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The 10 Greatest Blitz Chess Games Of All Time

The 10 Greatest Blitz Chess Games Of All Time

NathanielGreen
| 80 | Amazing Games

The 2021 FIDE World Rapid & Blitz Championships will start on December 26. We covered the greatest rapid games ever several weeks ago. What about blitz?

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A great blitz game is often more than a matter of accuracy, but of stunning and unpredictable moves that keep the commentators and viewers—and, for the players, their opponents—on their toes. But the very best players can also win at blitz with high levels of accurate play. Both types of games, the dramatic and the accurate, can make for historically great blitz games.

From the invention of chess until at least the 1960s and up to even a few years ago, however, "historically great blitz" would have been considered an oxymoron. Now, almost in 2022, blitz chess has grown to be treated as an equally legitimate form of the game as the classical hours-long variety. It certainly has a reputation as friendlier to modern audiences, with our short attention spans and... What was I talking about again?

So, what are the best blitz games ever? There's almost too many to choose from, with literally billions having been played by now. But we tried to pick out 10 fascinating thrill rides.


Supi vs. Carlsen, 2020

When Chess.com held our Immortal Games contest in April 2021, this game came out on top, and for good reason. In just 18 moves, Brazil's GM Luis Paulo Supi defeated GM Magnus Carlsen (yes, that Magnus Carlsen) with a stunning sacrifice. It's one of those rare moves that speaks for itself.

Particularly amazing is that what looks like a slow buildup, Supi sacrificing a piece to double on the open a-file, becomes forced checkmate in what feels like an instant.

Don't discount the possibility that Supi had seen this pattern before. If you read our piece above on the best rapid games ever, you saw Kramnik-Anand 2008, which featured a mirror image of the same mating idea.

Supi Carlsen Kramnik Anand
Unlike in The Office, these are not the same picture. You can see the similarities, though.

But if Supi had seen the idea, Carlsen may not have. He was caught totally by surprise—just see his expression in this thumbnail:

Korchnoi vs. Fischer, 1970

Blitz chess was a thing before 1970, but only casually. The Herceg Novi blitz tournament was the first major event of its kind, and would be the only one for nearly two decades. GM Bobby Fischer was at the height of his powers in 1970, and he proved it at Herceg Novi with an absurd 19/22 score, winning the tournament by 4.5 points.

There are several Fischer games from this event to choose from, but his game with Black against GM Viktor Korchnoi was perhaps his best of the event.

Fischer's notes say more than enough about the game. About his tournament performance, Chess Life & Review wrote in July 1970: "The Soviet blitz specialists... all expected that Bobby would absorb some good lessons [but] instead of taking lessons he gave them to his peerless opponents."

Smirin vs. Anand, 1994

A big part of the drama in blitz isn't the moves themselves, but the time available in which to make them. Time is of the absolute essence, but in 1994, GM Viswanathan Anand showed that patience can pay off as well. With five minutes to play an armegeddon game, Anand spent 1:43 on move four.

Try not to tense up as commentators GM Daniel King and GM Maurice Ashley lose patience with Anand's forever-taking in the opening (uploaded here by an account unaffiliated with us).

As the announcers noted, Smirin's move order was unusual. Anand was trying to remember all the intricacies of this move order before committing. Here's the full game:

No one could have known in advance, but the time Vishy took ultimately paid off as he won the game. In his 2019 book Mind Master he reached this conclusion from the game: "It's a lesson that almost runs as a leitmotif through my career: It's not the worst idea to take a two-minute pause and get some clarity."

Once Smirin missed 18...Be4, as he must have when playing 17.Qxb7, and Anand saw it to keep his piece, the game was over. Even without a ton of time, Anand never lost the advantage afterwards, another display of his amazing speed as a younger player in the 90s—even if he did take 103 seconds on one move early in the game.

Ding vs. Carlsen, 2019

If Magnus ever did play a world championship against GM Ding Liren—a significant "if" at this point—he could not necessarily get away with drawing every classical game, with Ding having already proven he can take Magnus in speed chess even when the stakes are high.

The 2019 Sinquefield Cup went to tiebreaks after and Ding and Carlsen both scored 6.5/11, which Magnus achieved by winning his last two games after nine draws. (In fact, in the main event, 54 of the 66 games were draws, and 10 of the 11 players played three decisive games or fewer. The only exception: GM Ian Nepomniachtchi with six, which he split 3-3.)

Entering the tiebreaker round, Carlsen had won all of his last 10 tiebreaks, going back 12 years. Not only did Ding end that streak, but he did it in style. Chess.com named the second blitz tiebreak game as the eighth-best game of 2019, and that's at any time control.

Martinez vs. Shahade, 2021

Titled Tuesday is played 52 times a year, by hundreds of titled players each week, and for 11 rounds every tournament. Naturally, it has produced many great games, but this one played on August 24, 2021 may take the cake for pure wildness. It's one of those games that gets far too complicated for even masters to play perfectly in three minutes. That's why a great blitz game is sometimes about more than accuracy.

Let's let NM James Canty III take it away in our modestly-titled video about the contest—The Craziest Blitz Game Ever Played:

Crafty vs. Nakamura, 2007

Perhaps the earliest famous examples of GM Hikaru Nakamura's online brilliance were these troll jobs on older engines, played without increment at the Internet Chess Club. 

Well, the endings were troll-like, but the opening and middlegames weren't. NM Sam Copeland explains the Rybka game here, so the game for our list is the one vs. Crafty. It was played earlier, in 2007. And, although it's a matter of taste, underpromoting to a bunch of knights and checkmating is probably more amusing than doing the same thing with bishops.

ChessGames.com had the perfect pun for this contest—"Horsing Around":

It was also a purer effort than the one against Rybka; no exchange sac trickery this time. Just the closed-position destruction still possible for a top human against a mid-aughts engine. Now, of course, even the best humans would need to get odds to compete with a computer. And in three minutes without increment, it would take some pretty heavy odds.

So vs. Kasparov, 2016

From a four-player tournament in St. Louis starring the top three U.S. players and GM Garry Kasparov. Nakamura won the overall event, and by 2016 Kasparov was still capable of doing better than 2.5/18 in a high-level blitz tournament, but GM Wesley So's win over Kasparov was the game of the tournament. He didn't need any time to warm up, either, pulling it off in the first round of the tournament.

If you like pins and sacrifices, you won't want to miss it: 

It was an instant classic, receiving raves from nearly every publication that covered the event.

Mamedyarov vs. Corrales, 2021

Supi won the immortal game contest, so a different game was needed for the best queen sac. GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov earned it with this effort.

Watch Mamyedyarov pull it off here:

The computer prefers 11.Qe4, but the sac is a legitimate option, obviously scores the most style points, and Black has to give the queen back with 12...Qxc7 to stay competitive. Falling into a mate-in-one at the end isn't necessary either, but the only good move, 17...Kf6, sure doesn't feel like a good move, especially in blitz.

Smerdon vs. Balaji, 2017

This game features the lowest-rated competitors on the list, but you'll see why it makes it by move 17. It was runner-up to Supi-Carlsen in the Immortal Games contest.

Yes, this game actually happened and is not a puzzle. Somehow Black's 16...a6 traps his entire queenside after White's 17.a5 response. The knight on b8 now has zero squares, with a6, c6, and d7 all occupied and blockaded. Because of that, the rook on a8 can't go anywhere besides a7 and back. And the same pawns blocking the knight also shut in the light-squared bishop. Now that's a bad bishop!

After trading everything else off, White begins trolling his pieces away. Amusingly, this actually blows the advantage, but White is never losing the game despite being down two pieces, and the computer actually needs a few seconds to decide that the position is equal, not losing, for White after 25.Re8+ (a move Smerdon admitted to as being a bit "cheeky"). It's always nice to trick a computer these days, even briefly.

When the dust settles, White's free bishop and rampant kingside pawns checkmate Black just as Black is finally trying to break back out. A silly ending fitting for a silly game. 

Niemann vs. Nakamura, 2020

Uncovered when we wrote and recorded about Nakamura's best moves on Chess.com was this dandy. 

Nakamura played GM Hans Niemann 20 times on this date, won all but one, and was above 90% accuracy in nearly every game. Some of us have a hard enough time getting 90% once in 20 times, but you don't need me to tell you that's why Hikaru's Hikaru.

Conclusion

If you want all 10 of our games in a single PGN, here you go:

Not a single game from the World Rapid & Blitz made our list, nor did any Carlsen game. But there's a first time for everything, and maybe the next great blitz game is coming right up.

What other games would you have put on this list? Let us know in the comments!

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