Classical Games Everybody Should Know, Part 7

  • GM Gserper
  • | Oct 15, 2011

I am frequently asked if the classical games played by great champions should be memorized. In my opinion it is not necessary. But what you should do for sure is to understand and memorize the key ideas of those games.  If you learn typical patterns and manage to recognize them in your own games it will tremendously boost your playing strength.

When a beginner looks at a position on the board, in most cases he sees just a bunch of randomly placed pieces.  When a master does the same, he immediately sees a bunch of typical patterns.  Like that pawn formation on the Queen's side reminds me of one of Capablanca's games and that beautifully placed Nf5 helped Tal to checkmate his opponent in a similar situation and so on.  I hope you got the idea and therefore from now on will look for typical patterns in every great game you analyze.  To make your job easier, I'll help you to identify the key ideas of every single game we are going to analyze today. 

(Just like in most of my articles I give you a chance to test your chess skills, so the games are given as a Quiz.  Please remember that you can always replay the whole game from the first move if you click "Solution" and then "Move list".)


So, you replayed and enjoyed this beauty with excellent annotations by Garry Kasparov from his book "My Great Predecessors " ( If you don't have this monumental work of the great Champion, I strongly recommend you to get all the volumes.  The book is awesome!). You might think that the main pattern here is the Rook sacrifice.  Meanwhile the chances that you get exactly the same position where the same Rook sac would work are not that great. But if you noticed how strong White's attack became after he planted his Knight on the central e5 square and supported it with two pawns, then this is the pattern that can easily be recreated in your own games. If you are interested in this pattern, we discussed a similar idea here:  botvinniks-legacy-part-two
The next beautiful attacking game of Steinitz demonstrates another pattern you might want to remember.
Do you see what is the key idea of this game that you want to remember?  If not, then check these two articles:
Now let's look at the next game, which is probably the best one Steinitz ever played.
As any truly great game it has many useful ideas to remember and of course the final combination is truly amazing.  But the move that impressed me the most at the time when I first analyzed the game, was 17.d5!!  The unprotected pawn goes to the square attacked three times. The point of the sacrifice is just to clear the central d4 square for the Knight and open the 'c' file.  It was an eye-opener for me at that time.  Later I saw many games where a pawn was sacrificed just to clear a square for your pieces, but still, this Steinitz game made the deepest impression on me, probably because I saw this idea here the first time. Here is another classical game that shows the same idea:
I hope you enjoyed the games, learned new ideas and hopefully will use them in your own games.
Good luck!


  • 3 years ago


    I strongly disagree with the people that question the validity of studying old games in order to progress in chess. In fact, I think it's totally the opposite. In my opinion, beginners and intermediate players get much more benefit in terms of learning from studying games of old than contemporary ones, like in other areas of knowledge (if you study Physics you cant expect to understand Einstein's theory of Relativity if you haven't mastered Classical Physics first). I started playing chess less than one year ago and in my first explorations I tried a bit of everything; I bought Fischer's "My 60 memorable games" and after playing through some games I stopped because the games were too complex for my level. So now I'm holding to Chernev's "Logical Chess" and "The most instructive games of chess ever played", Tarrasch's "300 chess games", Del Rosario's primer on Morphy and Tartakower's "500 master games". Maybe after those I'll move onto Marschall, Rubinstein, Capablanca, Alekhine and so on. The articles and videos on are very useful and enjoyable (by the way, kudos to GM Serper, your articles are a delight). That doesn't mean I don't enjoy playing over Carlsen's games (who doesn't?). But someone said that the development of a chess player should mirror the historic development of chess (how could it be otherwise?). In Botvinnik's chess school it was compulsory the systematic study of the classics. I think it was the renowned chess author IM Watson who said that he only studied games of old (XIX century and first half of the 20th) till he was rated well over 2000 Elo. And Fischer himself was a devoted researcher of the old treasures, studying Greco's (1600's!!) or Philidor's masterpieces, or ordering one of his friends an obscure German Schach handbuch or a copy of Cochrane's opening treaty. And by the way,this is just plain especulation (especially with my chess level), but I don't really think that many GM's of today would have such an easy task defeating a resurrected Morphy or Lasker.Smile

  • 4 years ago


    There is a catch most of the postions black's king is un-castled....which generally is not the case

  • 5 years ago


    The point is to memorize patterns; positions that may arise in YOUR games that will help you implement a tactic, etc.

  • 5 years ago


    I solved the problem in...moving hither and thither...

    anyway, great article for me to learn,indeed.

  • 5 years ago


  • 5 years ago


     Note how the Rook cannot be taken..... If KxR, the Queen is captured with the check,while if ........ QxR, the Rook is captured with the check.

             25.Rxh7+   Black resigns because for it Kg8, White has a conclusive win or a mate in ten moves as Steinitz demonstrated at the time: 25...... Kg8; 26. Rg7+,Kh8; 27.Qh4+, Kxg7; 28.Qh7+,Kf8 29.Qh8+,Ke2; 30.Qg7+,Ke8; 31.Qg8+,Ke7; 32.Qf7+,Kd8; 33.Qf8+,Qe8; 34.Nf7+,Kd7; 35.Qd6#......

          Also another GM (I think was G.Serper) mentioned on his article.

  • 5 years ago


    In the 3rd game, Steinitz v. Bardeleben, I fail to see the conclusion of the game.  Can someone point it out?  Why does black resign after 25.Rxh7+?  I see no mate for white, only perpetual check and a draw.  If white fails to check, then he must move a pawn in front of his king or move his king, giving black a rook and maybe more.  I must be blind, what have I missed?  Thanks,

  • 5 years ago


    very good article.

  • 5 years ago


    Yes because memorizing old games will do no good in todays chess due to the advancement of chess as a whole. Masters know games deeper now so memorizing a weak position might hurt you. No disrespect to the old GMs but games in the 1800s and 1900s were beautiful games back then but now when checked against book knowledge and against chess engines are not so sound and would easily be defeated by GMs in todays circles. But yes understanding forks and pins and discovered checks would be invaluable

  • 5 years ago


    Thanks @Dumbix

  • 5 years ago


    thank you gm for sharing with us such amazing stuff..i struggled but managed to solve and understood everythn..thank you

  • 5 years ago


    Anyone wondering about 22. ... Qxe7 in Steinitz' immortal should click "move list". It shows a won endgame is reached where Steinitz is up a knight for a pawn.

  • 5 years ago


    @chakravyuha if 22...Qxe7 then 23 Rxc8 23.. Rxc8 24 Qxc8+ etc.. it will be a lost engame.. white is a piece up (the knight) and maybe a pawn up too !

  • 5 years ago


    I tried figuring out for a long time but can't.. why does Bardeleben not play 22...Qxe7

  • 5 years ago


    Luve the articles

  • 5 years ago


    @ Eventhorizont- Why next life-this is only great intuition (with little calculations).German style is very big calculations and ...little intuition.But ,of course, Adolf Anderssen,Johannes Zukertort,Siegbert Tarrasch,Carl Schlechter and Bobby Fischer-are greate GERMAN players-Big Masters of the Game...

  • 5 years ago



  • 5 years ago


    wait a second here.  In game 1,  couldn't white have finished more easily with, 20... Qxg6, if black responds Kf8 then white responds with Bh6++.  If black chooses h8 then white can use either Qh6++ or Qh7++.  Was this move not seen due to time constraint?  

  • 5 years ago


    The day I am able to calulate 20 moves ahead with all side variations included plus plenty of absolutely correct sacrifices will be reached somewhere NEXT LIFE. It's useless to 'know' games, which are on the level of genius...

  • 5 years ago

    NM flashboy2222

    12 0-0-0 1-0?

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