Click to follow
The Blunder of the Month award is a close contest between Rafael Vaganyan and Vladimir Kramnik. The decision would depend entirely on whether the judges' criteria are purely those of good chess, or whether the financial value of the blunder also plays a part.

Vaganyan's horror came against Vassily Ivanchuk. The idea of playing dxe4 for Black on move three or four of the French Defence has been popular in recent years. The bishop on c8, traditionally the problem piece in this opening, plays to d7, c6 and is exchanged for the knight on f3. It's all supposed to be very solid, but 14...g5?! and 16...0-0-0 introduced a wild element.

But what was he thinking of when he played 21...cxd4? Was it a grotesque oversight, or had he seen as far as 25...dxc3 and been seduced by such possibilities as 26.Bf5 Bc5+ 27.Kh1 Rxf5! 28.Rxf5 Rd1+ with mate to follow? The blunder seems the more plausible reason.

White: Vassily Ivanchuk

Black: Rafael Vaganyan

1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 dxe4 5 Nxe4 Nbd7 6 Nxf6+ Nxf6 7 Bd3 h6 8 Bh4 Bd7 9 Nf3 Bc6 10 0-0 Bxf3 11 Qxf3 c6 12 c3 Be7 13 Rae1 Qd5 14 Qh3 g5 15 Re5 Qxa2 16 Bxg5 0-0-0 17 Bc1 Bd6 18 Re2 Qd5 19 f4 h5 20 Qf3 c5 21 f5 cxd4 22 fxe6 fxe6 23 Qxf6 Rhf8 24 Qxe6+ Qxe6 25 Rxe6 dxc3 26 Rxf8 Bxf8 27 Bf5 resigns.

Kramnik's catastrophe was more costly. After two games of the final of the Intel Grand Prix in Paris, he stood level at one-all with Garry Kasparov. They moved into a two-game, five-minute play-off upon which depended not only the $30,000 first prize, but the $50,000 bonus for the overall Grand Prix winner. With Kramnik playing white in the first game, they reached the following position after 27 moves.

If White now stabilises the position of his knight with 28.a4, he would certainly stand no worse. If he wants something more ambitious, he could consider 28.Rf5. Instead Kramnik played 28.Rd1??, losing instantly to 28...b5. Any move of the knight allows Be3. Kramnik continued 29.Rd5 bxc4 30.Bxh5 but resigned without waiting for 30...Qe6. Playing Black in the second game, he could make no impression against Kasparov's cautious play, and agreed a draw in 26 moves, waving farewell to a small fortune.