|64 Square Tour|
|By Bart Gibbons|
|December 17, 2007|
This article portrays some of the greatest moves ever played on each of the 64 individual squares.
The phrase “greatest move” by definition is a matter of opinion. To try to rank brilliant chess moves on an all-time list is as controversial as it is fascinating. Those of you who have watched the ESPN series on best sports teams, greatest record, best shot etc. know that each episode ends with guest commentators ruthlessly criticizing the choices. I would prefer to describe my list as “the most startling and decisive moves (for each square), which exemplify the artistic heritage of chess”.
My approach was to choose moves that had one or more of the following attributes:
1. The move deserved at least one (and in most cases two) exclamation marks. The soundness of the move has stood up to critical evaluation.
2. The move was so unexpected that I may not have considered playing it (Ed. Note- Bart’s over-the-board rating is 2237, and his international correspondence chess rating is 2464).
3. The move was part of a spectacular series of moves
4. The move was part of a unique combination
I strived for overall variety in the choice of players (I permitted no more than two winning moves from any one player), and in the positions themselves. I wanted each position to have a different “feel” from the other positions. In other words, I didn’t select some beautiful queen sacrifice games because they felt similar to a move I already included, or they were a bit too obvious.
The strength of the move (see point #1) was paramount to my selection. While we all enjoy a brilliant combination, and appreciate that a sacrifice involves risk, those of us that seek for truth on the chessboard also value objective annotations. The chess devotee realizes that some moves that originally received double exclamation marks in print (because of the game continuation) were not properly annotated. Happily, these positions continue to intrigue us, and subsequent commentary sometimes finds the best defense. The most prominent case in point is the famous “Evergreen” game, which contains one of the loveliest combinations ever played over the board.
White: Adolf Anderssen Black: Jean Dufresne Berlin 1852
This is the position before White played 19 Rad1! Black took the bait with 19...Qf3? and White attacked gloriously with 20 Re7+! Ne7? (...Kd8 makes it much tougher for White) 21 Qd7+!! Kd7 22 Bf5++ Ke8 23 Bd7+ Kf8 24 Be7 mate. A breathtaking combination as far as it goes, but analysis has shown that had Black played 19...Qh3, or 19…Rg4, it’s unclear whether White stands better at all. Accordingly, I did not select this game for the D1 square, as it did not objectively lead to a winning position.
These criteria led to some agonizing decisions because there were so many strong moves on certain squares. Take the E4 square . Two of Kasparov’s most brilliant wins as Black were games where the key move was Ne4. The following excerpt from his game against Lputian (Tblisi, 1976) has been compared by some to Fischer’s famous win against Donald Byrne, because the two future champions were 13 years old at the time of their brilliancies.
And here's another Ne4 masterpiece, against Kramnik.
Another Kasparov game featuring Ne4 came from the 16th game of the 1985 World Championship match against Karpov.
The victory in that game gave Kasparov the match lead, and he went on to become World Champion.
However, I chose the Andersen-Petrosian game instead, because Petrosian’s sacrifice (and the follow up moves) seemed more startling and unique (sorry Garry!).
Over the years I have read many game collection books, and in so doing I’ve noticed some interesting coincidences of squares and files, which inspired me to write this article. In four of Fischer’s wins annotated in his book My 60 Memorable Games, the winning move was on the D7 square! Three of those four games the final move was on D7 ( vs. Shocron, R. Byrne, and Bisguier), while in the game against Portisch, his surprise move..Qd7 was given two exclamation marks. The D7 square also played a pivotal role in Game 7 of Fischer’s Candidates Match against Petrosian;
22 Nd7+ Rxd7 23. Rc1 received universal acclaim for its depth of understanding. All the grandmasters in the press room overlooked the move.
In the end, I chose the famous Fischer-Byrne game as best move on d7, because Fischer saw everything when he played ..Nf2!. Robert Byrne said: "The culminating combination is of such depth that, even at the very moment at which I resigned, both grandmasters who were commenting on the play for the spectators believed that I had a won game!”
While I am pleased with my final selections, it may appear that I tended to choose older games and players. I acquired most of my chess library in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and so I am more familiar with players from 1800 to 1985 than I am with today’s superstars. I did include some more recent games after searching on the Internet, and I marvel at how today’s heavyweights fight for the initiative. They are awesome, brilliant players in their own right. I hope the thrill of seeing amazing positions from a bygone era will compensate if some of your favorite contemporary players are not represented here.
Interested readers can find more great moves on author Tim Krabbe's wonderful website of Chess curiosities (select the link to the 110 Greatest moves ever played). I’d also heartily recommend the classic books from legendary authors Fred Reinfeld, Irving Chernev, and I. A. Horowitz; they’re simply chock full of fantastic games and stories.
A curious fact about the moves listed is that (without planning) I picked 32 moves for White, and 32 moves for Black!
And now, for the best of the best startling and winning moves. My comments on each position are only visible when you click on "Show Solution", so that you can try to find the winning moves yourself. The diagrams are in order from a1 to h8, but in order to allow you some chance for a reader to solve the problem without knowing the square that the solution will be on, we've numbered them from 1 to 64. I’d like to hear what you think about my list, and if you know of wonderful moves that I didn’t include here, I’d love to see them! Please make a comment below or send a letter to the editor.
Square: A1 Solution: 31.. Ra1! Game: Blackburne/Mackenzie London 1883
Black followed up his splendid Queen sacrifice two moves earlier with a forced mate after 31...Ra1+! 32 Ka1 Bc2 33 any Ra8 mate. (Hide Solution)
Square: A2; Solution: 28..Qa2+! Game: Gelfand/Kramnik European Club Cup 1996
White’s Rook is overloaded, as Black mates after 28...Qa2+! 29 Ra2 Rb1. (Hide Solution)
Square: A3; Solution: 30 Ba3! Game: Botvinnik/Capablanca Avro 1938
A beautiful decoy sacrifice, accurately calculated to the game’s conclusion on move 41.
After 30..Qa3 31 Nh5+! gh5 32 Qg5+ Kf8 33 Qf6+ Kg8 34 e7, White avoids perpetual check. Botvinnik (a former World Champion) called this the “game of my life”. (Hide Solution)
Square: A4; Solution: 11.. Na4! Game: D. Byrne/Fischer New York 1956
This position is from perhaps Bobby’s most famous brilliancy, played when he was only thirteen. The position usually used for this game is after Black’s queen sacrifice offer on move 17 (..Be6), but Black’s stunning eleventh move ..Na4!! set up everything to follow. If White plays 12 Na4, then ..Ne4 regains all material with advantage. The numerous annotations reveal intricate variations, all leading to an edge for Black. The legend of Bobby Fischer began here. (Hide Solution)
Square: A5; Solution: 27. Ba5! Game: Tal/Suttles Skopje Olympiad 1972
A charming combination; Tal coordinates his forces with maximum efficiency.
After 27..Ra5 28 Rd8+ Bf8 29 Qd2 Qc7 30 Re8 Kg7 31 Qg5 Ra7 32 Qf6+ Kg8 33 Ng5 ..Qd7 34 Rd8 Black resigned shortly. (Hide Solution)
Square: A6; Solution: 30.Qa6! Game: Karjakin/Kosteniuk Danneman Match 2003
An elegant temporary queen sac by the youngest Grandmaster in history ( in 2002, at 12 years and seven months of age). After 30..Rc1+ 31 Rc1 Ra6 32 Rc8+ Qe8 33 Re8+ Kf7 34 Ra8!, White wins a piece, so Black resigned.
(Karjakin/Kosteniuk) (Hide Solution)
Square: A7; Solution: 20.Na7! Game: Keres/Flohr Semmering-Baden 1937
A truly unique move, winning at least a piece. If 20.. Ra7 21 Rc8+ Nf8 22 Qb6 wins. Flohr gave it up on move 24. (Hide Solution)
Square: A8; Solution: 22..Ba8! Game: Botvinnik-Smyslov Moscow 1954 (World Championship Match). Black sacs the queen for three pieces and an unstoppable mating attack. The game continued 23 Rb2 Ng5+ 24 Kh2 Nf3+ 25 Kh3 Bb2, and White resigned on move 33. (Hide Solution)
Square: B1; Solution: 39..Qxb1! Game: Spielmann-Tarrasch San Sebastian 1912
Black weaves a mating net with 39..Qb1! 40 Rb1 Rb1 41 g4 Bc1! 0-1 (Hide Solution)
Square: B2 Solution:29...Qb2! Game: Bernstein/Capablanca Moscow 1914
The favorite back-row mate game of all time. White resigned after 29..Qb2!, as he loses at least a rook. Capablanca considered this his most artistic game. (Hide Solution)
Square: B3 Solution: 48...Rb3+!! Game: Brzozka/Bronstein Miskolcz 1963
Black breaks through the barricade with the shocking 48..Rb3+!!. If 49 ab3 a2 50 Ba2 Ra2. Black will soon have three pawns for the piece, as is what happened in the game after 49 Kb3 Rb6+ 50 Kc2 Rb2+ 51 Kc1 Re2. But to assess clearly that White’s counterplay would be insufficient was both masterful and courageous, for White did activate his bishop, and get his own passed a-pawn. (Hide Solution)
Square: B4 Solution: 28.Qb4! Game: Zukertort-Blackburne London 1883
Legend has it that the spectators thought Black was winning a piece, and one of them said to Blackburne (who was away from the board) “You’ve got him!”, to which Blackburne replied “I don’t know, it’s tremendously difficult”. In a few moments, Blackburne stood still, realizing White could play 28 Qb4!! At that moment, Zukertort tapped Blackburne on the shoulder from behind, saying “I’ve made my move”. And White did indeed play the fiendish sacrificial move, which cannot be accepted. If 28.. Qb4 29 Be5+ Kh7 30 Rh3+ Kg6 31 Rg3+, and White’s other rook soon joins in for the kill. The game continued 28..R8c5 29 Rf8+ Kh7 (29..Qf8 30 Be5+ Kh7 31 Qe4+) 30 Qe4+ Kg7 31 Be5+ Kf8 32 Bg7+! Kg8 (..Qg7 33 Qe8 mate) 33 Qe7 1-0(Hide Solution)
Square: B5 Solution: 18. axb5! Game: Capablanca/Spielmann New York 1927
A game greatly admired because White’s sacrifice of the bishop is the logical follow-up to his opening strategy. The game continued 18 ab5! Qg5 19 Be4 Rb8 (if 20..Ra7, then 21 b6! Qa5 22 ba7 wins) 20 ba6, and White won on move 26. (Hide Solution)
Square: B6 Solution: 25. Nxb6+! Game: Morphy/Lowenthal London 1859
White first sacrifices a knight, then offers a rook, winding things up with a key in-between move. 25 Nb6+! ab6 26 Rc7+! Kd8 (..Kc7 27 Qb6+ leads to mate) 27 Qb6 Qf2+ 27 Qf2 ..Nf2 28 Ra7! (Regaining the piece due to the mate threat) Nh3+ 29 gh3 and White wins. (Hide Solution)
Square: B7 Solution: 37.Rxb7! Game: Aronian/Anand Linares-Morelia 2007
White reels off a series of amazing moves, which began two moves previously. With 37 Rb7! White intends to break through with two active passed pawns. The continuation was 37..Nd4 34 Rc8 Rc8 35 Rdb1 Rf8 36 Rb8 Be8 37 a5 Nf3+ 38 Kf1! Nd2+ 39 Ke1 Nb1
40 a6 Bc6 41 a7 Kf7 42 d7 Ke7 43 Rf8 Kd7, and Black soon resigned. (Hide Solution)
Square: B8 Solution: 21...Nb8! Game: Polugaevsky/Korchnoi Leningrad 1960
Black played the unexpected retreat 21..Nb8!, threatening the knight on B7, and to trap White’s Queen with ..Bf8. After 22 Bb5 Re3 23 fe3 Bf8 24 Qd8 Qb7, Black was ahead in material and went on to win. (Hide Solution)
Square: C1 Solution: 17.Qc1!! Game: Rubinstein/ Capablanca San Sebastian 1911
White breaks the pin on his knight with 17 Qc1!!. The point is if Black exchanges queens, White plays 18 Be6+ before recapturing the black Queen. The game continued 17..ed5 18 Qc5, and White was a pawn up. The win was anything but routine though, White overlooked a diabolical resource that would have almost won for Black, but Capablanca also overlooked it. (Hide Solution)
Square: C2 Solution: 31...c2 Game: Bogolyubov/Alekhine, Hastings 1922
Some consider this the greatest game of all time. Black (on move 29) allows his Queen and both rooks to be captured in sequence! Black’s passed pawn, soon to be promoted to a queen, is what makes the combination work. The game continued 31 ..c2 32 Rf8+ Kh7 33 Nf2 c1(Q)+ 34 Nf1 Ne1!, and black’s pieces work together (unlike White’s). Black won on move 53. (Hide Solution)
Square: C3 Solution: 17...Rc3! Game: Pillsbury/Lasker St. Petersburg 95-6
Blacks' attack, begun here and followed up with magnificent tactics, is Lasker’s most famous combination. 17..Rc3! 18 fe6 Ra3!! 19 ef7+ Rf7 20 ba3 Qb6+, and White did not hold out much longer. (Hide Solution)
Square: C4 Solution: 26...Rc4!! Game: Radjabov/Anand Dubai 2002
White’s rook on h3 is unable to help defend the first rank. But how can Black exploit this?
Future World Champion Anand sacrificed his Queen with 26..Rc4!! 27 Rb8 Rc1+ 28 Bf1 Rb8. After 27 Bc3 Rbd1, Black’s attack (helped by his a-pawn), was irresistible. Truly a “double-take” move. (Hide Solution)
Square: C5 Solution: 34.c5! Game: Alekhine/Schwartz London 1926
Alekhine begins a 10-move combination with 34 c5! Bc5 35 b6 Rc8 36 Qc3! Rfe8 37 Be5 de5 38 Qe5! Qe5 39 Re5 Re5 40 Rc7+ Rc7 41 bc7 Re8 42 cb8 Rb8 43 Be6! (controlling the queening square). Alekhine’s combinations were known as having a “kick” at the end, and one can see why. What is even more remarkable is that this game is from a blindfold exhibition! (Hide Solution)
Square: C6 Solution: 18.Nc6!! Game: Kholmov/Bronstein USSR ch. 1965
White found an incredible way to keep the initiative with 18 Nc6!! Nc6 19 e5!, gaining the e4 square for his knight. Best play would then be 19..Ne5 20 Ne4 Ng6 21 Nf6 Qf6 22 fg6 Qg7, with the edge to White. The game continued 19..Bg5+ 20 Rg5 f6 21 ed6, and White eventually won.(Hide Solution)
Square: C7 Solution: 32.Qc7! Game: Spielmann/Mieses Regensburg 1910
White kept the attack up with 32. Qc7!!, allowing his knight to be captured with check. After 32..Qf1+ 33 Ka2 Qc4+ 34 b3 Qb5 35 a4 Qb6 36 Bd3+ Ka5 37 Qe5+ c5 38 Rb7!!, White won on move 41. (Hide Solution)
Square: C8 Solution: 24.Rc8!! Game; Bronstein/Goldenov Kiev 1944
White gave Black’s Queen too much to handle with 24 Rc8!! 1-0. If 24..Bc8 25 Qd8 mate, or if ..Rc8 25 Rc8 Qc8 26 Qe7 mate.(Hide Solution)
Square: D1 Move: 46...Qd1! Game: Alekhine/Yates Carlsbad 1923
Yates found the quiet but deadly continuation 46..Qd1! The point is White’s rook has to abandon the 2nd rank, as the rook would then occupy squares the king needs.. If White play for mate himself with 47 Qf7, then ..Qd3+ 48 Qf3 Be5+! 49 Kg2 Qc2 is with check. The game continued 47 Rc3 Qg1+ 48 Kh3 Qf1+ 49 Kg3 Bf2+ 50 Kf3 Bg1+ 0-1. (Hide Solution)
Square: D2 Solution: 23...Rd2!! Game: Rotlevi/Rubinstein Lodz 1907
Akiba Rubinstein was one of the strongest players never to become world champion (he was unable to raise the funds to stake a challenge). Here is his immortal win as Black vs. Rotlevi Lodz 1907. Black, who is already down a queen for a knight, continues the glorious combination with 23..Rd2!!, leading to checkmate in all variations. White’s queen is unable to guard E4 and H2 at the same time. The game concluded with 24 Qd2 Be4+ 25 Qg2 Rh3! 0-1. (Hide Solution)
Square: D3 Solution: 23...Qd3! Game: Euwe/Keres Holland (match) 1939-40
Black takes advantage of White’s awkward piece placement with the elegant queen sac 23..Qd3!
24 Qd3 Bd4+. Whether White plays Kh1 or Rf2, Black will play ..Re6 and dominate the board. White played 25 Rf2 Re6 26 Kf1, but after .. Rae8! Black had a winning game.(Hide Solution)
Square: D4 Solution: 10...d4! Game: Fleissig/Schlecter Vienna 1895
This game is truly a masterpiece of attack, Black delivering one powerful blow after another.
This victory earned Schlecter an invitation to the famous Hastings 1895 tournament, where he came in 9th out of 22 players.
Black continued 10..d4!! 11 Qh8+ Ke7 12 Qc8 dc3 13 Bc1 Nd7! 14 Qa8 Qb5 15 Bf4 Qd5+ 16 Kc1 Be3+! 17 Be3 Nf2! 18 Bf2 Qd2+ 19 Kb1 Qd1+ 20 Ka2 Qc2 mate. (Hide Solution)
Square: D5 Solution: 17...Qd5+! Game: Matchego/Falkbeer London 1869
Falkbeer, who is best known for his defense to the King’s Gambit (with 2..d5), leaves White’s king helpless in the center of the board with the queen sacrifice 17..Qd5+!. Play continued 18 Kd5 Nf6+ 19 Kc4 Be6+20 Kb5 a6+ 21 Ka4 b5+ 22 Nb5 ab5+ 23 Kb5 Ra5+! 24 Kc6 Bd5+ 25 Kd6 Ne8 mate. (Hide Solution)
Square: D6 Solution: 18.Bd6!!? Game: Anderssen/Kieseritsky London 1851
This game is well-known as “The Immortal Game”. Once again, however, Black did not put up the best defense. But I did not have the heart to exclude both of Anderssen’s famous victories. In this position, White played 18 Bd6!!?, and after 18..Qa1+ 19 Ke2 Bg1? 20 e5!! Na6 21 Ng7+ Kd8 22 Qf6+!! Nf6 23 Be7 mate. Multiple sources give 19..Qb2! as leading to an uncertain outcome.
Objectively, White had 3 stronger choices on move 18; d4, Be3, and Re1, all of which maintain his advantage. (Hide Solution)
Square: D7 Solution: 21...Qd7!! Game: R. Byrne/Fischer New York 1963-4
The companion game to the Fischer legend. I know of no other game where grandmasters commenting in the analysis room are saying that one player is losing, yet after that player’s next move, his opponent resigns! Fischer played 21..Qd7!! here, which wins in all variations. Fischer called White’s resignation a “bitter disappointment”, hoping for play to continue 22 Qf2 Qh3+ 23 Kg1 Re1+!! 24 Re1 Bd4! 25 Qd4 Qg2 mate.(Hide Solution)
Square: D8 Solution: 25.Rd8+ Game: Tarrasch/Hirschler Nuremberg 1894
Two-rook sacrifices have been seen before, but perhaps never so artistically as this gem.
White played 25 Rd8+ Nd8 26 Rf8+!! Kf8 27 e7+, and Black resigned.(Hide Solution)
Square: E1 Solution: Re1!! Game:Belenki/Pirogov Moscow 1958
For the moment, White’s queen prevents Black’s Qh5 mate, while White’s rook defends against Qg2 mate. Black changes the state of affairs instantly with the brutal ..Re1!! White is now dead lost, as he can’t capture the impudent rook, nor maintain the status quo. When I first saw this game, I thought of the lyrics “hit the road Jack!”.(Hide Solution)
Square: E2 Solution: 30...Qe2+! Game: Krogius/Stein Russia 1960
Black had sacrificed a knight on move 20, and now he shakes White up with 30.. Qe2+! 31 Qe2 (32 Ne2 Bd5+ is too strong to permit) ..f3+ 32 Qf3 Rf3. White now missed a chance for an equal game with 33 Be1 Bg4 34 a4. The game continuation was 33 Rhf1 Bg4, with an edge for Black. (Hide Solution)
Square: E3 Solution: 16...Ne3!! Game: Shirov/J. Polgar Buenos Aires 1994
Black has two minor pieces and her queen attacked; a quick glance suggests White is winning. Black shatters the illusion with 16..Ne3!! The first point is if 17 Qg5, then ..Nf3 is mate! If instead 17 Be3, then ..Qe3, and Black’s threat of ..Nf3+ and ..Qd2 mate gives her time to save the bishop. White tried 17 Qg3, but after 17..Qg3 18 Ng3 Nc2+ 19 Kd1 Na1 20 Nb7 b3!, Black remained ahead in material.(Hide Solution)
Square: E4 Solution: 20...Ne4!! Game: Andersen-Petrosian Copenhagen 1960
Black exploits his advantage in development with 20..Ne4!! 21 Ne4 Rf1+ 22 Kc2 Bf5 23 Qg2 Qh4!
24 Rc4 Qe1. Without the use of his king- side pieces, White is paralyzed. It’s hard to imagine that White didn’t move the king knight in the opening. The game continued 25 Kd3 Rb8 26 Qc2 Qa5 (Black’s odyssey with the queen is unique, and adds to the charm of the combination) 27 Bd2 Qd5+ 28 Ke2 Rf8! 28 Nf3 0-1. This game illustrates that Petrosian (World Champion from 1963 to 1969) was capable of fine tactical play.(Hide Solution)
Square: E5 Solution: 1.Re5!! Game: Saemisch/Ahues Hamburg 1946
I picked this position because it’s a good example of the Nowotny theme; which means that when a piece is captured by either one of two opposing pieces, the capturing piece interferes with the control the other opposing piece had. It’s easier to show you than to explain!
In this position, White cannot play for mate with the direct move 1 f6, because ..Qc5+ exchanges queens. So White played 1 Re5!!. If now ..Be5 or ..de5, then 2 f6 does lead to mate. Meanwhile, White continues to threaten 2 f6. If Black tries 1..Rg8, then 2 Qg8+! Kg8 3 Re8 mates. Finally, if 1..f6, then 2 Qf6+ Kg8 3 Qg5+ wins. Black resigned.(Hide Solution)
Square: E6 Solution: 13. Re6!! Game: Nadjorf/Sapiro Lodz 1929
GM Miguel Nadjorf dazzles with this win over Sapira, Lodz 1929.
White has already sacrificed a knight, and continues his non-stop attack with 13 Re6!!. The game continued 13..Ne6 14 Bc4 Qd6 15 Bh6 Bf8 16 Re1 Bc8 17 Qe8! Bd7 18 Re6!! Re8 19 Re8+! Be6 20 Be6+ Qe6 21 Rf8 mate. Imagine being able to play two Re6!! moves in a 21-move game!(Hide Solution)
Square: E7 Move: 9...Qe7!! Game: Rusakov/Verlinsky Moscow 1947
White’s last move was 9 Q(d1)-e2+, hoping to win Black’s advanced b-pawn. But Black has an amazing resource; 9..Qe7!! By pinning White’s queen, Black’s b-pawn is immune from capture.
After 10 fe7 Bg7! White resigned, as Black will emerge the exchange and two pawns up after 11 Qb2 Bb2 12 Nd2 Ba1. (Hide Solution)
Square: E8 Solution: 25.Be8! Game: Reti/Bogulyubov New York 1924
White’s elegant 25 Be8! wins instantly, as Black’s back rank is defenseless. If 25..Re8, then 26 Qf8+! Rf8 27 Rf8 is checkmate. Another artistic example of the interference motif. Black resigned without replying. (Hide Solution)
Square: F1 Solution: 36. Bf1! Game: Kasparov/Topalov Wijk Aan Zee 1999
This position is from what has been called Kasparov’s Immortal Game. Topalov (Black) bravely entered the middlegame melee against the World Champion, and had at least an equal position. But when he missed a chance to avoid further complications on move 24,White initiated an amazing king-hunt. Kasparov said that he visualized everything that occurred from move 24 through move 37!
White continued weaving the mating net with 36 Bf1! The bishop cannot be taken, for if ..Qf1 37 Qc2+ Ke1 38 Re7 mates (see how F1 is no longer available as an escape square). But Black played the seemingly strong 36..Rd2!, attacking White’s queen and preventing the previous mating variation. It’s at this point that Kasparov unveiled his stunning resource he had seen earlier; 37 Rd7!! Black has nowhere to move his queen that can defend against the mate on D2.
He played 37..Rd7, but after 38 Bc4 bc4 39 Qh8 it was all over. (Hide Solution)
Square: F2 Solution: 17...Rf2! Game: Bird/Morphy London 1858
This is from one of Paul Morphy’s most famous games. Black (Morphy) could have cautiously exploited his pawn advantage, but instead chose the ultra-sharp sacrifice 17..Rf2! 18 Bf2 Qa3!!.
The game continued 19 c3! Qa2 20 b4 Qa1+ 21 Kc2 Qa4+, and now Bird blundered with 22 Kb2? ..Bb4!, and Black won on move 29. 22 Kc1! was much better, and opinions differ as to whether Black has more than a draw. No doubt Black could have won without playing 17..Rf2, but it wins in most variations, and gives White plenty of chances to go wrong, so I included it because of its’ exciting variations.
Square: F3 Solution: 12...Qf3! Game: Janowski/Marshall Biarritz 1912
There’s more to Black’s combination than what’s first apparent. Black played 12..Qf3!, which is reminiscent of a famous Morphy game. The queen cannot be taken, as 13 gf3 Bh3+ 14 Kg1 Re1+ leads to mate. So White tried 13 cb4 instead, but was surprised again with 13..Nc6! Now White should have tried 14 h3. The game continued 14 Bb2 Nb4! 15 Bh7+ Kh8 16 gf3 Bh3+ 17 Kg1 Nc2 18 Bc2 Re2, and Black has a decisive advantage.(Hide Solution)
Square: F4 Solution: 24...Rf4!! Game: Polugaevsky/Nezhmetinov Russia 1958
This brilliant win is by Rashid Nezhmedtinov for his victory over Polugaevsky, Russia 1958. According to a web link, this game was selected as the best game played over the board in the last century. Nezhmedtinov may not be a familiar name to some of you, but he has been called the greatest attacking player of all time! He did not become a grandmaster, but that was due to his lack of opportunity to play outside Communist Russia ( a fate suffered by other strong masters as well). Search the web for games by “Super Nez”; you’re in for a real treat.
Black kept his king hunt going with 24..Rf4!! White took the queen with 25 Rh2, but after ..Rf3+ 26 Kd4 Bg7 27 a4 c5+ 28 dc6 bc6, White was helpless, and he resigned after Black’s 33rd move.(Hide Solution)
Square: F5 Solution: 26...f5! Game: Blechschmidt/Flohr Zwickau 1930
Salo Flohr was one of the strongest players in the 1930s. It seems he’s in trouble here as Black; if 26..Rb1, then 27 Qc8 is mate. If instead 26.. 0-0, then 27 Qd7 wins a piece. But Flohr has things well in hand here with 26..f5! threatening 27..Qg4 mate. White took the rook with 27 Rb8+ Kf7
28 Bd4, but after 28.. Ne5+! 29 Be5 Qe4+! White resigned, as 30 Kg3 Qg4+ 31 Kh2 Rh4 is mate. (Hide Solution)
Square: F6 Move: 22.f6!! Game: Fuderer/Tartakover Bled 1950
This position is from a remarkable game. Grandmaster Miguel Nadjorf called it the most brilliant game he’d seen in years, and it was called a true masterpiece by author Hans Kmoch in his classic book Pawn Power in Chess.
White has already sacrificed two pawns, and he gives up a third with 22 f6!! gf6 23 Bb3 b5 24 Rf4 Bb7 25 Rh4. Black is unable to defend against White’s well-coordinated pieces. The game continued 25..f5 26 Rh6 Kg7 27 Rf1 Rf6 28 Rf5! Rh6 29 Bh6+ Kh8 30 Qf7 Qb6+ 31 Kh1 Qd4 32 Qf8+ 1-0.(Hide Solution)
Square: F7 Solution: 23.Qf7+!! Game: Clemens/Eisenschmidt St. Petersburg 1890
White concluded a glorious attack with 23 Qf7+!! Nf7 24 Ne6 mate. The final position, with two knights effecting the mate, is extremely rare in actual play. (Hide Solution)
Square: F8 Solution: 35. Rf8+! Game: Vidmar/Euwe Carlsbad 1929
White is threatened with mate on the move. Proving once again that offense is the best defense, Vidmar forced mate with a series of knockout punches starting with 35 Rf8+! Kf8 36 Nf5+ (discovered check) Kg8 37 Qf8+!! Kf8 38 Rd8 mate. (Hide Solution)
Square: G1 Solution: 27.Kg1! Game: Geller/Smyslov Moscow 1965
White’s powerful grip on the f-file implies imminent victory, but his first rank is vulnerable. For instance, if 27Rf6 Bf6 28 Qf6 (threatening mate on F8) hg6 29 Qg6+ Kh8 30 Bg5 R/4/e6 31 Bf6+ Rf6 32 Rf6? Re1 mate. Therefore, White prevents that possibility (and keeps the attack in full swing) with 27 Kg1! White’s queen is still taboo, and any change to the status quo helps White, not Black. The game continued 27..Bg7 28 Rf6! Rg4 29 gh7+ Kh8 30 Bg7+ Qg7 31 Qg4! (a beautiful final touch. If 31..Qg4 32 Rf8+, and White’s h-pawn promotes to a queen) 1-0. (Hide Solution)
Square: G2 Solution: 47.Ng2!! Game: Karpov/Kasparov Moscow (match) 1984
This position is from the 9th game of the 1984-5 World Championship Match. White has had a slight pull in this endgame. The previous 2 moves were 46 h4 gh4? (46..Ke6 or ..Bg6 would probably have drawn), no doubt expecting White to play the obvious recapture 47 gh4. Instead, Karpov surprised everybody with 47 Ng2!!. This will regain the pawn with a decisive edge. The game continued 47..hg3+ (if ..h3 48 Nf4) 48 Kg3 Ke6 49 Nf4+ Kf5 50 Nh5, and White won on move 70.(Hide Solution)
Square: G3 Solution: 23...Qg3!! Game: Levitsky/Marshall Breslau 1912
One of the most celebrated positions in Chess history, not only for the scintillating winning move by Black, but also for the legend of the board being “showered’ with gold pieces by appreciative spectators.
Marshall forced immediate resignation with 23..Qg3!!. If 24 fg3 Ne2+ 25 Kh1 Rf1 mate. If 24 hg3 then ..Ne2 is mate. Finally, if 24 Qg3 Ne2+ 25 Kh1 Ng3+ leaves Black a rook up.
Marshall himself said the board was indeed showered with gold pieces. Others say Marshall was just presented with a purse after the game. The most believable account is that some of Levitsky’s fellow Russians (including Alekhine!) wagered against Marshall, and they were merely paying off their gambling debt. (Hide Solution)
Square: G4 Solution: 34. Qg4!! Game: Nimzovitch/Alekhine Semmering 1926
Nimzovitch sacrificed a knight on the previous move, and now proceeded to play what has been called one of the finest waiting moves in chess history; 34 Qg4!! (threatening the rook check on h3).
Alekhine tried 34..Rf7, but 35 Rh3+ Kg7 36 Bc4! Bd5 37 fg6 Ne4 38 gf7+ Kf8 39 Re4 Be4+ 40 Qe4 Ke7 41 f8(Q)+! Rf8 42 Qd5 Qd6 43 Qb7+ Kd8 44 Rd3 Bd4 45 Qe4 Re8 46 Rd4 Black resigned. When Nimzovitch was in form, his chess was quite profound and elegant.(Hide Solution)
Square: G5 Solution: 22. Qg5!! Game: Horowitz-Kevitz New York 1931
I.A. Horowitz, the tireless chess organizer, writer, and International Master for many years, announced a mate in 7(!) with 22 Qg5!! g6 (forced) 23 Qh6! gf5 24 Rg4+! fg4 25 Bh7+ Kh8 26 Bg6+ Kg8 27 Qh7+ kf8 28 Qf7 mate. (Hide Solution)
Square: G6 Solution: 32..Bg6!! Game: De La Bourdonnais McDonnell London 1834
This selection is probably my favorite of all the moves. We have to go back in time to 1834, to the celebrated match between De La Bourdonnais (France) and McDonnell (Ireland).These two masters played an astonishing 85 games over four months in 1834. Some consider that the modern chess era began with this match, which was won by De La Bourdonnais
In this position White threatens mate in two, by either Rg8+ or Rh7+. But note how White’s own king has nowhere to go, as Black’s knights control B1 & B2. Black combines defense and attack beautifully with 32..Bg6!!, opening the e-file, as well as cutting the communication between White’s heavy pieces. The breathtaking finale was 33 hg6 Qe1+! 34 Re1 Re1+ 35 Qe1 Ne1 (with an eye to a smothered mate) 36 Rh7+ Kg8 37 gf7+ Kh7 38 f8 (Q) Nc2 mate!(Hide Solution)
Square: G7 Solution: 24. Qg7! Game: Mieses-Janowski Paris 1900
White begins one of the most unique combinations ever; leaving his Queen en prise for six consecutive moves! 24 Qg7! Bc8 (White would get a rook and a knight if Black took the queen, not to mention a monster pawn on g7). 25 Nf5 Bf5 26 Rf5 Bb4 27 Kb1 Bc3 28 bc3 Nf8 29 Rhf1 Ng6 30 Qd7 (moving away to wreak more havoc) ..Rg8 31 Qe6 Nf4 32 Bf4 ef4 33 R/5)F4, and White won shortly.(Hide Solution)
Square: G8 Solution-1.Qg8+!! Game: Abrahams- Thynne Liverpool 1930
Gerald Abrahams was a master-strength British amateur, whose best results were in the 1930’s and 40’s. He also wrote several chess books. I’ve only read “The Chess Mind” so far; it’s a fascinating work. In this position White found an ingenious way to coordinate all of his pieces with
1 Qg8+!!. If Black plays 1..Kg8, then 2 Ng6 (Black’s f-pawn is pinned and thus cannot capture the knight) forces mate on h8 from the rook on H1. So black tried 1..Ke7 2 Qf7+ Kd8 3 Ng6 Qb2, but he lost after 4 Rd1+ Bd7 5 Qe8+! 1-0. If 5..Ke8 6 Rh8 mate. To offer a queen sacrifice twice within 5 moves; how sweet it is!(Hide Solution)
Square: H1 Solution: 14...Rh1!! Game: Larsen-Spassky Beograd 1970
Former World Champion Boris Spassky was one of the most feared attacking players of the 1960’s. Bobby Fischer has been quoted as saying “When Spassky offers you a piece, you may as well resign”. In this position Spassky (Black) has already sacrificed a knight, and now he proceeds to offer a whole rook with 14..Rh1!! (Allegedly the crowd roared at this point). GM Larsen (who sometimes handicapped himself with eccentric opening play) played 15 Rh1. The game continued 15..g2 16 Rf1 Qh4+ 17 Kd1 gf1(Q)+ and White resigned, for if 18 Bf1 Bg4+ leads to mate. (Hide Solution)
Square: H2 Solution: 17..Rh2! Game: Maroczy-Tartakower Teplitz-Schonau 1922
This game has a contemporary feel to it, despite being played 85 years ago. Today’s top players seem to sacrifice just to maintain the initiative and edge in development. Precise calculation appear to come later rather than earlier. Perhaps it’s always been like that, but I seem to be surprised more by modern games than older games. This game is a pleasing exception to that observation.
In this position, Black played 17..Rh2!. White’s pieces are unusually hemmed in, so Black went in for this bold long-term sacrifice. The game continued 18 Kh2 Qf2+ 19 Kh1 Nf6! ( calm development) 20 Re2 Qg3 21 Nb1Nh5 22 Qd2 Bd7 23 Rf2 Qh4+ 24 Kg1 Bg3 25 Bc3 Bf2+, and Black’s ongoing initiative brought victory on move 35. (Hide Solution)
Square: H3 Move: 47...Bh3!! Game: Topalov-Shirov Linares 1998
Black’s move in this position would likely be considered one of the top five moves of the 1990s.
In order to gain the tempo necessary to activate his passed pawns, Black played 47..Bh3!!. Play continued 48 gh3 Kf5 49 Kf2 Ke4! 50 Bf6 d4 51 Be7 Kd3 52 Bc5 Kc4! 53 Be7 Kb3, and White resigned. (Hide Solution)
Square: H4 Move: 20.h4!! Game: Dus-Chotimirski – Marshall Hamburg 1910
White’s opponent in this position was the all-time great Frank Marshall, renowned as a daring, resourceful tactician, who set cunning traps and pitfalls. This position is truly a case of the trapper being trapped. It looks as if White will lose his queen, as it has no escape. But White played 20 h4!!, enabling a thunderous Bishop check on h3 winning Black’s queen. The game continuation followed exactly that line; 20.. Rb6 21 Bh3+ Ke5 22 Bc8 Ke4 23 0-0, and White won with his extra piece. The amazing feature of this position is that if Black tried to avoid the main line with 20..f5 21 ef6 Kf6, then 22 Bg5+! wins the Black queen in the same way as the Bishop on
h3 did! This side variation, in which the dark-squared bishop wins the queen instead of the white-squared bishop, is only possible because 20 h4!! controls the g5 square. Truly one of the most powerful pawn moves ever played.
Incidentally, White (Dus-Chotimirski) competed in the famous St. Petersburg tournament of 1909, where he defeated both first-place winners! (Rubinstein and Lasker). (Hide Solution)
Square: H5 Solution 1. Qh5!! Game: Vukovic-NN Simultaneous Exhibition 1937
White has just sacrificed a rook, and his queen is attacked. Black’s queen seems to guard all the key squares White’s knight wants to move to. Diverting the Black queen would seem in order, but how? The answer is 1 Qh5!! This stunning move threatens 2 Nh6 mate. If 1..gh5, then 2 Nh6 checkmate. If 1..Qh5, then 2 Ne7 mate. If Black plays 1..gf5 instead, then 2 Qh4 (threatening 3 Qg5 mate) 2..Rd6 3 Qg3+ Rg6 4 Qf7 wins more material. Black resigned without responding to 1 Qh5. (Hide Solution)
Square: H6 Solution: 15.Qxh6!! Game: Blackburne-Gifford The Hague 1874
This game is a fine example of how we sentimentally view 19th-century chess; replete with brilliant sacrifices and glorious king hunts. White gave up his queen with 15 Qh6+! Kh6 16 Ne6+ Kh5 17 Be2+ Kh4 18 Rf4+! Nf4 19 g3+ Kh3 20 Ngf4 mate.
White (Joseph Blackburne) won many dashing games over his phenomenally long career. He made a living giving exhibitions, including blindfold play, of which he is considered one of the all-time greats. He retained his playing strength into his 70s, tying for first place in the British Championship at age 72! (Hide Solution)
Square: H7 Move: 32.Nh7!! Game: Portisch – Gligoric Milan 1975
This pretty combination was played by GM Lajos Portisch in his game against Gligoric from Milan 1975. White took advantage of Black’s un-coordinated pieces with 32 Nh7!! A stunning variation ensues if Black takes the knight ..Bh7. 35 Nd8! attacks Black’s queen, and threatens Rf8 mate as well. If then ..Rd8, 36 Qd8+ Bg8 37 Qh4+ Bh7 38 Rf8 mates.
Instead, Larsen tried 32..Nf5, but after 36 Rf5 Bf5 37 Ne7!! he resigned. If 34..Bh7 35 Qf6 mate!
Other tries at resistance are also futile. The pirouettes of White’s knights are graceful and deadly at the same time. (Hide Solution)
Square: H8 Solution: 22..Rh8! Game: Geller-Euwe Zurich 1953
One theme of this article is coincidences in chess. Black’s resource in this position is remarkably similar to the position diagrammed on page 29 in the October 2007 issue of Chess Life. In that game (Krush vs. Rohanyan), Black played 28..Rh6!, deflecting White’s Queen from the crucial f3 square. The game was soon drawn after 29 Qh6 Qf3+, as White cannot avoid perpetual check.
The position above is from the Candidate’s tournament of 1953. Former World Champion Max Euwe wants access to the c2 square for his rook, but the White queen on h7 is guarding that square. Black eliminates that control by playing 22..Rh8! 23 Qh8 Rc2. Probably shocked by the sudden change in position, GM Geller missed his best chance; 24 d5. Play might have continued 24..Bd5 25 Rd1! Rg2+ 26 Kf1 gh6, with Black still better. Instead Geller played 24 Rc1?, and resigned after 24..Rg2+ 25 Kf1 Qb3 26 Ke1 Qf3.
The similarities between both games are striking; both featured moves to the h-file by a black rook, forcing the White queen to yield control of a crucial square.(Hide Solution)
I hope you’ve enjoyed this square-by-square chess journey. Feel free to share, comment and disagree!
Bart Gibbons, 49, lives in Joplin, Missouri. He has been an OTB master since 1979, and an International Correspondence Chess Master since 1993. Some of his games and analysis of the Chigorin Defense to the Queen's Gambit have been cited and published.