The Best Pawn Moves Ever

The Best Pawn Moves Ever

| 35 | Fun & Trivia

This article concludes our exploration of the best moves played by each chess piece throughout history. To my surprise, the tiniest guys in chess provided so much material that I have to agree with the great Philidor that "pawns are the soul of chess."

The little soldiers make the real difference in attack and defense. Sometimes a little pawn move can be very subtle despite its simple appearance.

Take for example the best move ever played by GM Pal Benko.

The famous American grandmaster and chess composer has probably played hundreds of thousands of moves throughout his illustrious chess career. Which one is the best?

Here is what Pal Benko wrote in Chess Life magazine (April 2016). "With my long career it is difficult to pinpoint a single 'best move'. I find it more interesting to give my best move against Fischer, which occurred in our first meeting."

Given the wide variety of ideas behind pawn moves, I decided to split them into different categories.

1) The Best Illegal Pawn Move:

I saw this picture in Pete's amusing article. While the caption states that even if 1.hxg3 were legal it would be a terrible move, I beg to differ. I don't know if it is the open h-file or the beautiful chess set, but there is definitely something attractive about this picture.

2) The Best Worst Pawn Move:

If this category makes no sense to you, look at the following diagram.

The last move Black played was g7-g5, and it looks absolutely horrible! However, read the story shared by GM Alex Stripunsky on Facebook:

A couple years ago, I was analyzing with my student, a nice little kid, the games from his last tournament. In one of the games, in a standard position, he played g7-g5, giving up a pawn for no reason. I was shocked, but the guy clarified:
"I killed a bug."


I'm like, "what?!"
He explained: "There was an annoying bug crawling over the board, so I took the g7 pawn and killed him. My opponent claimed touch move, and I had to leave the pawn on the bug's grave." 

Since that moment, if some of my students make an obvious mistake, I ask "did you kill a bug?"

Thank you, Alex! I really love the story as well as this new 'killing-a-bug move'!

3) The Best Attacking Pawn Moves:

There are thousands of amazing attacking pawn moves, but it looks like the great Mikhail Tal was especially fond of them. In the following position, he is already down a rook, and his other rook and knight are attacked. Guess what he played!

At least 25...h5! in the last game opens up White's king and starts a new wave of the attack. Look at the following game. Tal is down a rook again, and yet he plays the quiet 22.h3!! just to prevent Black's queen from getting to the g4 square and harassing the Nh5. That's one of the coolest prophylactic moves I have ever seen!

Finally, find a simple but cute pawn combination by Tal. I am sure you'll enjoy it!

4) The Pawn Power:

When the pawns get close to the promotion square they become extremely strong. The next iconic game illustrates this best. Find a bunch of killer moves by pawns!

It has been proven that this beautiful game was never actually played, but the following classical examples show how grandmasters use pawn power in real games.

Sometimes it is even difficult to categorize the move. Indeed, how would you describe the following stunner from Kasparov? He sacrificed his bishop to make his opponent's king vulnerable, but he ended up with only a positional advantage in the middle game.

There are many more incredible pawn moves I haven't mentioned. What are your favorite pawn moves?

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