Do You Know Classic Chess Games Better Than Magnus Carlsen?

Do You Know Classic Chess Games Better Than Magnus Carlsen?

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These days, aspiring chess players have an access to a ginormous amount of information. Databases, online training tools, books, magazines, software, YouTube videos... you name it. Sounds great, right? Well, the other side of the coin is that it is virtually impossible to absorb even a fraction of this information. Besides, to put it mildly, the quality of many sources is very questionable.

In the ancient times of my youth, any new chess book was a major event! You would rush to a store to buy it before the book was completely sold out in two or three days. Since chess books were scarce, we didn't have many of them, but we read and re-read them numerous times. As a result, we almost knew these books by heart.

I remember a funny game we played with a future GM Michail Brodsky. One of us would quote a random comment from a book and you would have to guess where it came from. For instance, I would say, "This defense, with its constant passivity, has always had a depressive effect on me" and Michail would answer: "Karpov's Selected Games", Karpov-Zaitsev, Russian championship 1970, a comment after 1...c6. 

Fast forward to these days and we have a video of GM Magnus Carlsen guessing classical games. Since it was re-tweeted many times, it is funny to see the reaction of people who don't play chess. It kind of reminds me of the way I impressed my classmates in the fifth grade. I told them that they could call out any square on a chessboard and I would tell them the color of that square without looking at the board. They praised my phenomenal memory. I never told them that any player rated above 1500 could easily do such a task because my next step was going to be playing them blindfold!

The moment when Carlsen correctly called the game Zapata - Anand after just two moves was especially impressive to a general public who saw it as a kind of sorcery. Now do a little experiment. Go to your local chess club and tell any master that you are going to show him a very famous classical game, so he needs to guess it as quickly as possible. I bet that after just two moves 1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6, they will answer "Opera game".

Finally, let's talk about the episode where Magnus correctly guessed the game from the first Harry Potter movie. Actually, I would be shocked if he didn't. Why? Let me give you a simple example. This is a very old Soviet fairy tell which is sort of like the Harry Potter of my generation. If you don't speak Russian, fast forward to 4:10

At our young age, we probably did not notice the belly dancers who tried to distract the protagonist, but any Soviet schoolboy who played chess would immediately recall the smothered mate featured in the movie.

Now let me offer you a test that would be challenging for Carlsen. The concept is very simple. Look at the following position. I am sure that most of you will recognize the game because it is famous exactly for this final position:

But would you be able to recognize this game by the position that happened earlier?

So, you'll have to correctly guess a famous classical game by the position that happened before the moment that made the game famous. Ready to start?

Position #1

Position #2

Position #3

Position #4

Position #5

It wasn't that easy, was it? My estimate is that Carlsen would correctly guess no less than 3, but no more than 4. Let's check your solutions:

Game #1:

Yes, it is the famous "Alekhine's Gun" game.

Game #2

It is one of the most unexpected checkmates in the history of World championships.

Game #3

Short's famous King walk. 

Game # 4

It is one of the most famous moves in chess history.

Game #5

It is one of the best games ever played!

Let's compare your results:

0 games  - Don't be upset, as I mentioned above, this would be a very challenging test even for the World Champion!

1-2 games - You are a true chess aficionado who knows their classical games!

3-4 games - Fantastic job! On par with Carlsen!

5 games - Huge respect to you! But... are you sure that by accident you didn't slide your browser down to the answer section while guessing the games?

Please share in the comments how many games you guessed correctly and how many games you believe Magnus Carlsen would guess correctly.

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