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

Anderssenintro.jpg
Black to Play


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.

LputianKasparov1976.jpg
Lputian-Kasparov, Black to Play


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;

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White to Move


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.

1.

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2.
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3.
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4.
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5.
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6.
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7.
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8.
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9.
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10.

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11.
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12.
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13.

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14.

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22.
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40
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56.
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59.

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60.
 
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62.
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63.

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64.
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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.