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In chess the most famous (or “greatest” or “best”) games are often played offhand or in insignificant events, with one player beating a much weaker opponent in the opening or early middlegame.
The Duke and the Count were amateurs that lost quickly against a Morphy that didn’t have to think for more than seconds before playing his moves. Anderssen’s immortal and evergreen games were both played for fun and meant nothing competition wise. Najdorf’s “Polish Immortal” was played against someone who only had that one game recorded in his life. The Game of the Century was won by Fischer against an opponent that became an IM first many years later.
Games like these are often counted as the most memorable or greatest in polls and books, but in sports it’s different. The most memorable tennis matches would be competitive finals between the greatest players, like Borg-McEnroe or Federer-Nadal in Wimbledon. Never a training match where Djokovic beats some amateur 6-0 6-0 6-0 because of the many pretty winners. In football a World Cup final between Brazil and Italy would be a popular choice, not a friendly where Spain beats Fiji 22-0 because there are more pretty goals in the latter game. Ali-Foreman will always be more remembered than any sparring session without competitive value.
But in chess the competitive part isn’t important in the same way. Many one-way-traffic offhand games decided before the 20th move are rated as much more memorable than any World Championship game. Kasparov and Karpov could be the two greatest players ever, but none of the 144 games they played in their title matches will ever be remember as well as the Duke and the Count’s reaching a lost position after 10 moves against a guy that was more concentrated on watching the opera. Alekhine and Capablanca are two of the greatest players ever, but how many remember one of the games between them? What’s the most immortal game Lasker played in his seven title matches?
Nakamura has scored good results recently, but the games of his that are most well known are not his wins against Anand, Aronian and Kramnik in super tournaments but these Internet blitz efforts:
Nakamura’s wins with black against Kramnik in the top tournaments in London 2010 and Dortmund 2011 have been included in 5 game collections at Chessgames.com, while the above blitz games are included in 108 game collections at the time of writing.
Of course there are also many top games that are well known, but on the whole chess fans don’t seem to think that games have to be high level or played in (important) competitions to be memorable, at least compared to how it is with tennis, boxing, football etc fans.
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