Can you Lose a Chess Game Even Without Making a Mistake?

Chess is about avoiding as many mistakes as you can. This might not be a sentence that you agree with. You may think that chess is about attack or defense, maybe even memorization.

These are extremely important concepts in the big picture, but these wouldn’t exist without the small inner workings of chess (a.k.a the small individual moves).

Minimizing the mistakes in these small individual moves is important, and I will show you how important it is.

Today I will answer the question “Can you lose a chess game without making a mistake?”.

We sometimes think too much and forget about what chess is really about, avoiding as many mistakes (or errors) as possible.

The thing is, you can lose a chess game if you never make a mistake, but you can never lose if you never make an error. It will all make sense by the end of this article. Without further ado, let’s get started. 

What do people mean by a “mistake” in chess?

A mistake in chess is the second worst error you can make. It is not like a blunder in terms of severity but it is still quite bad.

Mistakes in chess are usually positional in nature, something that is not obvious at first glance.

Related: The 10 Best Positional Chess Players of All Time

Blunders are something that  is easily noticeable, mistakes on the other hand needs careful analysis to be identified. Still, mistakes are quite bad since one can easily lose the game by committing a single mistake.

Games between somewhat average players in usually contain 1-5 mistakes, this is normal. Chess games without mistakes are rare and they are usually made by professionals. 

What are the other types of errors in chess?

The other types of error in chess are inaccuracy, a blunder, and a missed win. Inaccuracy are basically decent moves that don’t lose the game, but better moves can be made.

It is not like inaccurate moves are bad by themselves, but since better moves can be made we can still consider it an error. Inaccuracies by themselves usually don’t lose the game, but can still contribute to the overall result.

A missed win is basically a move that ignores the winning moves in favor of decent looking moves. It is similar to inaccuracy, except a missed win occurs when a winning move is already in sight.

For example if there is a checkmate in one move, a missed is playing another move. It doesn’t mean that a “missed win” move loses the game, but it does mean that a significantly better move can be made.

A blunder is the worst move you can make in chess, it is basically losing a pawn/piece without any compensation.

When you hang a piece for free, it is always considered a blunder. Another is when you allow a checkmate when you can easily prevent it by playing a single move.

These are the other types of errors in chess which will be important for this article. 

Who determines what is a blunder, a mistake, an inaccuracy, or a missed win?

Humans or engines will be the one to determine the difference between the errors. Strong chess players are able to identify between the errors more easily. Chess engines however are the best at identifying what kind of error a particular move contains. 

Can you possibly lose in chess if you never make a mistake?

Yes, you can lose a chess game even when you never make a mistake. The easier but boring answer is because you can make a blunder, because it is technically not considered a mistake.

However I know that such an easy answer is not the answer you’re looking for. It is kind of obvious that you can lose via a blunder and not by a mistake.

In order to answer this we must look at the games played between super grandmasters, the best chess players in the world. Most of their games contain little to no mistakes which is why most games end in a draw.

However there will be games that have decisive results every now and then. You might think it only happens in games where mistakes have been made, but this is not true.

There are many super grandmaster games without any mistakes where the result is not a draw anyway.

This is because of the existence of inaccuracies. Magnus Carlsen is very famous for beating super grandmasters that almost never make a mistake.

He will play against a super grandmaster that commits 0 mistakes and still wins through a perfect game.

This is because Magnus does not only rarely make a mistake, he also rarely makes an inaccuracy. Inaccuracies are by no means losing moves (in fact, they are probably decent moves), but they are made in situations where better moves are available.

Magnus wins games without a mistake since he also does not commit any inaccuracy. This is the answer, if a game has no mistakes but has a lot of inaccuracy, it can still be lost.

If a game on the other hand is completely error-free without any inaccuracy, mistake, or a blunder (perfect game) then it will of course end in a draw. Otherwise it can still be lost as long as the other player can capitalize. 

Why is it possible to lose a chess game without ever making a mistake?

The reason why it is possible to lose a chess game without making a mistake has to do with the types of errors. Mistakes are not the only types of errors in chess.

They are the second worst error but there is the blunder which is the worst, and the inaccuracy which is the lightest error. Most games naturally contain a combination of these errors.

However super grandmasters have pushed the boundaries when it comes to precision, they can literally create a perfect game with no error whatsoever.

In these cases the game will end in a draw, as a perfect game does not provide any opportunity for one side to push for a win. 

What are the examples of this in real life?

There are many examples of a game having no mistakes yet one side still loses. One example is of course many super-grandmaster games that have no mistakes yet one side still loses.

Recently, I have rewatched a game between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura. The position was a complete dead draw, Nakamura played brilliantly and defended his position.

Magnus has to win the game in order to catch up to Fabiano Caruana who is leading the tournament. Magnus really squeezed the position hard in order to make winning chances.

Nakamura played great and never committed any mistake, however he broke down and played a couple of inaccuracies in the endgame.

This allowed Magnus to pursue the win in the endgame which he indeed accomplished, he caught up to Fabiano Caruana in that tournament.

If you are wondering which game this is, it is the video where Nakamura is crying and refusing to resign for some time only regretting his untenable position. This is an example of a mistake-free losing game.

Another example is that of chess engines. Some of you might not know this, but there is a championship tournament for chess engines only.

The top chess engines are stockfish, komodo, houdini, and leela chess zero. Of course I don’t need to tell you that any of these engines do not make mistakes. These are among the top chess engines in the world, they wouldn’t make mistakes.

However as you noticed, the reason why there are tournaments for chess engines in the first place is because engines can still commit inaccuracies. The games do not always end in a draw, one engine will win against the other every now and then.

This is because an engine (the stronger one) just commits better moves than the other (therefore less inaccuracies).

These are just some of the examples in real life where no mistake has been made, yet the game has still been decisive. Whether it will be games between humans or engines, such games exist today. 

Can you win in chess even when you make a lot of mistakes?

Another funny question that is related to this is whether you can win a chess game when you make a lot of mistakes.

The answer is of course yes, you can win a chess game even when you make a lot of mistakes. It is really not about the number of mistakes but more about the number of errors made for your opponent (as well as the severity of each error).

Even if you commit 10 mistakes in a single game, you can still win if your opponent committed 15 mistakes. But it is not only about the number of the mistakes either, it is also about the quality of the mistakes.

Some mistakes are so horrible that it can single handedly lose the game. Some are so bad that it should be considered a blunder and not a mistake.

It is really relative, no matter how many errors you make it wouldn’t amount to much if your opponent makes the same amount of errors if not more. In other words, the one who wins is the one who played the better game.

If you commit less inaccuracies, mistakes, and blunders then you have a better game. If you have a better game then you will win eventually, it is that simple. 

Can a player lose a chess game without even making an inaccuracy?

So what if a player doesn’t commit any inaccuracy? Can they still lose? Another boring answer is of course yes, they can still lose if they commit mistakes or blunders even when they don’t have any inaccuracies.

But that is not the answer that you are looking for is it, you are thinking more of an error-free game.

The answer is something that I have already discussed before, you cannot lose a game if you did not commit any error. Mistakes, inaccuracies, or blunders, if you do not permit any of this then you have a perfect game.

If you have a perfect game then you will never lose a game, you can only win or draw. If your opponent plays well and doesn’t commit any errors as well then it will be a draw.

However if they even commit a single inaccuracy when you haven’t committed any then you will of course win.

So no, you can’t lose a chess game if you don’t commit inaccuracy as long as you don’t commit blunders and mistakes throughout the game. 

Will a perfect game of chess always end in a draw?

Yes, a perfect game of chess with no errors in any way will 100% end in a draw. This is why elite chess tournaments have so many draws, there are just so few errors that can be capitalized that players don’t want to risk it.

Games between chess engines can also be decisive as well. However we must not dismiss that in the majority of cases, games between chess engines will almost always end in the draw.

Chess engines after all commit significantly fewer mistakes than humans. Even when there is a decisive game every now and then, most of the results are going to be a draw.

These are some of the examples of a mistake-free game ending in a draw, if the game is just perfect then it should be a theoretical draw. 

What does this tell us about chess?

It is not a secret that the one who wins in chess is the one who commits fewer errors. Since the 19th-20th century, people already know that chess is about avoiding errors more than anything else.

More than attacks, defense, playing decent looking moves that would not be considered big errors has always been a priority. 

Chess is a struggle against error – Johannes Zukertort

Chess is a fairy tale of 1001 blunders – Savielly Tartakower

Big concepts are of course always important, however small individual moves make up the big picture.

You can’t put up a fierce attack if you blunder your pieces away for nothing. In the same regard, you cannot play positionally if you just move back and forth without any purpose (an inaccuracy or a mistake will be made this way).

The fact that the one who commits the last errors wins tells us that individual moves are more important than anything.

Sometimes if you cannot find the absolute best move just make sure that the one you are playing is not an error (inaccuracy, mistake, or a blunder). You have to make sure that it is at least a decent move but would not be considered an error in chess.

Even if you are not playing the best moves every single time, at least you are minimizing the amount of errors you will make overall.

This is especially helpful if you are in the beginner stages, you can get confused from having too much knowledge that you don’t know how to apply.

It is important to avoid making errors before developing your playing style, avoiding errors should be your first and most important goal. 

Final thoughts

There are four types of error in chess: an inaccuracy, a missed win, a mistake, and a blunder. Most chess games consist of a combination of these errors which provides opportunity for players to push for a win.

If no errors have been made and the game is 100% perfect, it can only end in a draw. If on the other hand, no mistake has been made but there are a lot of inaccuracies then the game can still be decisive.

There are many mistake-free games between super grandmaster and chess engines that still end in a decisive result. This is because such games still contain inaccuracies despite not having any mistakes.

This is why you can still lose a chess game without making any mistakes, because you might be making a lot of inaccuracies. That is all, thank you for reading.