What's the Best Chess Game You Ever Played?
What is your favorite chess game that you ever played? Please send it to me, because I'm compiling a "Best Games Collection for the Rest of Us" (which is emerging below).
The idea initially struck me because I decided to create a page on my website with some of my favorite chess encounters over the years. In doing so, I hoped to give (prospective) students a better idea of the range of my own playing style...and because, why not?! But I thought it would be fun to sort of have a "democratized" page that provides a platform for anyone to share their own best, or favorite, games.
While it's awe-inspiring to watch the best games of the greats -- Morphy, Capablanca, Alekhine, Tal, Fischer, Alekhine, Kasparov, Karpov, Petrosian, Lasker, Anand, Carlsen, Polgar, Muzychuk, Hou, and all the other world champs, Tate, Kan, Larsen, Reshevsky, or any GM for that matter -- I thought it'd be fascinating to show great games from players of a range of strengths and backgrounds. Chess is chess, and we all possess the ability to elicit the beauty of Caissa over the chessboard, whether or not we are endowed with Super-GM status. All too often, though, games of "class players" (1000-2000 range) are used to show what they did wrong; not so here!
So, whether your rating is 500, 1500, or 2500, please go ahead and think of your "favorite game" then send it to me. I'm curious to see what people come up with! They'll be posted on this blog (which will be linked to my page) as they come in.
Feel free to send it either via message, in the comments section below, or at chess.dbennett[at]gmail[dot]com. Also feel free to add a brief description of the game or some brief analysis, and I'll include some kind of description/synopsis with each game, which you can see developing below. (It can be a tournament game, online game, chess 960 game, or informal game...it's all fair game. Did I say "game" enough times there? )
Also, we need best games of women chess players, too, please! That way, we can show the world the great diversity of both chess games & players.
Link to image source here.
Best Games Collection for the Rest of Us
1. Our first game is shared by Dennis Norman. Thanks, Dennis! In this game, Dennis was able to obtain the bishop pair early on, and his doubled pawns on the e-file served to give him a nice grip in the center -- which is important, because this helped to take away any good squares that the white knights might hope to use as advanced outposts, allowing black to win the "battle of the minor pieces." That is, if the white knights are denied good posts, the bishop pair should eventually demonstrate its superiority. Dennis manuevered expertly in this game, creating a backward d3-pawn in white's camp that white had to babysit, giving him a bind on the white position, all while the bishop pair aimed ominously at the white king. All of black's advantages added up to give him a decisive advantage. This clearly had an unsettling effect on his opponent, who understandably sacrificed a pawn to relieve some pressure and give himself some counterplay, but Dennis kept a cool head and his opponent simply found himself in a pawn-down endgame. Dennis made a wise decision to, in Silman's language, "exchange imbalances," that is, to be willing to part with one of his bishops in order to straighten out his pawn structure (making his extra pawn a more serious asset in the endgame) and to increase his space advantage with the pawn recapture (from e5 to d4). Then, with accurate technique, he was able to "tighten the screws" in his position, eliminating enemy counterplay, then to penetrate decisively with his rook on the c-file, devouring three pawns and cashing in on his strong play. A very strong game, from start to finish - well done! It shows the power of putting everything you've got into your game, as Dennis mentions in his analysis.
2. Our next game was played by Tim Bismarck in the US Junior Open, 1992. In this game, Tim defeated an opponent 700 points his senior! This is a good demonstration that, ultimately, rating doesn't matter. If we bring our best chess game, anything can happen (not to mention that a higher rated player is less likely to bring their best game against a much lower rated player, who they often take for granted). Here, Tim used tactical means to trade off white's strong light-squared bishop for his knight, leaving him with the bishop pair but, most critically, a powerful, uncontested bishop breathing fire down the h1-a8 diagonal that led straight to the white king. This provided him with an enduring initiative that kept growing as he mobilized his entire army and incrementally stepped up the pressure against white's weak g3-pawn. Now white had to deal with the diagonal and the pressure against g3; maybe your opponent can handle one weakness, but two is often decisive. It was just a matter of time before Tim found a way to quickly shift the pressure and exploit the diagonal, ending things efficiently. This tremendous upset was immortalized in the Chess Life magazine, and once again in this "Best Games for the Rest of Us" blog.
3. In our next Best Game, Henry Quintanilla plays the interesting Scotch opening. Coincidentally, just like in our two previous games, Henry obtains the bishop pair early on. He castles on the kingside and his opponent castles on the queenside, foreshadowing a race to see who can hack their way to their opponent's king first. But opposite-side castling isn't just about flank attacks: it appears that Henry's opponent has chances to win his isolated d-pawn. However, it turns out that his bishops, aiming at the enemy king like laser beams, generate a myriad of threats and make the capture of his loose d-pawn a tactical impossibility. Henry strikes first by discovering a powerful knight maneuver -- Nd2-e4-c5 -- combined with Qb5, placing insurmountable pressure on the b7 focal point and coercing his opponent to cede the exchange in an effort to release some pressure. The attack continues, though, when Henry's d-pawn, once a mere target, asserts itself and marches to d5, opening up fresh lines and instilling fear in the heart of the enemy camp. This forces the concession of a piece, leaving his opponent a rook down with no counterattacking chances. Indeed, Henry got his revenge! Note that Henry's arresting initiative didn't make it possible for his opponent to move forward with their own attacking plans.
4. Henry's second Best Game is even more dynamic than his first. In this game, he has the black side of a Sicilian, to which his opponent responds rather quietly. Usually, this doesn't work too well against a Sicilian! And, once again, we see a knight manuever to c4, and after it is captured, the bishop pair emerges -- yet again! White begins advancing some of his pawns on the kingside, allowing him to secure a protected passed pawn in the center (due to black's reaction of 17...f5!?), but also creating some weaknesses around his king. Henry and his hovering bishops don't need a second invitation to exploit this tactically. First, he chops off the passed e5-pawn with his knight; if the rebel knight is captured, black's queen recaptures, hitting the king on h2 as well as loose e3 bishop and under-defended d4 knight (making this a sort of "pseudo-sacrifice" of the knight). Something -- if not everything -- will fall. So white refuses to capture the knight, but Henry soon finds a cool clearance tactic, first sacrificing a pawn and the exchange to set it up, then sacrificing another pawn to tear open the diagonal for his b7-bishop (the clearance), which is immediately decisive. Then he mops up. Both beautiful and vicious at the same time.
5. The next submitted Best Game comes to you from Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, and was played by Дамян Генчев (Damyan Genchev, username Nqmaime), who conducted the white pieces beautifully against his opponent MamikanyanVardan of Armenia, as part of the Olympic Trophy 2013 Tournament on Chess.com. Damyan shows that the Alapin or c3 Sicilian is not as harmless as it may appear, knocking off an opponent with a 131 point rating advantage. His opponent experimented with an interesting central strike, but his early developed queen ended up getting attacked multiple times, allowing the white pieces to develop with tempo. This resulted, for the fifth time in a row, in the acquisition of the bishop pair! Damyan continued to stir up threats, ensuring that the black king was unable to seek refuge. He made the wise decision to trade queens rather than let the king escape and see his initiative potentially slip away. Damyan then occupied the central files with his rooks, picked up a pawn, then made a decisive entry with his knight, after which he wins the exchange and his opponent's king remains in peril with his rook out of play on h8 for the foreseeable future, prompting the resignation of his opponent on move 19. It's not how many pieces you have, but what you do with them!
6. We have a very interesting game from someone who happens to be a teammate of mine in the DC Chess League, Jeremy Kane. (Coincidentally, this featured game was played in the same league as well.) Jeremy played against a strong master who is also the Montenegran Ambassador to the United States, Srdjan Darmonovic. Jeremy raises an interesting question: What actually defines a best game? Jeremy postulates that one way to define a best game is to consider the strength of the fight that the losing side put up. In essence, I think the theory is that the harder our opponent fought -- and indeed, the Ambassador is a formidable defender -- the better we must have played to score the point. Chess, after all, is a struggle, and so the logic goes: the better the struggle, the better the game. Food for thought. In this particular struggle, a very dynamic position arose from a Nimzo-Indian Defense. Black pushed his central mass of pawns but accepted some weaknesses; white, in turn, struck back with 16. f4!? to avoid being steamrolled, but created some weaknessses of his own (namely, the e2 pawn and e3 square). After a time scramble, the time control was reached and a very interesting endgame arose which I think our old friend Bobby Fischer would enjoy thoroughly: bishop vs. knight. Jeremy was able to tie the Ambassador down due to the pressure the bishop exerted on the b7 pawn -- the enduring pressure of the Bg2 in d4-type structures is not to be underestimated! -- and the weaknesses of black's fragmented pawns on d4 and e6. This ultimately led to a pretty finish, with Jeremy achieving a zugzwang, winning a pawn, then sacrificing his bishop to dramatically mobilize his queenside majority, creating two connected passed pawns on the 6th rank which the knight could not hope to stop. So far, the bishops reign supreme. Who will stop them?
7. Our next game is brought to you by Sam Schenk, a young player from Virginia who is quickly moving up the ranks of tournament chess. Sam provides detailed analysis on a theoretical line of the Najdorf Sicilian, so those who play this opening from either side should find it useful. This game demonstrates the importance of the dark-squared bishop in positions where kings are castled on opposite sides. Sam made a creative knight maneuver, landing his steed on the f4 square. His opponent hastily captured the knight, snatching a pawn but giving up his dark-squared bishop, which is not only a key attacker but also an important defender (for instance, with Bc1 to protect the vital b2 point). Sam was able to route his own dark-squared bishop, now uncontested, to the a1-h8 diagonal, leading straight to the white king (quite similar to our second featured game, only on a different diagonal). Sam made an important judgment that was critical in securing his victory: when his opponent created a battery leading to h7, Sam assessed that the queen's entry to h7 actually wouldn't do anything after the simple Kf8. Why was this possible? Because the dark-squared bishop on g7 defended everything and prevented any further attack in the near future. Ignoring white's threat allowed black to step up the presssure against white's king and generate a real attack -- a case of appearance (superficial characteristics) vs. reality in chess. The dazzling finish that comes next, which involves a queen sacrifice that Sam saw several moves ahead, is best expressed on the chess board itself. Enjoy!
8. Our next game comes to us from Tianle Deng of Shen Zen City, China. Tianle plays the Ruy Lopez against his opponent -- the first player with a 2000+ rating that he defeated in tournament play -- at the World Youth & Cadets Chess Tournament in Greece, 2015. Again, this win largely revolves around the minor pieces. Only this time, while the bishop pair does arise for a portion of the game, it is a blend of using both his bishop and knight effectively that leads to the win. In fact, Deng is willing to part with one of his bishops in order to further weaken his opponent's center and force its advance, after which the doubled e-pawns become fixed in place and very weak (this would make Nimzovitsch very proud!). He then maneuvers expertly, placing maximum pressure on white's position. While black's bishop is stuck behind his pawns, Tianle makes concrete progress when he finds a way to extricate his "bad" bishop from behind his pawns, after which it gains control of the key a4-e8 diagonal, helping his queen to penetrate on e8. And in the end, for once it is the knight that delivers the final blow! In this game, Tianle balanced a variety of imbalances incredibly well, making sound decisions at key moments based on the demands of the position. I think we will be seeing many more great wins from the young up-and-comer, Tianle Deng!
9. The first of our newest bunch of contributions comes to us from a young player in the Washington, DC area, Alexander Davydov. In addition to beating local legend Larry Gilden (an FM who competed in the US Championship back in the day), Alexander has had the pleasure of very accurately punishing my attempt to over-press in a position where I had nothing! Here, Mr. Davydov again demonstrates his aptitude for precise maneuvering, finding creative ways to tear open the position and swarm his opponent's exposed king with great efficiency. The rook sacrifice is quite cool, a smart intuitive choice that paid big dividends. As Alexander suggests in the comments, the possibilities that did not come to pass in the game are just as fascinating as the actual moves played -- one of the great joys of chess, the "game within the game."
10. This is another impressive attacking game that looks like it could have come directly out of The Art of Attack in Chess. It was played by Sophie Morris-Suzuki -- our first female contributor -- whose excellent play secured her first win against an IM! In fact, she also beat a 2240 in this tournament, giving her 3.5/5 in the Marshall G/45 tournament, good to tie for first with the young New York star, Nicolas Checa. Black's early opening innovation in the Caro-Cann (3...h6) was followed by an interesting counter-innovation by white (4. f4, allowing Sophie to aim for lines within her comfort zone, a good practical, not to mention aggressive, choice). Black voluntarily gave white the bishop pair; following one inaccuracy, white was firmly in the driver's seat, ripping open lines so that the bishop pair could point ominously at the black king. This was followed by a decisive bishop sacrifice (which merits careful study and required significant foresight), a rook sacrifice (the rook, like the bishop, was taboo, and the king's cover was fully blown) and, finally, the unexpected trapping of black's knight. Given this convincing performance, expect to see many more successes from this rising star, Ms. Morris-Suzuki.
11. Akash Narayanan, like Sam Schenk, reminds us of the potency of the Najdorf Sicilian (in case we forgot about Fischer's and Kasparov's exploits with it). Of course, there's plenty of theory, but then comes the moment of judgment when you're out of book and a key decision arises: how to deal with the central tension? Akash's opponent errs, choosing to close the center (with a centralized black king, this is generally not the recommended course of action...pieces like open lines to get at kings)! This gives black a free hand to maneuver his pieces toward the enemy monarch on the queenside, tear open lines (facilitated by creating threats of winning the hapless b3 bishop, which is rather ineffective in this closed position), and execute a beautiful finish that includes a smooth, well-calculated queen sacrifice -- Mr. Narayanan's first, in fact. Cheers, and may there be many more where that came from!
12 and 13. New additions from Yi Herng Joel Ong of Singapore involve a highly tactical line of the Queen's Gambit (Semi-Slav Defense) that leads to a pawn-up rook ending, which he executes instructively, as well as an aggressive treatment of the Dutch that leads to quick mating attack. These are very interesting lines to consider using to catch your opponent off guard! Thanks for sharing, Joel!
Keep 'em comin' (hopefully with some best games from women chess players, too, to represent the full range of chess diversity!).
Also, I'm just waiting for a game where the glorious knights reign supreme, because it's about time!
And feel free to post any questions or thoughts you have about the featured "Best Games" as they roll in, as part of an ongoing discussion!
While you're at it, check out my website: www.chessprofessor.net.