The ten most instructive games


The Morphy group is discussing the famous Morphy vs. the Duke and the Count from the Paris opera house, and I was thinking what an instructive game this was.  Thinking further I asked myself what would be the ten most instructive games for a beginning player to know.  Any ideas?  (Doesn't have to be ten).


The Exeter Chess Club had a file with the "canonical chess games". Very interesting. Goggle for it!


Rook on the Seventh Rank
Capablanca vs Tartakower, 1924  
(A80) Dutch, 52 moves, 1-0

The King Is a Strong Piece
Tal vs Lisitsin, 1956 
(B71) Sicilian, Dragon, Levenfish Variation, 54 moves, 1-0

Knight Outpost at d5.
Boleslavsky vs Lisitsin, 1956 
(B76) Sicilian, Dragon, Yugoslav Attack, 30 moves, 1-0

Aggresive Rook in the Ending
Tarrasch vs E Thorold, 1890 
(C07) French, Tarrasch, 56 moves, 1-0

The Passed Pawn
Rubinstein vs Duras, 1908  
(D02) Queen's Pawn Game, 39 moves, 1-0

Weak Pawns, Weak Squares and Mighty, Mighty Knights
H K Mattison vs Nimzowitsch, 1929  
(E21) Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights, 23 moves, 0-1

Finesse in the Ending
R Domenech vs Flohr, 1935 
(B40) Sicilian, 30 moves, 0-1

Phalanx of Pawns
Petrosian vs Kozali, 1954 
(D35) Queen's Gambit Declined, 29 moves, 1-0

Passed Pawn's Lust to Expand
Fischer vs Berliner, 1960 
(B03) Alekhine's Defense, 36 moves, 1-0

Rook and Pawn Ending
Smyslov vs Reshevsky, 1948 
(C75) Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense, 52 moves, 1-0

King in the Center
Tartakower vs M Frentz, 1933 
(A18) English, Mikenas-Carls, 35 moves, 1-0

The Shifting Attack
Reshevsky vs Najdorf, 1957 
(E42) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3 c5, 5.Ne2 (Rubinstein), 33 moves, 1-0

A Touch of Jujitsu
Petrosian vs Korchnoi, 1946 
(A90) Dutch, 23 moves, 1-0

The King-Side Attack
Tarrasch vs Von Scheve, 1894  
(D37) Queen's Gambit Declined, 30 moves, 1-0

Magnificent Outpost
Smyslov vs I Rudakovsky, 1945 
(B83) Sicilian, 29 moves, 1-0

The See-Saw Check, Zugzwang, and Other Tactical Tricks
A Kupferstich vs J Andreassen, 1953 
(C27) Vienna Game, 34 moves, 1-0

The Two Bishops
S Rosenthal vs Steinitz, 1873 
(C46) Three Knights, 38 moves, 0-1

Variety of Themes
Tartakower vs R Domenech, 1934 
(A46) Queen's Pawn Game, 37 moves, 1-0

Coup de Grace
Alekhine vs Yates, 1922  
(D64) Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox, Rubinstein Attack, 38 moves, 1-0

The Powerful Passed Pawns
Aganalian vs Petrosian, 1945 
(A54) Old Indian, Ukrainian Variation, 4.Nf3, 34 moves, 0-1

Bishop and a Half
Bondarevsky vs Smyslov, 1946 
(C85) Ruy Lopez, Exchange Variation Doubly Deferred (DERLD), 42 moves, 0-1

Problem-like Finale
Foltys vs Golombek, 1947 
(B73) Sicilian, Dragon, Classical, 42 moves, 1-0

Board with Excitement
Keres vs A Tarnowski, 1952 
(C86) Ruy Lopez, Worrall Attack, 40 moves, 1-0

Elegant Simplification
Botvinnik vs Boleslavsky, 1941 
(C07) French, Tarrasch, 65 moves, 1-0

Four Endings in One
Blackburne vs Max Weiss, 1889 
(C65) Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense, 70 moves, 0-1

Bishop and Pawn Ending Deluxe
Max Weiss vs Blackburne, 1889 
(B01) Scandinavian, 57 moves, 0-1

Dispatching the King's Musketeers
Petrosian vs Smyslov, 1961 
(E12) Queen's Indian, 32 moves, 1-0

Odyssey of an Isolated Pawn
Burn vs Znosko-Borovsky, 1906 
(D32) Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch, 39 moves, 0-1

Zugzwang, the Invincible Weapon
Marshall vs Lasker, 1907 
(C65) Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense, 50 moves, 0-1

Symphony of Combinations
E Eliskases vs Gruenfeld, 1933 
(C53) Giuoco Piano, 53 moves, 1-0

Escorting the Potential Queen
Schlechter vs J Mason, 1903 
(C41) Philidor Defense, 47 moves, 1-0

Web of Black Squares
Schlechter vs W John, 1905 
(D31) Queen's Gambit Declined, 50 moves, 1-0

Endgame Arithmetic
Mieses vs Reshevsky, 1935 
(B15) Caro-Kann, 40 moves, 0-1

In the Grand Manner
Janowski vs Capablanca, 1916  
(D15) Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, 46 moves, 0-1

March of the little Pawns
Pillsbury vs Gunsberg, 1895 
(D10) Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, 40 moves, 1-0

Irresistable Pawn-Roller
Marshall vs Capablanca, 1909 
(D33) Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch, 49 moves, 0-1

Quiet, Like a Tiger
Botvinnik vs Kan, 1931 
(A96) Dutch, Classical Variation, 38 moves, 1-0

Endgame Duel- Knight against Rook
Botvinnik vs Vidmar, 1946 
(D02) Queen's Pawn Game, 59 moves, 1-0

Perennial Favorite
Bogoljubov vs Reti, 1923 
(C11) French, 42 moves, 0-1

Command of the Board
Rubinstein vs Schlechter, 1912 
(D41) Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch, 39 moves, 1-0

Surprise! Surprise
Petrosian vs Pachman, 1961  
(A04) Reti Opening, 21 moves, 1-0

Lured into Zugzwang
Marshall vs Capablanca, 1918 
(D64) Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox, Rubinstein Attack, 39 moves, 0-1

The Flash of a Mighty Surprise
F Olafsson vs Fischer, 1958 
(D38) Queen's Gambit Declined, Ragozin Variation, 44 moves, 1-0

Symphony of Heavenly Length
Larry Evans vs H Opsahl, 1950 
(D51) Queen's Gambit Declined, 81 moves, 1-0


Legal's mate
De Legal vs Saint Brie, 1750 
(C41) Philidor Defense, 7 moves, 1-0

The danger of a center without pawns, the power of passed pawns
McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais, 1834 
(B32) Sicilian, 37 moves, 0-1

Space advantage, strong center, more active pieces and... wins!
Morphy vs Harrwitz, 1858 
(C41) Philidor Defense, 35 moves, 1-0

Steinitz begins a deadly king persecution with 16. ... Rxd2+!!
Hamppe vs Steinitz, 1859 
(C29) Vienna Gambit, 23 moves, 0-1

The weakness of the black squares culminates with 25. Bd6!!
Tarrasch vs Von Scheve, 1894  
(D37) Queen's Gambit Declined, 30 moves, 1-0

Well, if you're not going to castle...
Pillsbury vs Marshall, 1894 
(C31) King's Gambit Declined, Falkbeer Counter Gambit, 29 moves, 0-1

Weak squares, fixed pawns.
Rubinstein vs Salwe, 1908  
(D33) Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch, 38 moves, 1-0

Nimzowitsch exploits the weak d4 and e5 squares
Nimzowitsch vs Salwe, 1911  
(C02) French, Advance, 39 moves, 1-0

Pawn grabbing in the openings
Nimzowitsch vs Alapin, 1914  
(C11) French, 18 moves, 1-0

Sacrificing a pawn in order to paralyze black
Nimzowitsch vs Hakansson, 1922  
(C02) French, Advance, 28 moves, 1-0

Keep limiting your opponent and suddenly it's zugzwang!
Saemisch vs Nimzowitsch, 1923  
(E18) Queen's Indian, Old Main line, 7.Nc3, 25 moves, 0-1

Knight blokade!
H K Mattison vs Nimzowitsch, 1929  
(E21) Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights, 23 moves, 0-1

Space advantage on both sides, followed by a-file penetration
Capablanca vs K Treybal, 1929 
(D11) Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, 58 moves, 1-0

The advantage of the bishop pair
Flohr vs Botvinnik, 1933 
(E38) Nimzo-Indian, Classical, 4...c5, 69 moves, 1-0

A bishop h2 sac, a king in the center
Glucksberg vs Najdorf, 1929 
(A85) Dutch, with c4 & Nc3, 22 moves, 0-1

A decisive attack on the kingside through the weak f6 square!
Euwe vs Flohr, 1939 
(D15) Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, 39 moves, 1-0

The weakness of pawns on the squares of the opponent's bishop
Smyslov vs Keres, 1951 
(A12) English with b3, 56 moves, 0-1

Fixed pawns, passive piece positions, a file penetration
Petrosian vs Mecking, 1969 
(B06) Robatsch, 41 moves, 1-0

Limited position, maneuvering, decisive breakthrought
Kasparov vs E Torre, 1980 
(A43) Old Benoni, 57 moves, 1-0

Blockade, paralysis, and zugzwang
Karpov vs Ribli, 1980 
(A35) English, Symmetrical, 35 moves, 1-0

The king penetrates weak dark squares in the middlegame!
Short vs Timman, 1991 
(B04) Alekhine's Defense, Modern, 34 moves, 1-0

Well, what can you say?
MacChess vs Bronstein, 1997 
(A97) Dutch, Ilyin-Genevsky, 60 moves, 0-1

Bagirov vs M Markovic, 1988 
(A01) Nimzovich-Larsen Attack, 27 moves, 1-0

Simply precise!
Spassky vs Keres, 1965 
(E31) Nimzo-Indian, Leningrad, Main line, 50 moves, 1-0

Pillsbury vs Albin, 1895  
(C80) Ruy Lopez, Open, 45 moves, 1-0


Imo, Morphy vs count isouard is one of the most beautiful chess games ever played, and very instructive. It's pins pins pins, sac sac sac and mate


The most beautiful single move ever played (IMO) was the concluding move of Reti-Bogoljubov, New York 1924.

paulgottlieb wrote:

I don't know about that: What about the final move of Levitzky-Marshall 1912

Reti's move has more finesse!


I can picture Marshall POUNDING his final move down onto the chess board, with the Queen embedded in his fist... but I picture Reti making his final move, holding the Bishop in his fingertips, with his pinky delicately raised.

farbror wrote:

The Exeter Chess Club had a file with the "canonical chess games". Very interesting. Goggle for it!

Nice resource!

paulgottlieb wrote:

I think we can agree that both moves had a certain je ne sais pas

For the record, it's je ne sais quoi.

And I've always liked Fisher-Spassky games myself.

Boheme wrote:
paulgottlieb wrote:

I think we can agree that both moves had a certain je ne sais pas

For the record, it's je ne sais quoi.

I wasn't going to point that out, because he's higher rated than I am. :p


When in doubt play the most vexing move.


I wouldn't pick either of those as the most beautiful move ever played (although I do like Reti's better).


I am gonna show the Opera game all week this week and twice today. It is an excellent game for beginners, highly entertaining and very instructive.

After I have shown it last week, I played a game against one of the boys from grade 4. He played black and did the philidor defense. Then he considered also moving the 3. .... Bg4. Then reconsidered, saying "if the duke did it, it is probably not good. If I play like the duke, you will play like Morphy!" Very cute.


A game that I found to be both instructive and entertaining has been dubbed, "The Game of the Century" (Byrne vs Fischer, 1956, New York).

I say entertaining because the first time I played through this game I literally broke out in laughter as I observed this 13 year-old's series of checks leading to checkmate. If you've never seen this game, check it out here:

Actually, you'll have to click on the 'Select A Different Game' box, and you'll find it there, along with some other great games, like Morphy's Opera game that others have been mentioning.


Sorry, but I've always thought that one was a bit overrated...


Oh yeah, that one was fun! Smile


Hey, how come in two of the games mentioned in this thread the losers have the first name Efim (Bogoljubov and Geller)?

Mothers, don't name your sons 'Efim'!


You wouldn't think anybody would have to be told that...


I would venture to say that for many of us, the Morphy game kindled our love for this game.