11-Year-Old Chess Prodigy Wins Brilliancy - Top 10 of the 1990s - Passov vs. Sammour-Hasbun, 1991

11-Year-Old Chess Prodigy Wins Brilliancy - Top 10 of the 1990s - Passov vs. Sammour-Hasbun, 1991

NM SamCopeland

The 1990s were PACKED with exciting chess. The 13th World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov, dominated the chess landscape both on and off the board as he held on to his title throughout the entire decade, fending off challenges from Anatoly Karpov, Nigel Short, and Viswanathan Anand, although he did lose to Deep Blue.

Emerging in the decade was a wave of chess talent including Vladimir Kramnik, Anand, Vassily Ivanchuk, Veselin Topalov, Alexey Shirov, and Gata Kamsky. Across the decade, these players and many others produced numerous brilliant games and exciting opening innovations.

While computer engines came into their own with the development of Deep Blue and the release of commercial products like Chessmaster and Fritz, online chess was just beginning to take off. The internet chess club developed first as the Internet Chess Server (ICS) in 1992 (using ASCII to display the board) and then as the commercial Internet Chess Club (ICC) in 1995. The period also saw a golden age for correspondence chess as email made correspondence chess easier to play, but chess engines were not yet strong enough to supercede human insight.

Top 10 Games of the 1990s

#10 on this list of the best chess games of the 1990s is a lesser-known gem–Alexander Passov vs. Jorge Sammour-Hasbun. This game was played in 1991 in the storied Manhattan Chess Club when Sammour-Hasbun (then named Jorge Zamora) was just 11 years old. In fact, this MIGHT be the greatest chess game ever played by an 11-year-old. I challenge you to show a better one!

Sammour-Hasbun was a tremendous prodigy, setting records at the time both for being the youngest player ever to become a FIDE Master and for being the youngest player to beat a grandmaster. His development (and his eventual hiatus from chess) recalls another fixture of 1990s chess, the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." Much like the famous protagonist in that move, Josh Waitzkin, Sammour-Hasbun cut his teeth in the NYC chess scene in the local clubs and tournaments of the era. Sammour-Hasbun eventually left chess, but he came back in the late 2000s when he twice won the famed Dos Hermanas tournament on the internet chess club. Many at the time initially accused him of foul play (Cheating accusations were no less rampant than now...), but he silenced suspicions by repeating his feat under the personal supervision of an ICC-selected proctor.

This particular game has clear flaws, but the vibrant and youthful play leading to a striking king hunt and beautiful concluding checkmate is irresistible.


  • Every junior should know their Italian Game theory.
  • When your opponent's king is caught in the center, open lines as soon as possible. E.g. 11...e3! and 12...e3!
  • King hunts are about calculation, calculation, calculation. Sacrifice everything for mate.

My notes are below.

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