be blunder. What is “significant”? A change 14% or greater.

How is winning probability in a chess game calculated? Objectively, since there are only three possible outcomes in a game (win, draw, loss), by definition any real advantage will lead to a win with perfect play. But objectively, humans aren’t perfect. Even grandmasters can let an advantage slip. If Magnus Carlsen doesn’t capitalize on your blunder, was it really a blunder?

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