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BLUNDERS are something we all know about, for even the greatest players have never managed totally to eliminate the occasional crass error. The diagram position shows an awful example from a top-board game at the Chess Olympics earlier this year. Yasser Seirawan is a calm and well-balanced player, yet here, playing Black against Predrag Nikolic, he moved 33 . . . Qe4 losing the queen immediately to 34. Bh6+.

How can such a thing happen? A grandmaster, used to accurately calculating ten or a dozen moves ahead as a matter of routine, overlooks something at Move 1. The simple answer blames a lapse of concentration; ch16out-harts-nws the complex answer is that too intense concentration on those 12-move lines interfered with vital mundane considerations; but the honest answer is that there is no simple answer. Blunders happen because our minds are ill-designed to cope with 32 men arranged on 64 squares. Good chess demands a delicate mental balancing act, and sometimes, in the effort, the whole thought-pile collapses.

What is certain is that if White had had a pawn on e4 in the diagram position, Seirawan would never have played 1 . . . Qxe4. It is impossible to make a capture without some saving trace of suspicion.

A little paranoia, it is said, can be of benefit to a chessplayer. Certainly no self-respecting paranoiac would make a blunder like this.

Yesterday's answer: 1. Qg8+] Kxg8 2. Nh6 mate.