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One of the Greatest Moves in History

Knowing the basic chess principles is, of course, very important for any chess player to be successful. Develop early, control the center, protect your king, and, of course, do not lose or hang your pieces.

However, being a good chess player goes way beyond that. There are times where you have to simply forget about these basic general principles and make moves or plans that appear very counter-intuitive. And for me personally, it is these situations which make playing chess truly rewarding and beautiful.

To give a little taste for what I am talking about, here is an example of an endgame where making the "intuitive" move loses!

Black's king will without a doubt successfully run and catch White's pawn on h2. White's only hope for a draw is to bring his king close enough so that once Black's king captures the h2-pawn, the White king can reach the f2 (or f1), which is then a clear-cut draw.

So it is White to move, and you have only two possible moves: Kc8 or Ka8. Surely, Kc8 is the correct move, right? You are moving the king closer to the kingside where the pawns are, and this must be the correct first step (if it exists) for White to achieve the draw. However, look what happens:

So Kc8 does not work, and if you calculate this at the board you might think that all hope is lost. You shake your head, bang your head against the table, and maybe start crying a bit. 

However, you know where I am going with this, and in fact maybe this puzzle was not that difficult for you to have figured out from the beginning. But in fact, Ka8! actually draws! The reason is the following: Black will make it to the g2-square as fast possible, and the b6-c6-d5-e4-f3-g2 route is one of the few optimal routes. Thus, when White moves Kc8, Black goes ...Kc6, which follows the optimal route while at the same time putting White in opposition and the White king must stay back on the 8th rank. By moving Ka8 instead, ...Kc6 or ...Kc5 is not an opposition, and White can move the king to the 7th rank next move in such a way that White can successfully trap Black's king when Black captures the h2-pawn.

Perhaps that's a lot to take in using my words, so I'll show you here:

This is a very simple and perhaps not-too-difficult of a situation where one may move against their intuition. I will now jump the difficulty level just a teeny bit, and I want to show you a situation from an actual game where Black, who was Shirov, played a move so shocking that I feel most grandmasters even would not even consider (though maybe I am putting words in GMs mouths!).

Opposite-colored bishop endgames are notoriously known for being draws. Even in this case, Black is up two passed pawns, but a win appears very difficult. For example, if 47. ...Bd3, then 48. Kf2 Kf5 49. Ke3, and White successfully centralized the king, and the White bishop is successfully preventing Black's passed pawns from reaching their desired queening squares.

If you looked at the sample line I just gave, it would appear that if Black had just one extra move (i.e. one more tempo), then Black can get the king to e4 and begin pushing the d-pawn with ...d4, and have a much better chance of winning. Can Black do this? Just look at what Shirov does:

I personally love to witness (and maybe come up!) such creative and beautiful moves as ... Bh3. And I hope you do too!

Julian

Comments


  • 21 months ago

    WorstPlyrEvr

    I think once you diagnose that the game will be difficult to win despite the pawn advantage's, as Mr. Landlaw does, you look for work arounds. The bishop sac creates not only doubled pawns but on the right alley, so Shirov had only a few moves to calculate in order to conclude he would win if the sacrifice was completed. So, good move, but !!!   Hmm. I think more players than you think would get it, depending on the time interval of course.

  • 21 months ago

    SharmaPawan

    WOW

  • 23 months ago

    talhah

    WOW. Bh3!!! what a spectacular move. Thanks for sharing

  • 2 years ago

    Maleo

    To a player like me, Bh3 is unthinkable.

  • 2 years ago

    nokhangjon

    Nice piece of article, informative and inspirational :D

  • 2 years ago

    mmcha

    thanks for sharing that.  how does one even begin to calculate a bishop sac like that? genius!

  • 2 years ago

    shLihg

    A different look of the same reality! That is the brilliance of chess... Nice jLan...

  • 2 years ago

    DonLawson

    Lateral thinking at its best!

  • 2 years ago

    elyar91

    what a move!!

  • 2 years ago

    qsanat

    Why is everyone immortal against Topalov?? jus kiddin...

  • 2 years ago

    JoeTheV

    Maybe not the best game in history compared to, say Kasparov's Immortal, but defintely the best move ever, even better than Kasparov's 20.Rxd4.  Just my view, and such a brilliant bishop sac.

  • 2 years ago

    _36darshan--

    The bishop move is great.

  • 2 years ago

    Elubas

    That move really is absolutely incredible. Sure, it makes sense once you see it, but over the board it would be so hard to ignore that part of your brain that automatically discounts moves that "obviously lose material." You know, moves like Be5 or Bxf6 for white, that just obviously lose a piece. Many people would probably look at ...Bh3 in the same way and completely discredit it, and not do any analysis on the move at all.

  • 2 years ago

    Namssob

    I'm barely a 1400 rated player, and I am proud to say I saw the Bishop move!!!  But then again I'm known for making stupid moves that never work.  I think I just got lucky this time - nice article!!

  • 2 years ago

    elindauer

    I would love to know how much time Shirov spent calculating variations before pulling the trigger on this move.

  • 2 years ago

    Black__Knight

    Thank you Master Julian Landaw. I love the endgame, and I hope you continue with this theme. 

    The last puzzle was beautiful. That was some nifty footwork by the king.

  • 2 years ago

    evilchesslord

    My coach showed me the last game as  the greatest move in the history of chess, and yes it is amazing!

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