The 7 Most Amazing World Championship Moves

The 7 Most Amazing World Championship Moves

NM SamCopeland
Nov 1, 2016, 12:00 AM |
38 | Amazing Games

It's every chess player's dream. With the world's eyes on you, you unleash a move so stunning, so spectacular that it stuns the audience who cannot help but audibly and theatrically gasp.

In chess, the pinnacle of competition is the world championship. While inspiring chess moves have been unleashed in all manner of settings, there's something special about a brilliancy played in the world championship.

Here are seven moves that dazzled the world, and in some cases, altered the course of chess history.

#7: 25...Qd3!! from Kramnik vs Leko 2004, Game 8

Vladimir Kramnik is legendary for his opening preparation. In 2000, it won him the world championship against Garry Kasparov, arguably the greatest world champion, but in 2004, his opening preparation let him down against Hungarian prodigy, Peter Leko.

Over the board, Leko found the stunning 25...Qd3!! The calm infiltration allowed Black to queen a new pawn, but it soon became clear that Kramnik's king was in a mating net. An exciting subtext was that Leko had not only beaten Kramnik, he had beaten Kramnik's compute- assisted home prep. Leko took a one-game lead in the match and held onto it until the final game of the match (the 14th) which Kramnik won with remarkable endgame play.

Kramnik and Leko pre-game. | Photo chessgames.com.

#6: 18...a6!! from Spassky vs Petrosian 1966, Game 7

Tigran Petrosian and Boris Spassky are the unsung heroes of the world championships. Perhaps because these players were not particularly controversial or showy, their matches are under-celebrated. They are are full of combative, combinative, and deep positional play that will reward any viewer.

In game seven, Petrosian played one of the great prophylactic games of all time. 18...a6 completely froze Spassky's play on the queenside and gave Petrosian a free hand on the kingside. He did not disappoint, offering a trademark exchange sacrifice and finishing in beautiful style. This was the first decisive game of the match, which Petrosian won 12.5-11.5. Three years later, Spassky had grown as a player, and he bested Petrosian, stealing the title he would later famously lose to Bobby Fischer.

#5: 11...Nh5!? from Fischer vs Spassky 1972, Game 3

Fischer's 11...Nh5!? has since been questioned, but over the board, it brought great success against Spassky. Fischer had lost game one after one of the infamous world championship blunders ever, and in game two, he had forfeited. Returning to the board in game three, he uncorked this novelty and reminded the world of his greatness.

The move itself is delightfully paradoxical, offering Spassky the chance to wreck his pawn structure in return for activity and Fischer's beloved bishop pair. Right or wrong, no other move on this list has inspired a t-shirt!

Tobey Maguire (emoting heavily) and Liev Schreiber in '72  

#4: 47.Ng2!! from Karpov vs Kasparov 1984, Game 9

This list could easily be composed exclusively of moves played between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov, but we will restrict ourselves to one celebrated move from each player. 47.Ng2!! is vintage Karpov: clear, logical, and precise.

In such a simple endgame, to decline to recapture a pawn is the ultimate paradox; most players (including Kasparov) would not even consider an alternative to 47.gxh4?, but Karpov's declination turns out to be the only move that brings victory.

The win brought Karpov a 4-0 lead. At the time, the match seemed all but over, but Kasparov dug in his heels, further conceding only game 27, and eventually winning game 32 (his first win of the match!) and games 47 and 48 before the match was infamously curtailed.

#3: 41.Nd7!! from Kasparov vs Karpov 1986, Game 22

It's easy to forget that Kasparov's retention of his world championship after the 1985 match was by no means an easy feat. He very nearly lost the title back to Karpov in 1986 and again in 1987.

In the 1987 rematch, Kasparov's back was against the wall. Karpov had leveled the match with three straight wins in games 17, 18, and 19. Kasparov desperately needed a win in this game, and he looked to be near the desired result. However, when the game adjourned, most grandmasters thought the win had slipped through Kasparov's fingers. Kasparov was the exception; with gleeful enthusiasm, he informed his seconds of the beautiful (and winning) variations he had seen over the board.

The win secured the lead, and after draws in games 23 and 24, Kasparov retained the title.

#2: 15.Nb3!! from Kasparov vs Anand 1995, Game 10

Hikaru Nakamura once said of Kasparov, "He was able to get advantages out of the openings so that was his main strength...When he wasn’t able to do that, that’s why he lost his title to Kramnik."

Poppycock! Kasparov's over-the-board play was absolutely incredible, but there is no denying that his opening preparation was top-notch, top-shelf, top-drawer, and top pretty-much-anything-else.

Nowhere was his opening preparation on greater display than in his match against Viswanathan Anand, where he absolutely rocked his opponent with an opening novelty. It's the fantasy of every lover of the opening: finding a sacrificial novelty and refutation and unleashing this weapon to fanfare and acclaim from chess players everywhere.

The final score (10.5-7.5) suggests that Kasparov defeated Anand handily in the match so it is easy to think that this game lacked significance, but in fact, Anand had just won game nine, the first decisive game of the match. This rebound leveled the match and catapulted Kasparov to wins in games 11, 13, and 14.

Kasparov and Anand atop the World Trade Center. | Photo chessgames.com.

#1: 21...Nf4!!? from Botvinnik vs Tal 1960, Game 6

So Tal, so good! It's rare for a player to so perfectly sum up his approach to chess in a single move, but 21...Nf4!!? encompassed everything Mikhail Tal stood for in chess. The daring and seemingly out-of-the-blue piece sacrifice is not entirely correct, but it posed the Russian patriarch, Mikhail Botvinnik, insurmountable problems over the board.

Tal himself described the move in nearly mundane terms. Would that we could all so easily find (and courageously play!) such creative ideas.

What do you think? Are these the most amazing world championship moves ever? Or are there some glaring and disgusting omissions?!

Tell us your favorites in the comments!

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