The Best Chess Games Of All Time
Chess.com's staff picks our favorite chess games of all time!

The Best Chess Games Of All Time

CHESScom
CHESScom
Aug 18, 2018, 12:00 AM |
84 | Amazing Games

Chess is a rich game, dating back over a millennia. On Chess.com alone, over 2,000,000,000 games have been played!

Which games are the very best ever played? No one can answer that conclusively, but we are going to give you Chess.com's opinion.

We asked Chess.com staff and contributors to give us their top 10 lists, and then we ordered each list, awarding 10 points to their top game and one point to their 10th game.

Here's our top 10, and check out our full list at the end of the article!

  1. Kasparov vs. Topalov, Wijk aan Zee 1999
  2. Morphy vs. Allies, Paris Opera 1858
  3. Aronian vs. Anand, Wijk aan Zee 2013
  4. Karpov vs. Kasparov, World Championship 1985, game 16
  5. Byrne vs. Fischer, New York 1956
  6. Ivanchuk vs. Yusupov, Brussels 1991
  7. Short vs. Timman, Tilburg 1991
  8. Bai Jinshi vs. Ding Liren, Chinese League 2017
  9. Rotlewi vs. Rubinstein, Lodz 1907
  10. Geller vs. Euwe, Zurich 1953

1: Kasparov vs. Topalov, Wijk aan Zee 1999

Despite losing a historic match to the computer engine Deep Blue two years earlier, Garry Kasparov was at the height of his powers in 1999, winning tournaments by big margins and recording the highest Elo rating ever at that time (2851). Kasparov has a long list of brilliancies to his credit, but this game is his virtually undisputed masterpiece.

Kasparov vs. Topalov is everything a chess game should be, a ferocious fight with brilliance from both players, numerous tactical themes, and a king hunt that drives the king all the way from one side of the board to the other! It's difficult to imagine any other game atop this list, but we eagerly await new contenders in the coming years.

@SamCopeland, @cmtv123, and @PeterDoggers all selected this as their favorite chess game of all time.

Kasparov, Topalov, Kasparov Topalov, Kasparov 1999, Kasparov Immortal, Greatest Chess Game of All Time

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"This game dazzles me from beginning to end. 24. Rxd4!!, 25.Re7+!!, and 36. Bf1! all inspire, and these are only the moves that appeared on the board. The variations that stayed behind the scenes are just as vibrant as the game itself."  — @SamCopeland

2: Morphy vs. Allies, Paris Opera 1858

Often called the "Opera Game," Paul Morphy's informal masterpiece played against the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard is the first complete game shown to many beginning and intermediate players. It illustrates the value of development, centralization, and king safety, but most important, it is the perfectly concise game to illustrate the beauty of chess. What chess player can fail to smile at 10.Nxb5!, 13.Rxd7!, and 16.Qb8+!!?

Morphy won this game in the midst of his European Tour where he easily defeated the other great players of his day before virtually retiring from chess to pursue law in New Orleans.

Paul Morphy, Morphy vs. Duke of Brunswick, Opera Game, Best Chess Game

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"I really think it’s the game we all wish we could play—giving up pieces one after another, reaching a crescendo with a queen sacrifice before ending it all. There’d be no purpose to studying chess if learning its secrets didn’t give one the ability to astound or crush an opponent. The Opera Game, which I learned about when I started chess, was a promise. It proved to me that the game was worth studying, because if I did, someday I might be able to play a game like that too." — @Shaun

3: Aronian vs. Anand, Wijk aan Zee 2013

Undisputed world champion from 2007 to 2013, Viswanathan Anand is one of the most fluid and intuitive players in chess history. Where Jose Capablanca's intuition served him best in the endgame, Anand's serves him best in the middlegame.

Played in advance of his coming 2013 world championship match against Magnus Carlsen (though Carlsen would not qualify for several months), Anand showed in this game the attacking skill that makes him such a beloved player; particularly 16...Nde5!! sticks in the memory as Black's pieces burst forth and cannot be contained.

Aronian, Levon Aronian, Anand, Viswanathan Anand, Vishy Anand, Aronian vs Anand, Best Chess Games

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"Despite being relatively short, this modern beauty played at the absolute top level contains multiple counterintuitive tactics. Anand himself considers it one of his best games ever." — @PeterDoggers

4: Karpov vs. Kasparov, World Championship 1985, game 16

There is no greater rivalry in chess history than that between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. The brilliant games they have contested could fill a substantial book.

This game from their world championship match in 1985 demonstrates Kasparov at his very best, offering a pawn sac in the opening, establishing a tremendous knight on d3, clamping down with 21...g5!! and always performing crisp calculation and tactics.

@Lee and @Shaun picked this as their top game of all time.

Karpov vs Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Best Chess Game

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"I love the way Garry refuses to take the d5-pawn and makes Karpov play around it. Then he establishes the monster knight on d3. He demonstrates such bold play with Black with so much at stake." — @Lee

5: Byrne vs. Fischer, New York 1956

At the age of 13, Bobby Fischer alerted the world to his presence, winning one of the finest games of all time against IM Donald Byrne with the black pieces. Fischer's 11...Na4!! and 17...Be6!! constitute two of the great hammer-blows in chess history; together they decimated the white position.

Byrne, Fischer, Bobby Fischer, Byrne vs Fischer, Game of the Century, Best Chess Game

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"A game that has all the necessary ingredients of a chess gem: surprise, beauty and precision." — @LuisFSiles

6: Ivanchuk vs. Yusupov, Brussels 1991

The stakes could hardly be higher as this game was played in a rapid tiebreak in the world championship Candidates' cycle. Needing to win, Artur Yusupov gave it his all, swinging each piece he could into the assault and eventually overcoming Vassily Ivanchuk's best resistance with multiple fine attacking ideas.

@MikeKlein selected this game as his favorite of all time.

Ivanchuk, Yusupov, Jussupow, Ivanchuk vs Yusupov

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"Ivanchuk vs. Yusupov was just like in 'I Love Lucy.' Ivanchuk was Lucille Ball, eating the black pieces as fast as he could as they came down the conveyor belt. Eventually we all knew what would happen, and like Lucy, he was overwhelmed. I can't think of any better 'kitchen sink' game than this one. Yusupov made only one move on the queenside in the final 20 moves of the game!" — @MikeKlein

7: Short vs. Timman, Tilburg 1991

King walks are not unheard of in chess, but the seemingly out-of-the-blue advance of Nigel Short's king with 31.Kh2!!, 32.Kg3!!, 33.Kh4!!, and 33.Kg5!! intending 34.Kh6!! with mate on g7 is unique in the annals of chess.

Short, Timman, Nigel Short, Jan Timman, Short vs Timman, King Walk, Best Chess Game

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"I saw this game as a kid, and it immediately captured my imagination. It was just so memorable to see the king walk with all those pieces on the board." — @GregShahade

8: Bai Jinshi vs. Ding Liren, Chinese League 2017

It's mind over matter in this, the most recent game on the list, as Ding Liren continually places his pieces en prise to achieve relentless pressure against the white king, who proves unable to escape the center of the board. The game is filled with beautiful moves, but it is particularly 20...Rd4!! that makes a striking impression on the viewer.

Ding Liren, Bai Jinshi, Ding Liren's Immortal, Best Chess Games

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"GM Ding plays all forward moves until his brilliant Rd4!!, and then he brings all his pieces backward to checkmate the white king!" — @Rakesh

9: Rotlewi vs. Rubinstein, Lodz 1907

Akiba Rubinstein is arguably the greatest player to have never become world champion. His tournament victories in 1911 marked one of the most dominant years by any chess player. In this game against a fellow Polish player, he reeled off one of the most inspiring combinations of all time. What chess player can forget 22...Rxc3!! and 23...Rxd2!! followed by the patient 25...Rh3!! with inevitable mate?

@jdcannon selected this as his top game of all time.

Rotlewi vs Rubinstein, Akiba Rubinstein, Rubinstein's Immortal, Greatest Chess Games

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"Rubinstein's play vs Rotlewi continues to this day to amaze me; I love how his pieces dynamically support one another in surprising ways. I've always dreamed of producing a game half as lovely." — @jdcannon

10: Geller vs. Euwe, Zurich 1953

It is rare for a defensive game to be celebrated as a brilliancy, but Max Euwe's prize-winning effort against Geller from the famous Zurich 1953 tournament has more than stood the test of time. Euwe seems to have his back to the wall when his sudden sacrifice 22...Rh8!! creates disorder in the white camp and allows his queen and rook to infiltrate.

Geller, Euwe, Geller vs Euwe, Zurich 1953, Best Chess Game

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"The first game from Bronstein’s book about the famous Zurich 1953 Candidates' tournament that I truly loved. A great 'stem game' in the Nimzo-Indian for those looking to understand how positional counterplay (against White’s c-pawns) can overcome a big center and attack against your kingside. With cool-headed calculation, everyone can find tactics like ...Rh8!! sacrificing the rook for both defensive and aggressive reasons." — @DanielRensch

Chess.com's Greatest Chess Games of all Time

Score Game Learn More
95 Kasparov vs. Topalov, Linares 1999 GM Williams Explains
64 Morphy vs. Allies, Paris Opera 1858 FM Liu Explains
46 Aronian vs. Anand, Wijk aan Zee 2013 SonofPearl's Blog
40 Karpov vs. Kasparov, World Championship 1985, Game 16
39 Byrne vs. Fischer, New York 1956 IM Lilov Explains
31 Ivanchuk vs. Yusupov, Brussels 1991 GM Serper Explains
28 Short vs. Timman, Tilburg 1991 GM Williams Explains
25 Bai Jinshi vs. Ding Liren, Chinese League 2017 News Report
22 Rotlewi vs. Rubinstein, Lodz 1907 GM Bojkov Explains
18 Geller vs. Euwe, Zurich 1953
17 Spassky vs. Fischer, Reykjavik Game 13
17 Reti vs. Alekhine, Baden-Baden 1925
16 Wei Yi vs. Bruzon, Danzhou 2015 News Report
16 Polugaevsky vs. Nezhmetdinov, Sochi 1958 GM Williams Explains
14 Lasker vs. Thomas, London 1912
12 Nunn vs. Seirawan, Lugano 1983
12 Saemisch vs. Nimzowitsch, Copenhagen 1923 GM Williams Explains
11 Aronian vs. Carlsen, Stavanger 2017 News Report
10 Botvinnik vs. Tal, World Championship 1960, Game 6
10 Nezhmetdinov vs. Chernikov, Rostov-on-Don 1962
10 Botvinnik vs. Capablanca, AVRO 1938 FM Liu Explains
10 Karpov vs. Kasparov, Linares 1993
10 Kotov vs. Petrosian, Moscow 1949
10 Petrosian vs. Fisher, Portoroz 1958
10 Morozevich vs. Vachier-Lagrave, Biel 2009 GM Serper Explains
9 Esserman vs. Van Wely, Orlando 2011 Esserman and the Smith-Morra
9 Topalov vs. Kramnik, Belgrade 1995
9 Tal vs. Keller, Zurich 1959
9 So vs. Kasparov, Saint Louis 2016 News Report
9 Bogoljubow vs. Alekhine, Hastings 1922
8 Kasparov vs. Seirawan, Amsterdam 1996
8 Anderssen vs. Dufresne, Berlin 1852
8 Reti vs. Bogoljubov, New York 1924
8 Karpov vs. Sax, Linares 1983
8 Browne vs. Acers, New Orleans 1971
8 Vachier-Lagrave vs. Caruana, Grenke 2018 News Report
8 Kasparov vs. Kramnik, Dos Hermanas 1996
8 Kasparov vs. Karpov, World Championship 1984, Game 6
8 Steinitz vs. Von Bardeleben, Hastings 1895
7 Nakamura vs. Andreikin, Moscow 2010
7 Beliavsky vs. Nunn, Wijk aan Zee 1985
7 Rodynski vs. Alekhine, Paris 1913
7 Topalov vs. Shirov, Linares 1998
7 Jakovenko vs. Gelfand, Khanty-Mansisyk 2015
6 Catig vs. Mills, San Francisco 1974
6 Anderssen vs. Kieseritzky, London 1851 About the Game
6 Nakamura vs. Gelfand, Bursa 2010
6 Lasker vs. Napier, Cambridge Springs 1904
6 Capablanca vs. Tartakower, New York 1924 IM Coleman Explains
6 Tal vs. Hecht, Varna 1962
5 Shirov vs. Polgar, Buenos Aires 1994
5 Rubinstein vs. Salwe, Lodz 1908
5 Ivanchuk vs. Karjakin, Monaco 2008
4 Larsen vs. Spassky, Belgrade 1970
4 Birbrager vs. Tal, Kharkov 1953
4 Tal vs. Larsen, Bled 1965
4 Korchnoi vs. Spassky, Candidates 1977, Game 7
4 Tal vs. Simagin, USSR Championship 1956
3 Van Wely vs. Acs, Hoogeveen 2002
3 Capablanca - Steiner, Los Angeles 1933
3 Bobotsov vs. Petrosian, Lugano 1968
3 Navara vs. Wojtaszek, Biel 2015 News Report
3 Tal vs. Koblencs, Riga 1961
2 Fontaine vs. Vachier-Lagrave, Aix-les-Bains 2007
2 Karjakin vs. Anand, Wijk aan Zee 2006
2 Carlsen vs. Aronian, Stavanger 2018 News Report
2 Kasparov vs. Karpov, World Championship 1990, Game 20
2 Kramnik vs. Shirov, Linares 1994
2 Byrne vs. Fischer, New York 1963
1 Ivanov vs. Karpov, Moscow 1979
1 Alphazero vs. Stockfish, Game 10 News Report
1 Korchnoi vs. Kasparov, Luzerne 1982
1 Spassky vs. Bronstein, USSR Championship 1960
1 Carlsen vs. Ernst, Wijk aan Zee 2004
1 Serper vs. Nikolaidis, St. Petersburg 1993 IM Pruess Explains

Our thanks to @DanielRensch, @PeterDoggers, @MikeKlein, @SamCopeland, @LuisFSiles, @RLH2, @GregShahade, @Lee, @marignon, @cmtv123, @Fischwitsch, @Rakesh, @JDCannon, @PawnMorphy, @Shaun, @GregSerper, @Silman, and @amruggs for casting their votes! This list (like all lists) is subjective and represents the opinions of GMs and IMs and amateur chess lovers. Voters were allowed to use any criteria they wanted to rank the games.

Did we omit one of your most cherished games? Our apologies! Use our new GIF Maker and post it in the comments so others can enjoy!

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