In his book "School of Excellence: Endgame Analysis," IM Mark Dvoretsky analyzes two very similar endgames.
He writes: "The game Sultan Khan-Tartakower, played in 1931, was indeed almost completely identical to Dolmatov's [game played in 1988]. An amazing and extremely rare coincidence!"
Here are the games:
Indeed, not only are the positions pretty similar; they were reached after 46 moves in both games!
So, what's the chance that your game reaches an exact position that already happened in some other game? It depends on how many moves you have made. While the initial position is identical to every single regular chess game ever played, the more moves we play, the fewer predecessors we'll get.
Still, if you use a popular opening, the chances are your exact position was played before.
This opening tabia happened in over 7,000 master and grandmaster games! Now try to add just three reasonable-looking extra moves:
According to the database
, this position happened only in two master games!
Therefore, Mark Dvoretsky is absolutely correct; such amazing coincidence after more 40 moves of play are extremely rare.
Mathematicians claim that the number of possible chess positions is about 10^43! Moreover, there is a staggering "Shannon number,"
which is 10^120. This is how many unique chess games can be played over the span of 40 moves!
A person who doesn't play chess might wonder how you can even study such a complicated game if there are so many possible positions. Fortunately, while we obviously cannot study all the existing chess positions, we can still learn the typical chess patterns. It is very likely that you'll encounter at least one known chess pattern in your next game and therefore, the more chess patterns you know, the easier it is going to be for you to play!
Through the years I devoted a lot of space on this website to chess patterns, so you can check my past articles to learn more on this subject. You'll see that the best way to learn these patterns is to study the games played by great chess players.
In my last article
, I discussed the opening patterns you could learn from just one game by Rudolf Charousek, which he played 120 years ago! Let's see the other interesting ideas you could learn from his games.
Try to guess White's 13th move in the following position. Just one move!
Was it easy? You get major bonus points if you also correctly guessed White's idea. Was it this game that inspired Bobby Fischer to play the following gem?
As you can see in this old article
, what might have looked like madness 120 years ago is just a relatively common idea today!
Now try to find the winning combination in the following position:
This sparkling combination should be unique, right? Well, our fellow Chess.com member dpruess has executed a pretty similar attack:
You can improve your chess technique as well by studying typical endgame patterns.
Look at the following diagram. White has more space on the queenside and Black has doubled, isolated pawns there. You might think that White has all the chances in this endgame. You would be absolutely correct if the pawns d4 and d5 disappeared from the board.
But these two pawns restrict the movement of white bishop (some people would even call it a bad bishop!). Black's play is very instructive!
We can see a similar endgame pattern in the following game by Fischer:
White's bishop, restricted by his own d4 pawn, was very passive the whole endgame! By the way, you can learn an interesting endgame pattern in Fischer's game! Try to find what Black was doing in the following position:
Many chess players would just play 24...Kf8 to centralize the king, because that's what you do in endgames, right? But just like Fischer, GM Salov found the quickest way to activate his king and grab some space on the kingside!
Here is how the game ended:
I can only reiterate my advice from the article about Charousek's games
. When you re-play master and grandmaster games, don't just enjoy their beautiful combinations and plans.
Analyze every move, and try to learn something new, something you will be able to use in your next game.
While executing the ideas you have learned from Fischer's games might not make you the next world champion, you'll definitely become a better chess player!