Is there anything more frustrating in chess than losing a won game or letting a certain draw against a much stronger player slip through your fingers? There seems to be a rash of these “disasters” going around at the moment.

I followed the Melb Cup of Chess games last week and was particularly keen to see how our better juniors would go against the visiting IMs from NSW and Qld. Unfortunately most of the games between the young Vics and the titled Inter-staters followed a similar pattern. Karl Zelesco got down to an ending with R+N v R+B against IM Max Illingworth and could have forced an exchange of rooks with an easy draw. Instead he tried to attack and lost quickly. Ari Dale had a Q+R ending v IM Andrew Brown where he had the initiative, but wrongly decided to swap queens and win an irrelevant pawn. Before he knew it Brown had an active rook and a outside passed pawn and it was all over. Similarly Justin Tan was a pawn down in a rook ending against Max Illingworth, chose the greedy plan of gobbling pawns and also succumbed to an outside passed pawn. They were all so close to drawing!

Even worse, I was following one of my students playing against Macus Raine at Box Hill Chess Club. He had Q+R v Q in an ending and had several easy wins. An unfortunate pawn push allowed Marcus a 3 move mate out of the blue. I tried to console my student by explaining that this was a process that most juniors go through where they sometimes get drawn or winning positions against stronger opponents but let their opponents off the hook. “Eventually you will beat them and realise that they aren’t much better than you after all” I commented.

There is sometimes a very fine line between winning and losing and weaker players often stumble in sight of victory. An example of this was seen in the last round of the MCC Open where top board Dusan Stojic was a piece down against his lower rated opponent. Can you find the winning plan that White missed?