MVL's Zombie Rook Wins The Game - Top 10 of the 2000s - Morozevich vs. Vachier-Lagrave, 2009
Watch MVL resuscitate the "zombie" rook on h7 to win the game.

MVL's Zombie Rook Wins The Game - Top 10 of the 2000s - Morozevich vs. Vachier-Lagrave, 2009

NM SamCopeland

In one of the most complicated chess games you will ever see, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave battled Alexander Morozevich in a complex Sicilian. Facing a ferocious attack, Vachier-Lagrave buried his rook on h7. Morozevich can capture the rook at any point, but he doesn't as the rook seems hopelessly entombed. It's only much later in the game that this zombie rook comes back to life as a hero for Black.

Many might not be familiar with Alexander Morozevich today, but he's one of my favorite players, a constantly creative player who was once #2 in the world and had a peak live rating just shy of 2800. I personally cribbed much of my chess repertoire in the early 2000s (Chigorin Defense, Fantasy Variation of the Caro Kann) from him. I once told IM Daniel Fernandez that Morozevich was my favorite player, and he told me I was crazy because I would never be able to play like "Moro," and I should pick a hero I could learn from and hope to emulate, like Viswanathan Anand. I've never stopped loving Morozevich's games, but he did open up a love of Anand for me. By the way, Anand comes in third on this list in a game, I've already covered in a separate blog, Karjakin vs. Anand, 2006.

Top 10 Games of the 2000s

The game opens with a Scheveningen Sicilian structure (instead of the Najdorf with ...e5 that MVL plays so often these days), and Morozevich innovates with 13.Nf4!? His opening innovation proves difficult to meet and sacrificial play with 14.Nfe6! leads to a big attack.

Morozevich misses a few wins, including 22.Be6+!!, but it seems like he is winning easily when MVL finds 27...Rh7!! This move does not save the game by itself, but it totally changes the struggle, saving MVL from immediate mates and guaranteeing counterplay. After many ups and downs, this rook emerges from its dormant state and delivers the coup de grace.


  • You must know your theory in the Sicilian.
  • Sometimes it seems every move wins, but it's rarely the case. Calculate the clean finish!
  • Many fortresses can be cracked with a proper plan.

My notes are below, but much more importantly, MVL's notes are here. Enjoy the game!

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