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!



  • 4 years ago


    queenside castle is awesome, sometimes unexpected from white, castleing often gives black a reprieve, but this one just adds to the pressure, a truly great game

  • 4 years ago


    I just note that if Count Isouard had played 10...Qb4+ the attack would have been muted. Black would still be lost but the train of sacrifice would be broken.

  • 4 years ago


    This game is well worth studying!! I added one more point to an arsenal that was getting rusty! Thank you very much. Embarassed

  • 4 years ago


    I love using a queenside castle as a forcing move. That is a beautiful game, and I understood a lot of it, which is rare for me. :D

  • 4 years ago


    Hey I got this almost right.

  • 4 years ago


    Beautiful game!I show it to my pupils many times.

  • 4 years ago


    Excellent game. Thanks for sharing it as a quiz as well. It improved the instructional value of the article immensely. I would also like to point out that this game could also be used to illustrate when it IS a good idea to bring one's queen out early. Obviously, in order to recapture material, but also to maintain pawn structure as well as to take advantage of positional weaknesses.

  • 5 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    Great collection, your translation is excellent! Thanks

  • 5 years ago


    Some interesting quotes about Paul Morphy:

    "Until today, Morphy is an unsurpassed master in open games. Just find the evidence that nothing substantially new has been created in the field since Morphy. Every player, from beginner to master, you should play, again and again, the games of the American genius. "(Mikhail Botvinnik)

    "From the first moves, Morphy was to show the internal energy contained in its pieces. The truth is that, suddenly, his pieces had much more dynamic than the enemy forces." (Emanuel Lasker)

    "Morphy was the first positional player who understood the strategic base attack unlike their romantic rivals." (Richard Reti)

    "Morphy can be considered the true founding father of modern chess." (Gary Kasparov)

    "Morphy won his games playing in a simple and straightforward, and that logical method is what constitutes the true brilliance of his game, at least when considered from the point of view of the great masters" (José Raúl Capablanca)

    "If the hallmark of a genius is that it is far ahead of his time, then chess Morphy was a genius in the fullest sense of the term." (Max Euwe)

    "He played, if we may so express it, a pure chess. Its harmonious and deep positional understanding intuition Morphy would have made a very dangerous opponent for even the most skilled players of our era" (Vassily Smyslov)

    "Morphy was probably the greatest genius of all. What he did was extraordinary "(Bobby Fischer)

    "Help your pieces to help you" (Paul Morphy)


    (Sorry for bad translation)

  • 5 years ago


    I just played through the moves once again of the "Opera" game between Morphy and Isouard. I also re-read some of the comments.

    I will grant that many modern grandmaster games feature closer contests where both players play at a very high level. Modern players would have played better than Isouard. They know the openings better, having learned from earlier play. No master would follow Isouard's footsteps with 3...Bg4?!

    There is not one move by Morphy that I would change - even with the passage of time and the benefit of hindsight. I don't think anyone could have played better as white. What more can one ask of a player? His play was logical, crisp, instructive, devastating, and the conclusion artistic.

  • 5 years ago


    The Anderssen-Kieseritzky game has a beautiful finish. I don't think the moves of the game are totally unreasonable at any point. Let's start at the start. The King's gambit (2f4) is not white's most popular move. Within the King's gambit, white usually plays 3Nf3, rather than 3Bc4. Black's preferred response is 3...Nf6. That is the move that Gary Kasparov chose to play last month against Nigel Short. But please note: Short won that game.

    3Bc4 has recently been advocated in Dangerous Weapons 1e4 e5. The leadoff game is Anderssen-Kieseritzky. 3...b5 is currently considered to be dubious. But it is not unreasonable to deflect the bishop that way. You see it in the Evans Gambit. Morphy himself played 3...b5 in the same position as Kieseritzky. Estrin and Glaskov analyze this game. Both players can vary, and perhaps improve, at various moves. However the last opportunity they give black to vary is on move 8 where they quote Kieseritzky's analysis of 8...g6! leading to an advantage to black.

  • 5 years ago


  • 5 years ago


    Great article!

  • 5 years ago


    What makes the game beautiful is how " Precise" he played. There was no let up from move 1. It looks like a simple game as we play over it, but we all know that being precise OTB is a skill.

  • 5 years ago


    Thanks for the article. Even though I research a lot, and I am pretty knowledgeable, in my mind at least, about chess, I have actually never heard of this game. I rarely look at Morphy's games, but now, I am very interested! Laughing

  • 5 years ago


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  • 5 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    Glad to be of some help. All the games presented in this thread are great games anyone would be glad to have played. I will confess that part of my bias to Morphy is that we share a birthday, June 22!

  • 5 years ago


    ok i was wrong! Black played little stupid and i was REALLY stupid when i sayed than Immortal game is better! Rubinstens game and Horowitz-Davis game are beautiful to! Thanks for opening my eyes BMcC333!!!!!Smile    

  • 5 years ago


    Well, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, whether they feel that this is the best game or not. The problem I have with considering it anywhere near the best of the best is that, though it does illustrate the importance of development very nicely, it doesn't really address a lot of other imbalances in the game, such as an exploitation of space finishing off with a powerful attack, or using tactics in order to get small positional gains. In my opinion the best part of this game is the very pretty combination; the rest of the play consisted mostly of merely logical, natural, principled, strong attacking moves -- the knight sac was again good, but not exceptional, since many players these days would have a feeling that it would work based on the advantage in development.

    I tend to like modern games better: they're generally a deeper battle, with more precise moves. I also like how they manage to break chess principles all over the place and beat the player who broke them less Smile

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