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The mistakes are all waiting to be made

Posted on Wednesday, April 5, 2006.

Several years ago (probably meaning 10 to 20) I remember reading a newspaper article that included a quote from a chess grandmaster. This was a description of the board before either player has moved and was something like 'the mistakes are all there waiting to happen'.

This still strikes me as a perfect description of an orienteering event in the few minutes before the first start.

Anyone who has planned or controlled an event will know the feeling when all the controls are out and checked and you are just waiting for people to pick up their maps and set off to do their best (or worst). You know what routes you expect people to take, you know which controls you think will cause trouble, you know where the difficult route choices are, but what you have no idea of is the sheer imaginative nature of the mistakes that people will contrive to make, in places that you had never dreamt of.

A few minutes with Google found that the generally accepted version of the quotation is:

The mistakes are all waiting to be made.

and it is attributed to Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956), an Austrian born in Russia. Alternative versions include "The blunders are all there on the board, waiting to be made". Tartakower seems to be remembered more for his words than his chess deeds, and two of his quotes are found in nearly every quotation site I looked at: one is the quote above and the other is a quote on a similar theme, although less applicable to orienteering:

Victory goes to the player who makes the next to last mistake.

So as you stand on the start line as the first starter at an event just remember you could be about to make the first mistake of the day, but it isn’t your fault because the trap had been there all along just waiting for someone to fall into it. Pawn to King 4 anybody?

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