The Best Chess Game Ever Played

  • GM Gserper
  • | Sep 25, 2011

First of all, let me assure you that I am not discontinuing my 'classical games' series. As a matter of fact, this is a continuation of our journey through the classics. But the game I am going to present today is so beautiful and instructive that I decided to devote a whole article to it. Also I need to make a disclaimer in anticipation of your possible objections. When we talk about the best or most beautiful things it is always a matter of taste. You ask 10 people to name the most beautiful painting ever produced and the chances are you'll get 10 different answers. And of course we have the same situation with chess games since chess is also a form of art.

But let me explain the reason for my choice of the best game ever played. The first reason (and possibly the main reason) is it was the first chess game played by a strong player I ever saw.  Of course by the time I saw this game I already had played countless games myself and also saw many games played by my peers. But when I joined a chessclub and our coach showed us this game it completely changed my vision of chess. Before that exact moment, chess was just one of many board games for me, but after I saw this game I realized that chess is a unique World of its own-- I instantly realized the beauty of the Game!

The second reason is the beauty of this game.  I doubt that anyone would argue that this is not one of the most beautiful games ever played.

And the third reason is the instructive value of the game. In my opinion this single game can teach you more about chess than many entire chess books.

Before we proceed any further, I think it is time to reveal the game I am talking about (some of you have probably guessed it already anyway). It is the famous 'Opera Game' by Paul Morphy. In this short game Morphy has demonstrated practically all the most important chess concepts.

1) The Importance of Develoment.

I think every single chess player knows why it is important in the opening to develop your pieces as quickly as possible. Yet, judging by the games my students play on, it is still a popular strategy to play some useless moves (like a3 or h3) which just waste time and don't help to develop your pieces in any way.  Please notice how quickly and effortlessly Morphy develops all his pieces.

2) Forcing Moves.  

It is an extremely important concept in chess. Forcing moves by definition force your opponents to play what you want them to play, not what they want to play. Since chess is essentially a war between two players, a person who manages to force his will upon his opponent usually wins and this is why forcing moves are so important in chess. There are three different kinds of forcing moves: checks, captures and threats. I already talked a lot about forcing moves in one of my previous articles (, so you might want to refresh your knowledge there.  This Morphy's game is unique in the sense that out of 17 moves only 2 were not forcing moves!  Considering that it is impossible to play a forcing move on move one, all Morphy's moves but one were forcing moves! That is really powerful chess!

3) The Main Principle of an Attack.

I cannot tell you how many times I had the same kind of conversation with my students:

Student (S): I had such a promising attack and yet it went nowhere, what was wrong?

Me: You played Qh5, Ng5 and you call it a promising attack?

S: But I threatened a checkmate in one!

Me: Yes, but your opponent could easily defend against it besides how could you expect to beat him with just two attacking pieces vs. his five defenders?

S: (Silence)

This carries a very simple and important point. Your attack has the best chance to succed when you have more attacking pieces than the number of defenders. Consequently, when you attack, you want to bring as many pieces into attacking position as possible!  Morphy brought all his pieces for the attack!  How can you defend against an attack like that?

As I said I could write a book about this game alone because it features a whole bunch of different concepts, but if you master just the three above-mentioned ideas, you'll be a much better player!

So, here is the Morphy game given as a Quiz, so you can compare your moves to the moves Morphy actually played. Don't forget that all Morphy's moves (except move 9) were forcing moves! If you don't immediately understand why some particular move of his is indeed a forcing move, take your time and try to find out the answer since it is one of the most important concepts in chess.  Good luck!



  • 6 weeks ago

    NM FLchessplayer

    Wednesday; September 7th, 2016.

    I now am 58 years old, and I have been playing chess since I was three or four. I played in my first tournament when I was six, my first USCF-rated game when I was eight. (1966) I have won dozens of tournaments, I have been a LIFE Master for nearly 30 years now.

    I have been analyzing chess games all my life, I have been writing about the game since I was 10. (In a regional publication for school children.) I have written articles for many different state magazines and I was the "Games Editor" for FL Chess for nearly 15 years. I have hundreds of web pages which have won numerous awards.

    I say all this NOT to brag, but to make two points:

    1. I have as much experience as anyone and more than most.
    2. I have analyzed thousands of chess games. (One of my CB files has close to 30,000 miniatures, all are annotated, about 10% are deeply annotated.)
    Games played by equal players are NOT necessarily interesting, I could show you a MANY WCS games ... that went over 75 moves (at least!) ... and ended in a draw, most would put the average chess player to sleep.
    I think I am qualified to make judgements about this game ...
    1. For the era in which this game was played, its level is simply outstanding and far ahead of its time.
    2. Its level of economy and efficiency is unsurpassed, even today. I invite ANYONE to show me a game in the same number of moves - and ends in mate - where you checkmated with the last two pieces. (I have seen a couple of games ... some much longer ... and they are downright ugly, contrived and contain many wasted moves.)  
    3. The beauty of the game is easily appreciated, not one ugly move, many of the pundits who analyzed this game 100 years ago could have never thought that one day there would be chess engines which find the strongest moves and are free from ANY bias. THIS GAME IS A WORK OF PURE CHESS ART!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    4. I have all the books on Morphy, and I have many web pages on this game. I am familiar with just about anything ever written about this game, 75% of it is way off base and some is pure sniping.
    5. The game's instructional value makes it unique, why have so many authors all taken a look at this historic encounter? (Because it is a paragon of force, simplicity and economy.)
    To summarize, enjoy the game ... and forget what the critics have said about it, most of these have never played the game at Morphy's level, anyway. 
    #1.) My main web page for this game, over 250K hits now.
    #2.) A brand-new ... re-appraisal of this game. (Here.) 
  • 6 months ago


    A beautiful elegant game!

  • 11 months ago


    It's very amazing game Laughing.I loved it.  by looking at this game, we can see how Morphy has think before moving a piece.And his knowlege about TIME.

  • 3 years ago


    What I liked most about Morphy was how easy he made it look winning.

  • 3 years ago


  • 3 years ago


    fully controled game very nice game .

  • 3 years ago

    NM FLchessplayer

  • 3 years ago

    NM FLchessplayer

    Be sure so see my web page AND my video on this game ... 

  • 3 years ago


    morpy is all time great player.

  • 3 years ago


    fantastic very creative specialy long castle and queen moves.

  • 3 years ago


    morphy would crush fischer,carlsen,...

  • 4 years ago


    I cannot jump to the conclusion that this is the greatest game ever.  Why not take Fischer's game against Robert Byrne in 1963 (but not his against Donald)?

  • 4 years ago


    What is the best chess program

  • 4 years ago


    Woodrow, you are right that it was easy for Morphy to spot the last few moves to mate and that the competition was amateurish. (The Count and Duke are even sometimes referred to as amateurs in this game. Only their social celebrity status had most everyone recognize them.)

    Still, two things can be pointed out. Only the best of those days could see such things. Howard Staunton might have missed it. Today, every learned chessplayer can execute these combinations BECAUSE we have learned from the originals.

    Second, Morphy alone could get into such positions easily because he was THE first positional player in open positions. He understood the value of quick development and open lines while other geniuses like Adolf Anderssen did not. Coupled with his sound tactical ability, he performed feats of chess magic in those early days of primitive chess. Nowadays, every chessplayer with a chessbook knows about developing your pieces.

    I try to imagine what it was like to see Morphy play in 1857-1858 instead of today to better appreciate him. Same with Greco, Philidor, Anderssen, etc.

  • 4 years ago

    FM KBachler

    @Woodrow - see my comment in the comments section about Duke Karl's strength.

  • 4 years ago


    There has been a lot of discussion, pros and cons, about this game being the greatest. What if it simply was renamed "The Most Beautiful Game of Chess Ever Played"? My guess is that since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that the most beautiful things in life are simplicity in itself, not too many can argue with that. Meanwhile, Fischer vs Robert Byrne would be "The Most Profound Game of Chess Ever Played", Fischer vs Donald Byrne "Combination of the Century", and Anderssen vs Kiesertsky "The Immortal Sacrifice Game".

    Just a suggestion.

  • 4 years ago

    FM KBachler

    @Lucie - there are many analytical issues with the Immortal Game.  In the Opera Game, the analytical issues are minor, and in fact its possible to derive nearly the entire game for White based purely on rigorous application of Steinitzian principles (thus confirming that Morphy "knew" things that other players of his era did not.)  It is this fact, along with the extreme clarity that make this game more beautiful than some of the alternatives you mention.  It is a very pure example of chess thinking, and one can argue has very little tactical calculation in it, even though there are tactics.  That is - the tactics derive directly from general principles.  THAT is what contributes to the beauty of this game.

  • 4 years ago


    Although this game displays the sheer beauty of Paul Morphy's positional understanding and his incredible tactical ability, there are games out there that would most likely be of a "better" quality. Take, for example, the well known "Immortal Game" between Adolf Anderrsen and Lionel Kieseritzky. 

    Although the opening theory was definetely not as far developed as those provided for us today, it provides an excellent example of both the strategical along with the tactical essence whenever you play a game of chess. 

    Ask any experienced chess player whether or not they know of the "Immortal Game" and I'm sure it would spark a light to them. 

    And what about Bobby Fischer's Match of the Century? The game that sparked the imagination of the entire American nation? Or, what about the time when Fisher, a 14 year old teen overtook the entire Russian soviets and became the world champion? 

  • 4 years ago


    Jabarjast Game

  • 4 years ago


    This game was shown as an example in the encyclopedia we had at home when I was a kid. I came to appreciated it after learning the game. Undoubiously a GREAT game but hardly the greatest ever.

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