The 10 Best Chess Games Of 2019
The Chess.com content team voted on the 10 best games of 2019. Are they also yours?

The 10 Best Chess Games Of 2019

Rakesh
IM Rakesh
|
35 | Chess.com News

Another complete year of exciting chess has ended—2019 has had the most power-packed schedule in recent years with elite tournaments, official events and strong opens. Overall, it was a fun year that gave us plenty of awesome games.

The strong chess players of Chess.com's content team (@peterdoggers, @danielrensch, @samcopeland, @Luisfsiles, @mikeklein, @gmkrikor, @Isaacsteincamp, @coachjkane, @fischwitsch and @rakesh) had the fun and tiring(!) task of short-listing and then ranking the year's most memorable games.

(Note that our columnist @Gserper wrote about his most memorable 10 games of 2019 as well and it's quite a different list!)

Each person next voted on his 10 favorite games with the top game getting 10 points, the 10th-best game getting one point, and so forth.

Below you'll find the list of the games finishing in 10th to first places. 


10. Gunina-Sebag, Cairns Cup (23 points)

We kick-start our countdown with this fascinating win by the eventual winner, Valentina Gunina, at the Cairns Cup. Playing as White, Gunina shows immense attacking prowess as she blows away Marie Sebag, who was making her comeback to top-level chess after a short absence.

Gunina plays a typical Sicilian style with a free-flowing attack on the kingside even though Sebag hasn't castled. The computer dislikes White's overambitious play—but Sebag errs. Gunina then executes the attack to perfection with all her pieces and forces resignation! 

Gunina playing 24.Bxh6! vs Sebag. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Cairns Cup.
Gunina playing 24.Bxh6! vs. Sebag. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Cairns Cup.

9. Dubov-Giri, Moscow Grand Prix (30 points)

Two games tie with the score of 30 points, but the Dubov-Giri game ranks behind Carlsen-Ding that is much more significant. Daniil Dubov is also the only player to have two top-10 wins in 2019.

This win by Dubov is true to his style. Get an advantage out of the opening. Complicate things and go for a wild attack. Then win! 

Dubov plays the brilliant 19.0-0-0 to win an absolutely crazy game. His king doesn't have any pawn in front of him but still is completely safe! Then all of Dubov's pieces combine to create havoc. In the end, his knights dazzle beautifully, and he crashes through against the solid Anish Giri.

8. Carlsen-Ding, Sinquefield Cup (30 points)

This game was beautifully played by both sides in the blitz playoff of the Sinquefield Cup. Apart from being an astounding game, it is also historically important because Magnus Carlsen lost a playoff match for the first time in more than 10 matches and 12 years!

Ding Liren was already leading the playoff and expected Carlsen to come "all guns blazing." Ding equalized comfortably as Black in the Spanish and then put pressure along the c-file. Carlsen complicated matters as expected, and a slugfest was underway. In wild complications, Ding kept his cool and gave up material for the initiative. Carlsen risked more, but Ding was ready. He gave up his queen and made good use of Carlsen's weakened position in what may be the best blitz game of the year!

7. Grischuk-Vachier-Lagrave, Riga Grand Prix (31 points)

The following game was essential in July to determine two candidates' spots from the FIDE Grand Prix. Eventually Alexander Grischuk and Ian Nepomniachtchi qualified, but Maxime Vachier-Lagrave should be proud of his effort.

Grischuk played an offbeat line against the Grunfeld. It later transposed into a Benko with the inclusion of h4 for White. Vachier-Lagrave played energetic chess and never really allowed White to get back in the game. Interestingly, Grischuk's rook went to a3 on the 10th move and didn't move again in the game!

Meanwhile, the Frenchman used both his rooks and his bishop beautifully and wrecked White's position completely. Domination personified! 

Grischuk vs MVL with 3)h4 on the board. | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess
Grischuk vs. Vachier-Lagrave with 3.h4 on the board. Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

6. Anton-Grischuk, FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss (37 points)

The following game was played at the world's strongest open, the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss. In round eight, David Anton Guijaro uncorked an idea researched by his trainer and deviated from theory. Anton took a full hour for his next move and then only 19 seconds on the following move to sacrifice a piece.

White's initiative was more than clear, and his play was precise. Grischuk's king made more moves than his queenside pieces! Finally Anton's attack crashed through, and Grischuk stretched out his hand in resignation.

Watch David Anton on his win vs. Alexander Grischuk from Chess.com on www.twitch.tv

5. Mchedlishvili-Rathnakaran, Goa Open (51 points)

This game wasn't played at the highest level, but thanks to social media, it didn't go unnoticed. The two next games feature strong international masters beating super-grandmasters in tactical skirmishes and with black pieces! 

Mikheil Mchedlishvili is an Olympic player for Georgia while his opponent is a strong Indian IM, who is nicknamed Indian Tal. Rathnakaran K was relatively unknown at the global level but not anymore. If you think my compatriot's nickname is unwarranted, please check for yourself!

In this game, Rathnakaran doesn't go for the normal recapture and gives up his queen on move eight! He gains tremendous compensation in terms of development advantage, activity and initiative. His play is far from perfect, but the energy and style in which Black plays are sure to leave a smile on your face!

Indian Tal, IM Rathnakaran K | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
Indian Tal, IM Rathnakaran K. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

4. Moiseenko-Korley, Xtracon Open (56 points)

Danish-American IM Kassa Korley scored a sensational win over seasoned campaigner Alexander Moiseenko of Ukraine at the Xtracon Open in Denmark. In this game, Korley played an idea that two others had already played, including himself!

Korley's knights maneuver majestically to blow up White's kingside. He then shows no mercy to his former-2700 opponent and mates in 25 moves! 

3. Saric-Suleymanli (61 points, one first-place vote) 

This incredible game was played in the recently concluded European Club Cup. Croatian number-one, Ivan Saric, is a seasoned campaigner and has had great results, but none of his former games features such an immense material imbalance. 

Saric started with a side line in the French Winawer. A typical fight ensued with the position being closed but with plenty of tactical possibilities. Saric sacrificed some material and then some more. On move 51, the position imbalance was bishop, knight and six pawns for White versus two rooks, bishop and a pawn for Black. Saric then played beautifully (but Black missed a draw on move 65)—a spectacular game with high instructive value.

2. Dubov-Svane, European Team (69 points, one first-place vote)

A strong contender for game of the year is this thrilling one played at the European Team Championship in November. Dubov, who also was on World Champion Magnus Carlsen's team during last year's world championship match, is well-known for his opening preparations. He uses an interesting idea of castling queenside on move eight in the Queen's Gambit.

Dubov continues his explosive play on the kingside and manages to open several files. In the middlegame, he suddenly shifts gears and goes on a rampage. In typical Tal style, he sacrifices one piece after another. He literally drags Black's king from g8 and finally catches him on a2! Rasmus Svane was gracious to allow checkmate in one of the best attacking games of the year.

Dubov is all smiles | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
Dubov is all smiles. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

1. Firouzja-Karthikeyan, Asian Continental  (92 points, six first-place votes)

The year 2019 was definitely the breakthrough for the former Iranian prodigy Alireza Firouzja. The youngster had an absolutely topsy-turvy year having crossed 2700 and having to switch federations to play in the World Rapid & Blitz Championships. In this game, he was on the receiving end of an amazing queen sacrifice by the Indian grandmaster Murali Karthikeyan

This theme is very similar to the one in Nezhmetdinov vs. Chernikov in 1962. Karthikeyan's game is more impressive because it wasn't played in the Romantic era of chess and he isn't always an attacking player like Nezhmetdinov. 

Murali Karthikeyan in action. | Photo: imsa.cn
Murali Karthikeyan in action. Photo: imsa.cn.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the best game of 2019!

What makes a game stand out from others? A brilliant king hunt, a positional squeeze, an endgame masterclass or a brilliant opening novelty that wins?

What's clear from the results is that the bar is very high this year. Magnus Carlsen had an amazing year but doesn't have a win featured. Maybe his unbeaten 107-streak is the reason. Many weird and bizarre games happened. Carlsen and Vidit Gujrathi drew in just five moves while David Howell and Harikrishna Pentala played for 236 to split the point.  

Two honorable mentions that are notable wins happened too late to be considered:

Several fantastic games received double-digit points but nevertheless did not make it into the top-10:

Think we have overlooked a game? Have a favorite game of your own? How much do you agree with our scoring? Let us know in the comments!

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