05 April 2017

The Best Chess Game Ever Played

What is the best chess game ever played? What criteria determines this choice? Do we favor players whom we like?

At Inland Chess Academy's Spring Break Camp today, I am presenting a class called the "best chess game ever played." But, I do not have an answer to my questions.

My students will receive a list with ten candidates. The list is incomplete. It has no games by the best player who ever lived, Magnus Carlsen. The class lasts fifty minutes. If we go through two of these games, we will need to rush through them. Every game on this list deserves several hours of study. Over the next few weeks, I plan to annotate these ten games and post them on Chess Skills.

Black to move

Vishy Anand lost this game and annotated it for Chess Informant. It received more first place votes than just about any other game published. However, the game that won two Informant Reader's Contests received more. It, too, is on this list.

The Greatest Chess Game Ever Played
My Candidates in Chronological Order (links are to my annotations)

(1) Bogoljubow,Efim -- Alekhine,Alexander [A90]
Hastings Six Masters Hastings, 1922

1.d4 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 e6 4.Bg2 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Bxd2+ 6.Nxd2 Nc6 7.Ngf3 0–0 8.0–0 d6 9.Qb3 Kh8 10.Qc3 e5 11.e3 a5 12.b3 Qe8 13.a3 Qh5 14.h4 Ng4 15.Ng5 Bd7 16.f3 Nf6 17.f4 e4 18.Rfd1 h6 19.Nh3 d5 20.Nf1 Ne7 21.a4 Nc6 22.Rd2 Nb4 23.Bh1 Qe8 24.Rg2 dxc4 25.bxc4 Bxa4 26.Nf2 Bd7 27.Nd2 b5 28.Nd1 Nd3 29.Rxa5 b4 30.Rxa8 bxc3 31.Rxe8 c2 32.Rxf8+ Kh7 33.Nf2 c1Q+ 34.Nf1 Ne1 35.Rh2 Qxc4 36.Rb8 Bb5 37.Rxb5 Qxb5 38.g4 Nf3+ 39.Bxf3 exf3 40.gxf5 Qe2 41.d5 Kg8 42.h5 Kh7 43.e4 Nxe4 44.Nxe4 Qxe4 45.d6 cxd6 46.f6 gxf6 47.Rd2 Qe2 48.Rxe2 fxe2 49.Kf2 exf1Q+ 50.Kxf1 Kg7 51.Kf2 Kf7 52.Ke3 Ke6 53.Ke4 d5+ 0–1

(2) Botvinnik,Mikhail -- Capablanca,Jose Raul [E49]
AVRO Holland (11), 22.11.1938

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 d5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 c5 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Bd3 0–0 9.Ne2 b6 10.0–0 Ba6 11.Bxa6 Nxa6 12.Bb2 Qd7 13.a4 Rfe8 14.Qd3 c4 15.Qc2 Nb8 16.Rae1 Nc6 17.Ng3 Na5 18.f3 Nb3 19.e4 Qxa4 20.e5 Nd7 21.Qf2 g6 22.f4 f5 23.exf6 Nxf6 24.f5 Rxe1 25.Rxe1 Re8 26.Re6 Rxe6 27.fxe6 Kg7 28.Qf4 Qe8 29.Qe5 Qe7 30.Ba3 Qxa3 31.Nh5+ gxh5 32.Qg5+ Kf8 33.Qxf6+ Kg8 34.e7 Qc1+ 35.Kf2 Qc2+ 36.Kg3 Qd3+ 37.Kh4 Qe4+ 38.Kxh5 Qe2+ 39.Kh4 Qe4+ 40.g4 Qe1+ 41.Kh5 1–0

(3) Byrne,Donald -- Fischer,Robert James [D97]
New York Rosenwald New York, 1956

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.d4 0–0 5.Bf4 d5 6.Qb3 dxc4 7.Qxc4 c6 8.e4 Nbd7 9.Rd1 Nb6 10.Qc5 Bg4 11.Bg5 Na4 12.Qa3 Nxc3 13.bxc3 Nxe4 14.Bxe7 Qb6 15.Bc4 Nxc3 16.Bc5 Rfe8+ 17.Kf1 Be6 18.Bxb6 Bxc4+ 19.Kg1 Ne2+ 20.Kf1 Nxd4+ 21.Kg1 Ne2+ 22.Kf1 Nc3+ 23.Kg1 axb6 24.Qb4 Ra4 25.Qxb6 Nxd1 26.h3 Rxa2 27.Kh2 Nxf2 28.Re1 Rxe1 29.Qd8+ Bf8 30.Nxe1 Bd5 31.Nf3 Ne4 32.Qb8 b5 33.h4 h5 34.Ne5 Kg7 35.Kg1 Bc5+ 36.Kf1 Ng3+ 37.Ke1 Bb4+ 38.Kd1 Bb3+ 39.Kc1 Ne2+ 40.Kb1 Nc3+ 41.Kc1 Rc2# 0–1

(4) Polugaevsky,Lev -- Nezhmetdinov,Rashid [A53]
Sochi, 1958

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 e5 4.e4 exd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qd2 g6 7.b3 Bg7 8.Bb2 0–0 9.Bd3 Ng4 10.Nge2 Qh4 11.Ng3 Nge5 12.0–0 f5 13.f3 Bh6 14.Qd1 f4 15.Nge2 g5 16.Nd5 g4 17.g3 fxg3 18.hxg3 Qh3 19.f4 Be6 20.Bc2 Rf7 21.Kf2 Qh2+ 22.Ke3 Bxd5 23.cxd5 Nb4 24.Rh1 Rxf4 25.Rxh2 Rf3+ 26.Kd4 Bg7 27.a4 c5+ 28.dxc6 bxc6 29.Bd3 Nexd3+ 30.Kc4 d5+ 31.exd5 cxd5+ 32.Kb5 Rb8+ 33.Ka5 Nc6+ 0–1

(5) Fischer,Robert James -- Stein,Leonid [C92]
Sousse (izt) 4/336, 1967

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3 Bb7 10.d4 Na5 11.Bc2 Nc4 12.b3 Nb6 13.Nbd2 Nbd7 14.b4 exd4 15.cxd4 a5 16.bxa5 c5 17.e5 dxe5 18.dxe5 Nd5 19.Ne4 Nb4 20.Bb1 Rxa5 21.Qe2 Nb6 22.Nfg5 Bxe4 23.Qxe4 g6 24.Qh4 h5 25.Qg3 Nc4 26.Nf3 Kg7 27.Qf4 Rh8 28.e6 f5 29.Bxf5 Qf8 30.Be4 Qxf4 31.Bxf4 Re8 32.Rad1 Ra6 33.Rd7 Rxe6 34.Ng5 Rf6 35.Bf3 Rxf4 36.Ne6+ Kf6 37.Nxf4 Ne5 38.Rb7 Bd6 39.Kf1 Nc2 40.Re4 Nd4 41.Rb6 Rd8 42.Nd5+ Kf5 43.Ne3+ Ke6 44.Be2 Kd7 45.Bxb5+ Nxb5 46.Rxb5 Kc6 47.a4 Bc7 48.Ke2 g5 49.g3 Ra8 50.Rb2 Rf8 51.f4 gxf4 52.gxf4 Nf7 53.Re6+ Nd6 54.f5 Ra8 55.Rd2 Rxa4 56.f6 1–0

(6) Fischer,Robert James -- Spassky,Boris V [D59]
Reykjavik (m/6) 14/547, 1972

1.c4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 0–0 6.e3 h6 7.Bh4 b6 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Bxe7 Qxe7 10.Nxd5 exd5 11.Rc1 Be6 12.Qa4 c5 13.Qa3 Rc8 14.Bb5 a6 15.dxc5 bxc5 16.0–0 Ra7 17.Be2 Nd7 18.Nd4 Qf8 19.Nxe6 fxe6 20.e4 d4 21.f4 Qe7 22.e5 Rb8 23.Bc4 Kh8 24.Qh3 Nf8 25.b3 a5 26.f5 exf5 27.Rxf5 Nh7 28.Rcf1 Qd8 29.Qg3 Re7 30.h4 Rbb7 31.e6 Rbc7 32.Qe5 Qe8 33.a4 Qd8 34.R1f2 Qe8 35.R2f3 Qd8 36.Bd3 Qe8 37.Qe4 Nf6 38.Rxf6 gxf6 39.Rxf6 Kg8 40.Bc4 Kh8 41.Qf4 1–0

(7) Karpov,Anatoly -- Kasparov,Garry [B44]
Moscow (m/16) 40/202, 1985

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nb5 d6 6.c4 Nf6 7.N1c3 a6 8.Na3 d5 9.cxd5 exd5 10.exd5 Nb4 11.Be2 Bc5 12.0–0 0–0 13.Bf3 Bf5 14.Bg5 Re8 15.Qd2 b5 16.Rad1 Nd3 17.Nab1 h6 18.Bh4 b4 19.Na4 Bd6 20.Bg3 Rc8 21.b3 g5 22.Bxd6 Qxd6 23.g3 Nd7 24.Bg2 Qf6 25.a3 a5 26.axb4 axb4 27.Qa2 Bg6 28.d6 g4 29.Qd2 Kg7 30.f3 Qxd6 31.fxg4 Qd4+ 32.Kh1 Nf6 33.Rf4 Ne4 34.Qxd3 Nf2+ 35.Rxf2 Bxd3 36.Rfd2 Qe3 37.Rxd3 Rc1 38.Nb2 Qf2 39.Nd2 Rxd1+ 40.Nxd1 Re1+ 0–1

(8) Ivanchuk,Vassily (2735) -- Jussupow,Artur (2625) [E67]
Brussels (m/9) 52/592, 1991

1.c4 e5 2.g3 d6 3.Bg2 g6 4.d4 Nd7 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Nf3 Ngf6 7.0–0 0–0 8.Qc2 Re8 9.Rd1 c6 10.b3 Qe7 11.Ba3 e4 12.Ng5 e3 13.f4 Nf8 14.b4 Bf5 15.Qb3 h6 16.Nf3 Ng4 17.b5 g5 18.bxc6 bxc6 19.Ne5 gxf4 20.Nxc6 Qg5 21.Bxd6 Ng6 22.Nd5 Qh5 23.h4 Nxh4 24.gxh4 Qxh4 25.Nde7+ Kh8 26.Nxf5 Qh2+ 27.Kf1 Re6 28.Qb7 Rg6 29.Qxa8+ Kh7 30.Qg8+ Kxg8 31.Nce7+ Kh7 32.Nxg6 fxg6 33.Nxg7 Nf2 34.Bxf4 Qxf4 35.Ne6 Qh2 36.Rdb1 Nh3 37.Rb7+ Kg8 38.Rb8+ Qxb8 39.Bxh3 Qg3 0–1

(9) Kasparov,Garry (2812) -- Topalov,Veselin (2700) [B07]
Wijk aan Zee 74/110, 1999

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Be3 Bg7 5.Qd2 c6 6.f3 b5 7.Nge2 Nbd7 8.Bh6 Bxh6 9.Qxh6 Bb7 10.a3 e5 11.0–0–0 Qe7 12.Kb1 a6 13.Nc1 0–0–0 14.Nb3 exd4 15.Rxd4 c5 16.Rd1 Nb6 17.g3 Kb8 18.Na5 Ba8 19.Bh3 d5 20.Qf4+ Ka7 21.Rhe1 d4 22.Nd5 Nbxd5 23.exd5 Qd6 24.Rxd4 cxd4 25.Re7+ Kb6 26.Qxd4+ Kxa5 27.b4+ Ka4 28.Qc3 Qxd5 29.Ra7 Bb7 30.Rxb7 Qc4 31.Qxf6 Kxa3 32.Qxa6+ Kxb4 33.c3+ Kxc3 34.Qa1+ Kd2 35.Qb2+ Kd1 36.Bf1 Rd2 37.Rd7 Rxd7 38.Bxc4 bxc4 39.Qxh8 Rd3 40.Qa8 c3 41.Qa4+ Ke1 42.f4 f5 43.Kc1 Rd2 44.Qa7 1–0

(10) Topalov,Veselin (2778) -- Anand,Viswanathan (2785) [E15]
Sofia 93/439, 2005

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.b3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Be7 7.Nc3 c6 8.e4 d5 9.Qc2 dxe4 10.Nxe4 Bb7 11.Neg5 c5 12.d5 exd5 13.cxd5 h6 14.Nxf7 Kxf7 15.0–0–0 Bd6 16.Nh4 Bc8 17.Re1 Na6 18.Re6 Nb4 19.Bxb4 cxb4 20.Bc4 b5 21.Bxb5 Be7 22.Ng6 Nxd5 23.Rxe7+ Nxe7 24.Bc4+ Kf6 25.Nxh8 Qd4 26.Rd1 Qa1+ 27.Kd2 Qd4+ 28.Ke1 Qe5+ 29.Qe2 Qxe2+ 30.Kxe2 Nf5 31.Nf7 a5 32.g4 Nh4 33.h3 Ra7 34.Rd6+ Ke7 35.Rb6 Rc7 36.Ne5 Ng2 37.Ng6+ Kd8 38.Kf1 Bb7 39.Rxb7 Rxb7 40.Kxg2 Rd7 41.Nf8 Rd2 42.Ne6+ Ke7 43.Nxg7 Rxa2 44.Nf5+ Kf6 45.Nxh6 Rc2 46.Bf7 Rc3 47.f4 a4 48.bxa4 b3 49.g5+ Kg7 50.f5 b2 51.f6+ Kh7 52.Nf5 1–0

I expect to show the students games four and ten from the list after describing each of the ten briefly, but the students might want to see one of the others. I will be flexible.


  1. This is the best game of chess ever played.


  2. Magnus Carlsen the best player who ever lived??? You must be kidding ...

    1. He has the highest rating. What other measure could matter?