Best chess moves of all time

Karjakin medal

… OR ACCORDING TO MY OPINION

After makings ourselves feel better in the latest post, where we have revisited great blunders made by world class players, it is time for a reality check.

Because in this post we will take a look at the most brilliant chess moves throughout the history of chess. Which will merely remind us how great players we could have been if we weren’t distracted by sex, drugs and rock and roll throughout our youth.

In all sincerity,  that last sentence actually makes me wonder why I am not at least 2600 rated by now, but maybe it is better not to pose some difficult questions..

sex_drugs_rock
We have all needed a “Rocker starter kit” at one point during our life.. Only red Converse All Stars are missing

Anyway, selecting the best chess moves proved to be a harder task than I initially imagined. Because compiling every single brilliant move in the history would take a couple of months and probably fill more than one book.

Therefore I have tried to include some of the moves that made indelible impression on me. I have tried focusing on some lesser known brilliancies, but I still think that the list includes enough mainstream gems.

Naturally, the final list is highly subjective (you might notice the name of Rashid Gibiatovich Nezhmetdinov quite often). But any discussion on the “best of all time” theme has to include some degree of the subjectivity.

By now it is probably time to stop beating about the bush and present the list of the best chess moves according to a modest Candidate Master.

1. MIKHAIL TAL – HANS HOACHIM HECHT, VARNA OLYMPIAD, 1962.

I thought that starting with the most famous attacker ever can hardly be wrong. In the aforementioned game Tal, who was still in the recovery after the kidney operation, played on the lower board of the Varna Olympiad. (I am not certain about the exact number of the board).

Anyway, in the game, the following position was reached:

19 exf6!!!

Sacrificing the queen. According to Kasparov, the Argentinian grandmaster Miguel Najdorf, who was watching the game, approached Tal and kissed him after the latter made this move.

19… bxa4 20 fxg7 Rg8 21 Bf5!!

The crux of the combination. White went on to win.

2. MIKHAIL TAL – SVIRIDOV, STUTTGART SIMUL, 1969

We continue with the mr. Mikhail, this time with a relatively lesser known game from a simultaneous exhibition (!!):

You can see that there is a rook for White already missing. Nothing new for Tal’s games. Here Black decided to exchange queens with:

17 … Qxd2

I can only imagine the reaction when that was met by:

18 fxg7!!!

If that was internet blitz game, I would have thought it was a premove gone wrong. But this move just wins.

3. STEFAN LEVITZKY – FRANK JAMES MARSHALL, DSB KONGRESS, 1912

The move that even Kasparov referred to as “the most brilliant move in the chess history”.

In the following position:

Black played the brilliant:

23…  Qg3!!!!

And White – resigned. Try to work out why is White totally lost after this queen sacrifice.

4. VESELIN TOPALOV – ALEXEY SHIROV, LINARES 1998

One of the more famous examples from the list, and the brilliancy from the modern era.

In the following position, Black played the last move an average player would think of:

47.. Bh3!!!

Giving up his bishop. Just like that.

Too be honest, I am not 100% certain whether that is the only winning move, since I haven’t analyzed the game in great detail.

But it doesn’t even matter. To think of this at the board… I can only imagine how thrilling it is to play something like that.

5. POLUGAEVSKY – NEZHMEDTINOV, SOCHI, 1958.

The first instance that the name of Rashid Giabatovich Nezhmetdinov pops up on this list. He was one of the greatest natural talents and one of the most brilliant attackers in the chess history. Unfortunately, he didn’t have solid opening repertoire to battle consistently with the Soviet greats, but still he played a number of attractive and brilliant games.

Very indicative is that he was the second of none other but Mikhail Tal, during his matches against Botvinnik.

One of his most famous creations is the following brilliancy against the Polugaevsky:

In the given position, Nezhmedtinov played the following:

24 … Rxf4!!!

Is there any further comment required? Black went on to win that game.

6. RASHID GIBIATOVICH NEZHMETDINOV – OLEG L CHERNIKOV, ROSTOV, 1962.

The Nezhmetdinov fan is on the loose and now there is no going back. Consider another brilliancy by the Soviet virtuoso:

The words “queen retreat” simply didn’t exist in Nezhmetdinov vocabulary, as he unleashed the brilliant:

12 Qxf6!!!

in this position, giving up his queen just like that for the two pieces. He went on to win with his tremendous compensation.

7. TIGRAN VARTANOVICH PETROSIAN – LUDEK PACHMAN, BLED, 1961

The 9th world champion, Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, is  famous for his defensive skill and positional style. However, most people underestimate his tactical prowess. Consider for instance the following famous encounter:

19 Qxf6!!!

A bolt from the blue. Black resigned two moves later, upon realizing that he is getting mated. Simply amazing.

8. TIGRAN VARTANOVICH PETROSIAN – BORIS SPASSKY, WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 1966.

One of the definitely more “mainstream” games on this list. It was played in a world championship match and is therefore rather significant.

In the following position, having sacrificed exchange twice earlier, our “romantic” Petrosian found the winning queen deflection:

 

30 Qh8+!!!

The knight fork wins a piece for White.

9. M HEWITT – WILHELM STEINITZ, LONDON 1866

Everything said for the Petrosian is valid for Steinitz. Many people forget that before laying the foundation  for the birth of the modern chess school, 1st world champion played very attractive, attacking chess. One striking example is surely Steinitz – Bardeleben, but the following example is also very attractive:

20… Rxg2!! 

A brilliant sacrifice. But it is also worthy to mention the remainder:

21 Kxg2 Qh3!!

And White was mated in a number of moves.

10. VLADAS MIKENAS – DAVID BRONSTEIN, USSR CHAMPIONSHIP, 1965

We are jumping back to the “Soviet school of chess” period and mention another brilliant and “almost a World Champion”, player, David Bronstein.

This one is slightly more famous, and quite rightly so:

24… Rxa3!!!

The geometry is strong in this one. Due to various pins and back rank issues, White resigned.

11. STEFAN BRZOZKA – DAVID BRONSTEIN, USSR, 1963.

I have to admit, I haven’t seen this one before. But it is never to late to get acquainted with the “cunning Devik’s heritage” (Bronstein’s nickname).

Recently, the World Champion Magnus Carslen said that he “Doesn’t believe in fortresses.” It seems like his great predeccessor agrees, because in the position above he uncorked the following flash of genius:

48… Rxb3+!!!!

Wait, whaaaaat?!?!? Black went on to win. Just keep that in mind next time you start complaining how your opponent played too defensively.

12. HENRY L TERRIE – EMORY TATE, US OPEN, 2001

This one really caught my attention because it is an endgame trick. It is kinda obvious, but still very beautiful.

Here Black immediately forced the issue with the rook sacrifice:

31… Rd1+!!!

After White recaptures, the black g-pawn queens.

13. F. ALEXANDER HOFFMAN – ALEXANDER PETROV

Every e4 player has cursed the name of Alexander Petrov  sooner or later throughout his career. The author of this lines is definitely not excluded.

However, in the following game, it was not only “Symmetry to death”:

If you have played anything other than:

12… 0-0 !!!!

I am sorry, perhaps it is better to stick to the 1… e5 2 … Nf6 schemes. 🙁

Make sure you check the king hunt that resulted from this queen sacrifice.

14 DAVID NAVARA – ANNA DERGATSCHOVA-DAUS

In the post about blunders I already lamented how difficult it is to play against women. Czech GM David Navara doesn’t seem to have problems with that. Not only he wins, but he does so stylishly. Check the end to the following game:

36 Rc6!!!!

Mother of all interferences. White mates either on d5 or c6, but what a way to end a game.

15. DIMITAR I DONCHEV – SASHO NIKOLOV, BULGARIA, 1987

Too be honest, I don’t know much about these two players. Apart from the fact that chess community should be thankful to mr. Donchev for providing us with the following brilliancy.

In the position from the game, it was White to move:

White has already invested some material, and now went on to proceed with the mind-boggling queen sacrifice:

20 f6!!!

Are you kidding me?? White went on to win. And Sasho Nikolov was not amateur, but a player of International Master calibre.

16. MIKHAIL KRASENKOW – HIKARU NAKAMURA, BARCELONA, 2007

We remain in the modern era. There is a scarcity of the modern games in this collection, partly due to the author’s ignorance, and partly due to the fact that level of defence is much higher nowadays, and top players would be risking too much by trying to go for the brilliancies all the time.

However, one that definitely has to be mentioned is Hikaru Nakamura’s visiting card:

21 … Qxf2+!!!

I merely remember the following quote by Tarrash:

“Chess, like love, like art, has the ability to make people happy.”

17. SAM LOYD – SAMUEL ROSENTHAL

Back to the 19th century. Sam Loyd is most famous as a chess composer, but sometimes he managed to create “problem like” wins in his over-the-board-games.

Consider the following position:

Loyd went on to announce mate in four with the winning deflection:

33 Qxf3!!!

18. YURI AVERBAKH – ALEXANDER KOTOV, ZURICH CANDIDATES, 1953

Alexander Kotov is most famous for writing the great chess book Think like a grandmaster.

Unfortunately, after discussing in length the thinking process of a grandmaster, he gives the following famous example, which makes the reader to consider curling as an alternative career/hobby choice.

30… Qxh3+!!!!

And Black went on to win the game.

19. EFIM BOGOLJUBOV – ALEXANDER ALEKHINE, HASTINGS, 1922

We will conclude this list with the two games of the world champions. First example is my favourite Alekhine game, a grandiose canvas in which little b-pawn belittled the effort of the rampage rook.

Here Alekhine played:

30… bxc3! 31 Rxe8 c2!!!

And even though White rook munched through every single heavy piece  Black had on the board, the modest pawn queened and invalidated all his effort.

20. VISWANATHAN ANAND – GARRY KASPAROV, WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, 1995

The last, but not the least, a brilliancy by the greatest player ever. Although everything in the game was home preparation, it is still majestic nevertheless:

In a ferocious display of attack, Kasparov sacrificed a whole rook earlier, and here continued with the brilliant:

19 Bh6!!!

CONCLUSION

Phew, these exclamation marks really started to going on my nerves!!!

Finally we have reached an end of this post and this list.

It is arguable whether the choice is correct, as there are many famous games missing (Andersen’s Immortal and Evergreen games, Fischer’s Game of the Century, among others).  Even the choice of only one Kasparov game seems unjust; perhaps most people would rather choose his immortal game against Topalov instead.

However, as already mentioned, choosing between “gold and golder” can be very hard, and I have tried to mix a couple of rather famous games, with some that I feel deserve more recognition.

Anyway, I welcome all the readers to comment/email with their suggestions about the brilliant games worldwide, in order to replenish my knowledge and this list as well.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to check all that blunders once again.

And do some drugs while listening to some good old rock’n’roll.

Naturally, I am only kidding here.

I don’t listen to rock’n’roll.

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