If you have spent any time learning chess then it is likely that you have already encountered two words, blunders, and mistakes. They seem to have the same meaning of being some kind of error but are different from each other actually.
And that is what I’m going to discuss today, to differentiate a blunder from a mistake. There isn’t that much resource out there so I’m going to tackle this.
First let’s briefly define a blunder in chess:
A blunder in chess is a complete losing move that will lose the game in at least 90% of the cases. Mistakes on the other hand are positional errors that don’t necessarily lose the game on the spot.
Next is the basic difference between the two:
A blunder is usually worse than a mistake, a blunder is an error where there is a material or positional disadvantage immediately after the move is played. Mistakes on the other hand are tenable, errors that can be compensated with decent play.
There is a surprising amount of traits that make these similar words be different, and they’re not exactly noticeable either. I’m not going to add a lot of fluff in this, let’s begin.
Is a blunder and mistake in chess the same?
A blunder and a mistake are not the same, blunders are usually tactical in nature with instant disadvantages while mistakes are more strategic having long term effects.
Some said that the difference between a blunder and a mistake in chess is relative which is absolutely false, there is a distinction. Perhaps these are those who didn’t spend that much time doing analysis work (I’m not hating on them) since it is important there.
Blunders are usually a result of carelessness, an error that can be easily prevented with proper focus. These are really unprecedented mistakes that the player normally wouldn’t commit otherwise.
Mistakes are a little bit different, it is a result of misjudgment in the position that most players make. It isn’t exactly something that would be easily prevented by having enough concentration.
This is not something you can avoid whatever you do, all players do it (mistakes) but with different intensity and quantity.
To make this easy, blunders are usually tactical in nature (short term), meaning the impact on the game would be in effect immediately. It’s not something you have to work on further in order to gain an advantage.
The benefit that a blunder would pose to the opponent can be seen almost after the commitment. Mistakes are more strategic (long term) in nature, where it does give the opponent an advantage but not as fast.
You usually still have to fight really hard and really long to convert a mistake into a winning game. It is not instantaneous, rather it just gives imbalances to the position that can be taken advantage of.
Blunders are missing really basic ideas that even a beginner should know, it’s not having a miscalculation. It’s not paying enough attention that results in this error that even beginners can usually avoid.
Is the impact on the game a factor that makes a (chess) blunder or a mistake different?
The impact of a chess blunder is more severe that it almost always loses the game, while a mistake is occasionally tenable with correct play.
Blunders are really terrible moves that it single-handedly loses a game, the advantage that it can give is far greater. Don’t get me wrong, a player can still recover from a blunder but only if the opponent had committed a blunder themselves.
A mistake gives an advantage to the opposing player but not so much that it loses the game instantly. The way to victory (from the opponent’s perspective) from a mistake is much complicated compared to a blunder.
A mistake needs more sophistication and play in order for it to be considered winning. A blunder on the other hand is already considered winning the moment it is present on the board.
Some very popular examples of blunders are hanging a piece, missing a checkmate, or allowing an unfavorable exchange. Obviously after these things happen it almost always means that the player will eventually lose.
Mistakes are not this severe, it gives some disadvantages but one can say that it does not lose as fast with confidence. To be clearer, if a position went from winning to equal or equal to losing (but still playable) those are just mistakes.
If a position went from winning to losing or equal to losing (but not playable) then it’s likely that it is a blunder. The point is, it is more likely to recover from a mistake than a blunder.
Since the conditions are not that severe, the way to actually get them back is not that hard as well. Unlike a blunder where you just have to cross two fingers and hope the opponent would commit the same.
Are (chess) blunders much easier to eliminate than mistakes?
Blunders can be avoided with proper calculation and practice while mistakes are more inevitable even with maximum focus and strength.
Blunders are extremely avoidable in most cases with proper concentration and practice. If one blunder, the problem is likely to be one of those two (lack of concentration or practice).
The helpful one in this is you can significantly reduce the number of blunders by practice, unlike mistakes. This means that a huge amount of blunder is a good reflection of the lapses in our abilities.
Therefore blunders are more helpful in allowing us to gauge our strength and things we need to fulfill (by having more practice). Eliminating them can be as easy as slightly improving our vision from the current level.
If you want to reduce the number of blunders committed, this article (will open in a new tab) should help.
On the other hand, it is much more difficult to eliminate mistakes than blunders. You can say that they are a part of playing the game, where misjudgment comes occasionally.
Even with a decent amount of practice, it is unlikely that mistakes in your game would be reduced dramatically. Don’t get me wrong, you can improve the percentages a little bit but just harder than with a blunder for example.
Blunders can easily be eliminated with appropriate calculation, unlike mistakes where even professionals regularly commit them. We should try to pursue eliminating mistakes just like blunders, but don’t feel bad if you don’t see much progress.
Are (chess) blunders easier to spot than mistakes?
Blunders can be easily spotted than mistakes that every player would agree that it is a blunder, while a mistake is more dubious that even professionals sometimes disagree with the analysis.
Mistakes are much harder to identify than blunders since the effects are not immediate. Sometimes mistakes can even be considered good moves unlike with a blunder where everyone agrees with the analysis.
Chess masters that analyze a mistake can have converging opinions, it is very common actually. After all, a mistake from the eye of one player can appear to be sound to another.
On the other hand, it’s hard for dedicated players to disagree with a move that is considered a blunder. When somebody delivered a really bad move (supposed to be a blunder) almost everyone agrees that it is a blunder.
This is because a blunder is much more obvious, something that can be completely identified due to its effects. And since the impact is usually short term it is much easier to spot than a mistake.
I should add that a player’s definition of a blunder can change depending on their skill level. The gap with the abilities after all provides a horizon where a player is perhaps unable to calculate.
A blunder made by a grandmaster may only be considered a mistake if it was played by a novice. After all, the difference in strength should be enough for a master to see a beginner’s mistake as a blunder.
Are (chess) blunders more common than mistakes?
Chess blunders are less common than mistakes both in competitive and non-competitive settings since mistakes are possible even from move 1.
Mistakes are much more common than blunders, even professional games have them. You cannot possibly be able to deliver a blunder at the very start of each game (move one).
Even really horrible moves are usually (not always) not considered a blunder if it’s really early in the match. Therefore there is more margin for mistakes to be committed than blunders (making it less common).
But if it is a mistake then yes, a player can actually do it at the very beginning. this means that there are more opportunities for mistakes since it is available so early.
In fact, it is not rare for professionals to have a game without blunders while a match without a mistake is much harder to find. This does not mean that masters do not commit blunders, it’s just that it is less common than mistakes.
Even top of the world players (from 1-5) can have a degree of mistakes in their games. It takes two very competitive players at their peak performance to have a game without any mistakes.
Due to its commonality, it is a practice for one to still keep playing even if they have made a mistake. On the other hand, a player resigning after a blunder is much more acceptable since the consequence is much more severe.
Do you now know the difference between a (chess) blunder and a mistake?
A blunder and a mistake really is an interchangeable term that is seemingly hard to differentiate, I don’t blame you for this. I’m sure you’re going to encounter both of these concepts in your way of trying to improve.
The differentiation is very important in order for us to identify the gaps in our abilities. If we are having lots of blunders then it’s likely that we need to hit those practice hours.
I tried my best to provide the distinction between these two ideas, which I hope you now understand. That is all, sleep well and play chess.