The Definition of a Miniature



I teach chess some children at school. Last week I showed them some miniature games. They asked me what a miniature is. I spent a lot of time to explain that.

After that I started thinking about the definition of a miniature. I googled it but the results were not very helpful. So now I'm asking you what do you think about it. How short does the game have to be to become a miniature? Of course the game should not be a draw, someone must win it. What does the winner have to reach? A checkmate? A queen or a rook up? Of course the game must be nice but the word "nice" is very relative.

So I'm asking especially experienced players to tell their opinion about that. Smile



A game that ends in 25 moves or less. I include some draws, such as when a player sacrifices everything and then forces a draw by repetition.


Thanks for the link. The article is quite interesting.

OK, so let's say that the limit is 25 moves. But if a game lasts less than 25 moves it is still not necessary that it is a miniature. For example if a player loses a piece in one and than resigns, I would not call this a miniature. I think in miniatures players miss a forced combination of at least 3 moves or something like that. I hope you understand what I am trying to say.

And I agree with Ziryab. In that case a draw is also included.


I see I am wrong, but the definition I have liked to use is checkmate in 20 moves or less.

However, if there was checkmate in 25 I still think it's in the spirit of a miniature.

I don't have a strong opinion I would argue for, but if a game doesn't end it checkmate I don't like to call it a miniature, even if it's a queen up. If it ends in the middle of a mate sequence, then I'm happy calling it a miniature.


That's excactly the reason why I opened this topic. Everybody has his own explanation but there is not an official definition (at least we haven't found it yet).

That's the first time I see a definition like this but it is also interesting. However most of players resign before the checkmate, so there aren't many miniatures refering to your definition.


A game in which one player make a deadly attack.


I think that part of the definition should be that the losing player didn't make outright blunders and the players are at least somewhat matched in ability.

So that it can be said (objectively) that the winner played especially brilliant chess.


Let's say I'm the winning side who has blundered a pawn, my opponent is on paper stronger than me but he blunders the queen.

Riten wrote:

However most of players resign before the checkmate, so there aren't many miniatures refering to your definition.

Not exactly...

you are picturing that somebody wins quickly because his opponent blunders material until he decides to resign. In reality, this definition of miniature is in the small minority.

In the majority of miniatures, the loser doesn't resign because the winner sacrificed lots of material to get a strong attack. Here is an example of a famous miniature:

Checkmate on move 17. If black decided to resign on move 16, I would still be happy to call it a miniature because it's in the middle of a mate in 1 sequence.

However, they didn't resign. The reason is because Paul Morphy had a strong attack, and had material against them (the two black players)

Huge bonus points if the loser didn't even lunder at all until the very end where he allows a mating sequence. The previous moves made by him were mistakes or inaccuracies at most.

If two players are bad enough at chess that they will be blunderiung back and forth or somebody blunders a whole piece in the opening, generally they will not be good enough to checkmate the other one within 25 moves, even if they are a queen up.

Furthermore that game is not likely to be record in any permanant sense to be reviewed by posterity like Morphy's Opera house game is.

"I blunder a pawn and my opponent blunder's a queen" isn't a masterpiece miniature, if it ends fast it's just a short game with a lot of blundering. Beginners produce those all the time.

klimski wrote:

I think that part of the definition should be that the losing player didn't make outright blunders and the players are at least somewhat matched in ability.

So that it can be said (objectively) that the winner played especially brilliant chess.


One cannot lose in 25 moves without making at least one significant blunder. Even so, what is a clear blunder to a 2500 rated player may look like a brilliant move to a 1600.


Chess Miniature is a nebulous term that has no specific meaning.  Even into the 20th century, the term usually referred to two or three move chess problems.  Different authors over time have used the term to describe shorter-than-usual games, but how short has always been at the authors' discretion.  If one author says he is presenting minatures of less than 30 moves, then those are miniatures for his purposes. If another author says he's presenting minatures -games of less than 18 moves- then that's his definition.  So the number of moves that make something a minature isn't fixed at all, but generally speaking, most people consider 25 moves of less a miniature.

Not all games end in mate or a draw. Some are resigned with mate in sight or with no practical chances of even drawing; some are quit for no apparent reason; some are drawn for no concrete reason and some end because of an obvious blunder.  These are still miniatures if they fall within given or accepted the length guideline. The term miniature doesn't require a certain quality. However, instructional miniatures, by their verynnature, must.  So, I would say that miniatures that are useful for instruction, admiration or just for presentation must be free of obvious blunders (although, clearly one side made mistakes) and must show a certain win or an overwhelming advantage for one of the players.  

In conclusion, the precise Definition of Miniatures is left to the person presenting the minature(s) within the reasonable boundaries of what would be considered a short game.  The value of the minitures presented  has nothing to do with length, but with other criteria.


A miniature is a game of chess played with pieces that are smaller than the average ones. The average piece-size is normally 1-inch in height for the pawns and 4 inches for the king so miniature games usually hav 1-cm height pawns and 2-cm height kings. Etc.


Wow, so your goal is to beat opponents quickly. Make every move count. What an amazing insight. 

Why does it always sound like you're bragging about everything Bettor? Perhaps because you are?


Less than 15 moves.



Thank you guys for sharing your views and definitions. I agree with batgirl.


ive always classed it as 21 moves or less , Tal has so many to enjoy ,but Tal was born to be the best attacking chess player the world has ever known , a destiny he found easy to fulfill


I don't think there really is a concrete definition like "25 moves or less," because there are many variables to a game.  For instance, what if the game is utterly lost by move 20, but the lost player is refusing to resign for 6 or even 10 more moves or so--is that not still a miniature?


Is it a miniature only if a mate is forced by move 25, or what if a player resigns before move 25 due to a forced mate threat coming after move 25?


I have a fairly loose definition for anything I personally call a miniature, and it also takes player strength into account: 


1.  If a game is finished decisively in under 30, where 2 elite players (top 20 or 30) play each other.

2.  Any mate on the board under 30.

3.  Resignation due to forced mate where the mate would occur under 30.

4.  Any resignation under 25.

5 .  Achieving a decisive advantage (where the winning advantage is also maintained until game's end) by move 15 or 20.  This comes with some exceptions, e.g., games where say a computer evaluates it as technically "winning," but where most GMs would continue on for many more moves due to human drawing chances, such as down two pawns in some opposite colored Bishop games.) 

6.  No games over 40 shall ever count as miniatures.


To me a "miniature" is 15 moves or less and well played by the winner.

However the Morphy game is an exception to this and would qualify [in my thinking] as a miniature. 

However, it is true, that in most games, one side or the other has a theoretical win by the 15th move. So "miniature" is really a matter of opinion.


 Is the following then not a miniature, even in most of these "definitions"?

[Event "Let's Play!"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2018.06.03"]
[Round "?"]
[White "golfballer2"]
[Black "aisling42cc"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B00"]
[WhiteElo "2139"]
[BlackElo "2188"]
[TimeControl "1/432000"]
[EndDate "2018.08.11"]
[Termination "aisling42cc won by resignation"]

1. e4 Nc6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. Be2 O-O-O 6. c4 Qf5 7. Be3 e5 8.
d5 Nf6 9. Qa4 Bb4+ 10. Nbd2 Bxf3 11. Bxf3 Bxd2+ 12. Bxd2 Nd4 13. O-O-O Rd6 0-1


True, here "definitions" here is an oxymoron or close to it.BTW, Have not run the above through HIARCS Analysis yet.