Edward Winter's Chess Explorations (3)

6/27/2008 – The Editor of Chess Notes rounds off his examination of old masters’ choices of their best games, and for this second part the cast includes Emanuel Lasker, Akiba Rubinstein and Max Euwe. Full scores of all 22 games are provided in replayable form, together with background jottings and a further nomination for 'the perfect game'. See Part II now.

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Chess Explorations (3)

By Edward Winter

A few days ago our article broke off part way through the old-timers' nominations for their best games, as published in Chess Masterpieces by F.J. Marshall (New York, 1928). We resume the sequence here, before moving on to the general proposals for the best-ever game, as well as another suggestion for 'the perfect game'.

  • F.D. Yates: 'I have selected [Yates v Takács, Kecskemét, 1927] because it is one true to type – that is to say, typical of my own style of play ... Of my own games I like this one best, as it has sound sacrificial combinations and was played in an important match.' (page 55)
  • Frederick Dewhurst Yates - Sándor Takács [B84]
    Kecskemét, 6 July 1927
    Sicilian Defence
    1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Be2 e6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Kh1 a6 9.Be3 Qc7 10.f4 Bd7 11.Qe1 b5 12.a3 0-0 13.Rd1 Na5 14.Qg3 Nc4 15.Bc1 Rfc8 16.b3 Nxa3 17.e5 Ne8 18.Ne4 d5 19.Nf6+ Kh8 20.Qh4 Nxf6 21.Bd3 g6 22.exf6 Bf8 23.Nf3 Kg8 24.Ng5 h6 25.Bxa3 hxg5 26.fxg5 Bxa3 27.Bxg6 fxg6 28.Rd3 Rf8 29.b4 Bxb4 30.Rh3 Resigns. Both the Kecskemét tournament book (pages 88-89) and Yates' notes in his Best Games volume indicated that White had a quicker win with 24.Bxa3 Bxa3 25.Ng5 h5 26.Nxf7 Kxf7 27.Bxg6+. [Click to replay]

  • Emanuel Lasker: 'I think the game I won against Pillsbury in the St Petersburg Tourney in 1896 to be the best I ever played. I was just able to ward off a furious attack and then succeed in carrying my own counter-attack through. It is true that I missed the logical continuation at one point, owing to fatigue and time pressure, and so had to win the game twice; but then the sacrificial termination has some merit.' (page 60)

    Harry Nelson Pillsbury - Emanuel Lasker [D50]
    St Petersburg (round 10), 4 January 1896
    Queen's Gambit Declined
    1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c5 5.Bg5 cxd4 6.Qxd4 Nc6 7.Qh4 Be7 8.0-0-0 Qa5 9.e3 Bd7 10.Kb1 h6 11.cxd5 exd5 12.Nd4 0-0 13.Bxf6 Bxf6 14.Qh5 Nxd4 15.exd4 Be6 16.f4 Rac8 17.f5 Rxc3 18.fxe6 Ra3 19.exf7+ Rxf7 20.bxa3 Qb6+ 21.Bb5 Qxb5+ 22.Ka1 Rc7 23.Rd2 Rc4 24.Rhd1 Rc3 25.Qf5 Qc4 26.Kb2 Rxa3 27.Qe6+ Kh7 28.Kxa3 Qc3+ 29.Ka4 b5+ 30.Kxb5 Qc4+ 31.Ka5 Bd8+ 32.Qb6 Bxb6 mate. This is one of chess literature's most famous games. On page 64 of Chess Masterpieces Marshall stated regarding 26...Rxa3, 'Pillsbury told me that he had not foreseen this move, as he was laboring under severe time pressure'. [Click to replay]


Emanuel Lasker

  • J. Barry: Barry v Pillsbury, Boston, 1899 (page 67)

    John Finan Barry - Harry Nelson Pillsbury [C65]
    Boston (exhibition game), December 1899
    Ruy López
    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d4 Nxe4 5.d5 Nd6 6.Nc3 e4 7.Ng5 Ne5 8.Qd4 f6 9.Ngxe4 Nxb5 10.Nxb5 a6 11.Qa4 Rb8 12.Nd4 Be7 13.Qb3 d6 14.f4 f5 15.Ng3 Ng4 16.0-0 0-0 17.Nc6 bxc6 18.Qxb8 cxd5 19.Qb3 c6 20.Bd2 Qc7 21.Rae1 Bf6 22.h3 Bd4+ 23.Kh1 Nf2+ 24.Kh2 Ne4 25.Nxe4 fxe4 26.Rxe4 Bxb2 27.c3 Ba3 28.Rfe1 Bc5 29.Re7 Qb6 30.Qd1 Bf5 31.Qh5 h6 32.Rxg7+ Kxg7 33.Re7+ Kg8 34.Qxh6 Bg1+ 35.Kh1 Bd4 36.cxd4 Qxd4 37.Qg5+ Kh8 38.Qh4+ Kg8 39.Qg3+ Kh8 40.Bc3 Qxc3 41.Qxc3+ d4 42.Qxd4+ Rf6 43.Qxf6+ Kg8 44.Qg7 mate. Barry reported that after 31...h6 'I now announce mate in 13', and Marshall commented: 'Needless to say, in a match such as the one played by Barry against Pillsbury the announcement of a mate in 13 is unique, and this brilliant game is one of which any master in the world would be proud to claim ownership.' [Click to replay]


John Finan Barry

  • W. Winter: 'I consider [Winter v Vidmar, London, 1927] to be my best game partly on account of the eminence of my opponent and partly because of the importance of the occasion on which it was played, and also because on three occasions in which the situation was extremely complicated, I was fortunate enough to discover the only continuation which not only was necessary to secure victory, but to actually save the game.' (page 72)
  • William Winter - Milan Vidmar [E32]
    London (round 11), 24 October 1927
    Nimzo-Indian Defence
    1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.Bg5 d6 6.e3 Qe7 7.Bd3 h6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.Nge2 Bxc3+ 10.Nxc3 Nc6 11.a3 e5 12.d5 Nb8 13.0-0 Qe7 14.f4 f5 15.fxe5 Qxe5 16.Rf3 f4 17.Qf2 Bg4 18.Rxf4 Nd7 19.h3 g5 20.Rxf8+ Rxf8 21.Qe1 Bh5 22.Qd2 Re8 23.Re1 g4 24.hxg4 Nf6 25.gxh5 Ng4 26.Ne4 Qh2+ 27.Kf1 Qxh5 28.Ng3 Rf8+ 29.Nf5 Ne5 30.e4 Qh2 31.Re3 Qh1+ 32.Ke2 Rf6 33.Rg3+ Kf8 34.Kf2 Qa1 35.Be2 Qb1 36.Qe3 Qxb2 37.Qxa7 Ke8 38.Qa8+ Kd7 39.Rg7+ Nf7 40.Qa4+ c6 41.dxc6+ Ke6 42.c7 Rxf5+ 43.exf5+ Kf6 44.Rxf7+ Resigns. In his posthumous memoirs (see page 131 of CHESS, 9 February 1963) William Winter wrote: 'My game with Vidmar was unique in that I should think it is the only game in the annals of master chess which it would have been more profitable to draw, or even to lose, than to win. The point was that had I drawn I would have qualified for all the special awards offered to non-prizewinners, which, taken in all, were £7 10s in excess of my half share in the sixth prize. I was quite aware of this before the game started, but in the throes of combat a chessplayer forgets about such things.' [Click to replay]

  • M. Euwe: 'I consider [Euwe v Alekhine, 8th match game, 1926-27] to be my best game principally because I like it best myself. From your point of view it may not fulfill all requirements, there being no sacrifices or brilliancies, but, when it is considered that it was played against the player who shortly afterwards became the world's champion, and that I had the temerity to go in for what might be termed an audaciously novel opening, I think you will agree with me that I have a certain justification for making this selection.' (page 78)

    Max Euwe - Alexander Alekhine [A09]
    The Hague (eighth match game), 5 January 1927
    Réti's Opening
    1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 d4 3.b4 g6 4.e3 a5 5.b5 c5 6.exd4 Bg7 7.d3 cxd4 8.g3 Nd7 9.Nbd2 Nc5 10.Nb3 Qb6 11.Nxc5 Qxc5 12.Bg2 Nh6 13.0-0 0-0 14.a4 Re8 15.Re1 Bf5 16.Ba3 Qc7 17.c5 Rad8 18.Ng5 Bf6 19.Ne4 Bg7 20.Qd2 Ng4 21.b6 Qc8 22.c6 bxc6 23.Qxa5 Ne5 24.Qd2 Qa6 25.a5 Nxd3 26.Nc5 Nxc5 27.Bxc5 Qb5 28.Bxe7 Rc8 29.Bf1 Qb3 30.Ra3 Qd5 31.b7 Rb8 32.a6 Bc8 33.bxc8Q Rbxc8 34.Bg2 Qd7 35.Bc5 Rxe1+ 36.Qxe1 h5 37.a7 Ra8 38.Qe4 d3 39.Rxd3 Qb7 40.Qxc6 Qb1+ 41.Bf1 Rxa7 42.Bxa7 Resigns. This game was also annotated by Euwe, more deeply, in his anthology From My Games (1939). [Click to replay]

  • E. Colle: 'I have not played such a lot of fine games as to make the selection really difficult, but still it is not easy to define accurately what is really one's best game. One of the reasons – not a very good one, but still a reason – for selecting [Colle v Grünfeld, Berlin, 1926] is that it was awarded the first brilliancy prize.' (page 83)

    Edgard Colle - Ernst Grünfeld [E14]
    Berlin (round 8), 25 November 1926
    Queen's Pawn Game
    1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 b6 4.Bd3 Bb7 5.Nbd2 c5 6.0-0 Be7 7.b3 cxd4 8.exd4 d6 9.Bb2 Nbd7 10.c4 0-0 11.Rc1 Re8 12.Re1 Qc7 13.Qe2 Rac8 14.Nf1 Qb8 15.Ng3 Qa8 16.Ng5 g6 17.Nxf7 Kxf7 18.Qxe6+ Kg7 19.d5 Nc5 20.Nf5+ Kf8 21.Qe3 gxf5 22.Qh6+ Kf7 23.Bxf5 Bxd5 24.Rxe7+ Rxe7 25.Qxf6+ Ke8 26.Qh8+ Kf7 27.Bxc8 Resigns. [Click to replay]

  • Sir George Thomas: 'I find it uncommonly difficult to pick on a game to send you. To be honest – I have never played a game that completely satisfied me. However, I enclose a game [Alexander v Thomas, London, 1919] which has the merit of a rather entertaining combination, which was subsequently proved to be thoroughly sound. The play on both sides in the earlier stages of the game probably leaves much to be desired, but the long period in which the rook remains en prise is rather amusing.' (page 88)
  • Frederick Forrest Lawrie Alexander - George Alan Thomas [D52]
    London, 1919
    Queen's Gambit Declined
    1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bg5 c6 6.e3 Qa5 7.Bxf6 Nxf6 8.a3 Ne4 9.Qb3 Be7 10.Bd3 Nxc3 11.bxc3 dxc4 12.Bxc4 Bf6 13.0-0 0-0 14.e4 e5 15.d5 Qc7 16.Bd3 b6 17.c4 Bb7 18.Rfc1 Be7 19.Rc2 Bc5 20.Qb2 f6 21.Rb1 Rad8 22.a4 Ba6 23.Rd1 Rfe8 24.Qb3 Rd6 25.Nh4 g6 26.Be2 cxd5 27.exd5 e4 28.g3 e3 29.f4 Bc8 30.Nf3 Bf5 31.Rb2 Re4 32.Kg2 Qc8 33.Ng1 g5 34.fxg5 fxg5 35.Rf1 g4 36.Bd3 Rf6 37.Ne2 Qf8 38.Rbb1 Qh6 39.Qc2 Qh3+ 40.Kh1 Rxc4 41.Qxc4 Bxd3 42.Rxf6 Bxc4 43.Nf4 e2 44.Rg1 Qf1 45. White resigns. Capablanca called Thomas' victory 'a very fine game' when discussing it in the 'General Theory' chapter of Chess Fundamentals. [Click to replay]

  • A. Rubinstein: Rubinstein v Lasker, St Petersburg, 1909 (page 94)
  • Akiba Rubinstein - Emanuel Lasker [D32]
    St Petersburg (round 3), 18 February 1909
    Queen's Gambit Declined
    1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Bg5 c5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Nc3 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Nc6 8.e3 Be7 9.Bb5 Bd7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.Nxd5 Bxd4 12.exd4 Qg5 13.Bxc6 Bxc6 14.Ne3 0-0-0 15.0-0 Rhe8 16.Rc1 Rxe3 17.Rxc6+ bxc6 18.Qc1 Rxd4 19.fxe3 Rd7 20.Qxc6+ Kd8 21.Rf4 f5 22.Qc5 Qe7 23.Qxe7+ Kxe7 24.Rxf5 Rd1+ 25.Kf2 Rd2+ 26.Kf3 Rxb2 27.Ra5 Rb7 28.Ra6 Kf8 29.e4 Rc7 30.h4 Kf7 31.g4 Kf8 32.Kf4 Ke7 33.h5 h6 34.Kf5 Kf7 35.e5 Rb7 36.Rd6 Ke7 37.Ra6 Kf7 38.Rd6 Kf8 39.Rc6 Kf7 40.a3 Resigns. [Click to replay]

  • C. Howell: 'I have hesitated to send you this game [Howell v Ford, New York, 1904] as the casual chessist may find it dull and it is not a masterpiece. Strictly speaking I don't think I have ever perpetrated a masterpiece. As you know I have always played to win, and the few brilliancies I have had were due to the feeble play on the part of my opponents, and therefore gave me no satisfaction. The game I now send I like because it has some lessons for an earnest student.' (page 101)

    Clarence Seaman Howell - F. Ford [C67]
    New York, 1904
    Ruy López
    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.dxe5 Nxb5 7.a4 d6 8.e6 Bxe6 9.axb5 Ne5 10.Nd4 c5 11.Nxe6 fxe6 12.f4 Nf7 13.Re1 e5 14.Nc3 Be7 15.Nd5 b6 16.b4 cxb4 17.Be3 0-0 18.Bxb6 axb6 19.Rxa8 Qxa8 20.Nxe7+ Kh8 21.Qh5 Nh6 22.fxe5 dxe5 23.Qxe5 Qa2 24.Qd6 Qf7 25.Qxb6 Nf5 26.Nxf5 Qxf5 27.h3 Qxc2 28.Qd6 Qf2+ 29.Kh2 h6 30.b6 Resigns. Marshall's book described C.S. Howell (1881-1936) as 'one of the very finest amateur chessplayers not only in this country but in the whole world'. [Click to replay]


Clarence Seaman Howell

  • A.B. Hodges: 'As my chess career began nearly 50 years ago, I find it somewhat difficult to decide on my best game. To be worthy of inclusion in the series you are compiling, I think that there are certain essentials to be considered. The opponent must have been a prominent figure in the chess world, and there must be no flagrant error in his play. With these factors in mind, I think that my game with Dr Emanuel Lasker was my best effort. It was played in New York in 1892 ...' (pages 107-108)
  • Emanuel Lasker - Albert Beauregard Hodges [C62]
    New York, 14 October 1892
    Ruy López
    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.Nc3 Bd7 5.0-0 Nge7 6.d3 Ng6 7.Be3 Be7 8.d4 0-0 9.Bc4 Bg4 10.d5 Nb8 11.h3 Bxf3 12.Qxf3 f5 13.exf5 Nh4 14.Qg4 Nxf5 15.Bd2 Nd7 16.Bd3 g6 17.Ne4 Rf7 18.Rae1 Qf8 19.Nc3 a6 20.Nd1 Qg7 21.Bc3 Raf8 22.b4 Bd8 23.Bb2 Nf6 24.Qc4 Nh5 25.f4 b5 26.Qc6 Ne7 27.Qxa6 Nxf4 28.Qxb5 Qh6 29.Nf2 Qg5 30.Be4 Nf5 31.Qc4 Ng3 32.Bf3 Nxf1 33.Rxf1 Qh4 34.Qe4 Nxh3+ 35.Nxh3 Qxe4 36.Bxe4 Rxf1+ 37.Kh2 Re1 38.Bd3 e4 39.Bc4 Bf6 40.Bxf6 Rxf6 41.Ng5 e3 42.Kg3 Rf2 43.Bd3 Rg1 44. White resigns. Marshall's closing comment was: 'As Mr Steinitz remarks, the finish is of surprising beauty, and shows a depth of insight and a degree of analytical ability which are possessed by very few masters.' There are databases which incorrectly state that this game was played in a simultaneous display. It was one of 24 individual games that Lasker played against eight of the strongest members of the Manhattan Chess Club, as he reported on page 47 of his magazine the London Chess Fortnightly, 1 November 1892. When Napier published the game on page 222 of the December 1934 Chess Review (misdating it 24 March 1892) he wrote: 'It was the first loss suffered by Dr Emanuel Lasker on his first visit to these shores.' [Click to replay]

  • W. Napier: 'I consider the best game I ever played was against Dr Lasker at Cambridge Springs in 1904. I was particularly anxious to win this game, as I knew it would help you (not that you required any help) to clinch first prize. At one period of the game, the Doctor had to make nine moves in three minutes, and I felt that my game was safe. He made these moves however with such diabolical cunning and precision that I lost the game. I don't suppose however this is what you want, so I send you my game with Chigorin in the Monte Carlo Tournament of 1902. It may be some justification for my selecting this game that it was awarded the Rothschild Brilliancy Prize.' (pages 115-116)
  • Emanuel Lasker - William Ewart Napier [B72]
    Cambridge Springs (round 3), 28 April 1904
    Sicilian Defence 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 g6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.Be3 d6 7.h3 Nf6 8.g4 0-0 9.g5 Ne8 10.h4 Nc7 11.f4 e5 12.Nde2 d5 13.exd5 Nd4 14.Nxd4 Nxd5 15.Nf5 Nxc3 16.Qxd8 Rxd8 17.Ne7+ Kh8 18.h5 Re8 19.Bc5 gxh5 20.Bc4 exf4 21.Bxf7 Ne4 22.Bxe8 Bxb2 23.Rb1 Bc3+ 24.Kf1 Bg4 25.Bxh5 Bxh5 26.Rxh5 Ng3+ 27.Kg2 Nxh5 28.Rxb7 a5 29.Rb3 Bg7 30.Rh3 Ng3 31.Kf3 Ra6 32.Kxf4 Ne2+ 33.Kf5 Nc3 34.a3 Na4 35.Be3 Resigns. Napier on page 121 of his posthumous anthology Paul Morphy and The Golden Age of Chess (New York, 1957): 'This is, I think, my best game and certainly the one I most enjoyed playing.' [Click to replay]

    William Ewart Napier - Mikhail Chigorin [C51]
    Monte Carlo (round 20), 10 March 1902
    Evans' Gambit Accepted
    1.e4 Nc6 2.Nf3 e5 (The opening move order given by Napier in Marshall's book.) 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 exd4 7.0-0 d6 8.cxd4 Bb6 9.Bb2 Na5 10.Nc3 Ne7 11.Bd3 0-0 12.d5 Ng6 13.Ne2 c5 14.Qd2 Bg4 15.Ng3 Bxf3 16.gxf3 Nh4 17.Qf4 Ng6 18.Qf5 Rc8 19.Bc3 Rc7 20.Kh1 f6 21.Rg1 Rcf7 22.Bf1 c4 23.Bh3 Bxf2 24.Ne2 Ne5 25.Rg2 Be3 26.Nf4 Bxf4 27.Qxf4 g5 28.Be6 Kh8 29.Qd2 b6 30.Bxf7 Rxf7 31.f4 gxf4 32.Qxf4 Nb7 33.Rag1 Nc5 34.Bxe5 dxe5 35.Qg4 h6 36.Qh5 Qf8 37.Rg6 Kh7 38.Rxh6+ Resigns. Marshall: 'Mr Napier was only 21 when he played this magnificent game against one of the most redoubtable tournament players who ever lived ...' On pages 130-132 of Paul Morphy and The Golden Age of Chess Napier discussed the game and gave annotations by Pillsbury. [Click to replay]

  • J. Sawyer: the drawn game Marshall v Sawyer, Montreal, 1928. (page 120)

    Frank James Marshall - Joseph Sawyer [B20]
    Montreal, 1928
    Sicilian Defence
    1.e4 c5 2.b4 cxb4 3.a3 d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.Nf3 e6 6.axb4 Bxb4 7.c3 Be7 8.d4 Qd8 9.Bd3 Nf6 10.0-0 b6 11.Ne5 0-0 12.Qf3 Qd5 13.Qh3 Bb7 14.Bg5 g6 15.Nd2 Qd8 16.Rae1 Nbd7 17.f4 Rc8 18.Bb1 Nxe5 19.fxe5 Nh5 20.Bh6 Bg5 21.Bxg5 Qxg5 22.Ne4 Bxe4 23.Rxe4 Kh8 24.Kh1 f5 25.exf6 Rxf6 26.Rfe1 Nf4 27.Qg3 Qxg3 28.hxg3 Nh5 29.R4e3 Rc6 30.Be4 Rd6 31.Bf3 Nxg3+ 32.Kh2 Nf5 33.Re5 Kg7 34.d5 Nh4 35.dxe6 Nxf3+ 36.gxf3 Rf8 37.c4 Re8 38.c5 bxc5 39.Rxc5 Rdxe6 40.Rc7+ Kf6 41.Rxe6+ Rxe6 42.Rxa7 h5 43.Kg3 g5 44.Ra8 Kf5 45.Rf8+ Rf6 46.Ra8 h4+ 47.Kf2 Rb6 48.Ra5+ Kg6 49.Kg2 Rb2+ 50.Kh3 Rf2 51.Ra3 Kf5 52.Rb3 Kf4 53.Rb4+ Kxf3 54.Rb5 g4+ 55.Kxh4 Rh2+ 56.Kg5 g3 57.Rb3+ Kf2 58.Rb2+ Ke1 59.Rb1+ Kd2 60.Kf4 Drawn. Joseph Sawyer (1874-1965) was described in Marshall's book as 'the Chess Champion of Canada', but he had held the title some two decades previously. The closing comment by Sawyer on the above game was 'an exceedingly instructive ending'. [Click to replay]


Joseph Sawyer

  • J. Finn: Finn v Nugent, New York, 1898 (page 125).

    Julius Finn - C. Nugent [C56]
    New York, 1898
    Max Lange Attack
    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.0-0 Nf6 6.e5 d5 7.exf6 dxc4 8.Re1+ Be6 9.Ng5 Qd5 10.Nc3 Qf5 11.Nce4 Bf8 12.Nxf7 Kxf7 13.Ng5+ Kg8 14.g4 Qxf6 15.Rxe6 Qd8 16.Qf3 Qd7 17.Re7 Resigns. Marshall: 'The following beautiful game was played by Mr Julius Finn in the Cosmopolitan Club Championship in 1898. It has both sparkle and brilliancy, and there is positive genius in the culminating stroke.' [Click to replay]

Few writers have presumed to nominate the best chess game ever played by anyone, though Irving Chernev's choice of Bogoljubow v Alekhine, Hastings, 1922 is familiar. (See pages 281-283 of his 1968 book The Chess Companion.) As mentioned in C.N. 3784, Chernev gave his selection of 'the three greatest games ever played' in a letter on page 97 of Chess Review, April 1951: Bogoljubow v Alekhine, Hastings, 1922; Pillsbury v Tarrasch, Hastings, 1895; Réti v Alekhine, Baden-Baden, 1925. On page 28 of the November-December 1933 Chess Review Chernev stated that Pillsbury v Tarrasch was 'the most important game' (of all time).

Harry Nelson Pillsbury - Siegbert Tarrasch [D55]
Hastings (round 2), 6 August 1895
Queen's Gambit Declined
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.Rc1 O-O 7.e3 b6 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Bd3 Bb7 10.O-O c5 11.Re1 c4 12.Bb1 a6 13.Ne5 b5 14.f4 Re8 15.Qf3 Nf8 16.Ne2 Ne4 17.Bxe7 Rxe7 18.Bxe4 dxe4 19.Qg3 f6 20.Ng4 Kh8 21.f5 Qd7 22.Rf1 Rd8 23.Rf4 Qd6 24.Qh4 Rde8 25.Nc3 Bd5 26.Nf2 Qc6 27.Rf1 b4 28.Ne2 Qa4 29.Ng4 Nd7 30.R4f2 Kg8 31.Nc1 c3 32.b3 Qc6 33.h3 a5 34.Nh2 a4 35.g4 axb3 36.axb3 Ra8 37.g5 Ra3 38.Ng4 Bxb3 39.Rg2 Kh8 40.gxf6 gxf6 41.Nxb3 Rxb3 42.Nh6 Rg7 43.Rxg7 Kxg7 44.Qg3+ Kxh6 45.Kh1 Qd5 46.Rg1 Qxf5 47.Qh4+ Qh5 48.Qf4+ Qg5 49.Rxg5 fxg5 50.Qd6+ Kh5 51.Qxd7 c2 52.Qxh7 mate. Capablanca's annotations on pages 127-128 of the Chess Weekly, 15 January 1910 were reproduced on page 23 of our monograph on the Cuban. [Click to replay]


Harry Nelson Pillsbury

On page 3 of his Chess Life-Pictures (London, 1883) the exuberant G.A. MacDonnell wrote 'No grander battle has ever, in my opinion, been recorded in chess annals' regarding this well-known consultation game:

Adolf Anderssen, Bernhard Horwitz, Josef Kling - Howard Staunton, Samuel
Standidge Boden, James Stanley Kipping [C01]

Manchester, 6-7 August 1857
French Defence
1.e4 e6 2.d4 g6 3.Be3 Bg7 4.Nd2 Ne7 5.Bd3 b6 6.Ne2 Bb7 7.0-0 d6 8.c3 Nd7 9.Qb3 0-0 10.f4 d5 11.e5 Rb8 12.Rac1 c5 13.Qa3 c4 14.Bc2 a6 15.g4 b5 16.Ng3 Re8 17.b4 cxb3 18.axb3 Rc8 19.Bd3 Qb6 20.Qb2 f6 21.Rce1 Qc6 22.Nb1 fxe5 23.fxe5 Bxe5 24.dxe5 Nxe5 25.Bc2 Rf8 26.Bg5 Nf3+ 27.Rxf3 Rxf3 28.Bd1 Qc5+ 29.Kg2 Rf7 30.Kh3 Qd6 31.Qe2 Rc6 32.Qe3 Bc8 33.Kg2 Rc7 34.b4 Nc6 35.Qd2 Rcd7 36.Bb3 Ne5 37.Bf4 Rxf4 38.Qxf4 Nd3 39.Qe3 Nxe1+ 40.Qxe1 Rc7 41.Qe3 Kg7 42.Nd2 e5 43.Qg5 Qe7 44.Nh5+ Kh8 45.Nf6 Bb7 46.Kg1 Rxc3 47.h4 Kg7 48.Nh5+ Kf7 49.Qh6 Ke8 50.Ng7+ Kd7 51.Qxh7 Rg3+ 52.Kf2 Rxg4 53.Ke2 Rg2+ 54. White resigns. [Click to replay]

In the Pittsburgh Dispatch of 18 November 1902, Napier wrote of Steinitz v von Bardeleben, Hastings, 1895 that there was 'no finer game extant'. Source: Napier The Forgotten Chessmaster by John S. Hilbert (Yorklyn, 1997), page 62.

William Steinitz - Curt von Bardeleben [C54]
Hastings (round 10), 17 August 1895
Giuoco Piano
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 d5 8.exd5 Nxd5 9.0-0 Be6 10.Bg5 Be7 11.Bxd5 Bxd5 12.Nxd5 Qxd5 13.Bxe7 Nxe7 14.Re1 f6 15.Qe2 Qd7 16.Rac1 c6 17.d5 cxd5 18.Nd4 Kf7 19.Ne6 Rhc8 20.Qg4 g6 21.Ng5+ Ke8 22.Rxe7+ Kf8 23.Rf7+ Kg8 24.Rg7+ Kh8 25.Rxh7+ and White won. The unresolved circumstances of the game's finish are discussed in our feature article Steinitz v von Bardeleben. [Click to replay]

The Strand Magazine seldom had articles on chess, but one such was published on pages 722-725 of the December 1906 issue, headed 'The Best Games Ever Played at Chess by J.H. Blackburne, British Chess Champion [sic]'. He wrote:

'I will now proceed to consider three games which stand on record as perhaps the most brilliant in the annals of chess.'

The three were Anderssen's Immortal Game ('This is considered by many to be the most beautiful ending ever played'), Zukertort v Blackburne at London, 1883 and Morphy's 'brilliant little gem' against the Duke and Count at the Paris Opera, 1858.

Adolf Anderssen - Lionel Kieseritzky [C33]
London, 21 June 1851
King's Gambit Accepted
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 b5 5.Bxb5 Nf6 6.Nf3 Qh6 7.d3 Nh5 8.Nh4 Qg5 9.Nf5 c6 10.g4 Nf6 11.Rg1 cxb5 12.h4 Qg6 13.h5 Qg5 14.Qf3 Ng8 15.Bxf4 Qf6 16.Nc3 Bc5 17.Nd5 Qxb2 18.Bd6 Bxg1 19.e5 Qxa1+ 20.Ke2 Na6 21.Nxg7+ Kd8 22.Qf6+ Nxf6 23.Be7 mate. [Click to replay]

Johannes Hermann Zukertort - Joseph Henry Blackburne [A13]
London, 5 May 1883
English Opening
1.c4 e6 2.e3 Nf6 3.Nf3 b6 4.Be2 Bb7 5.0-0 d5 6.d4 Bd6 7.Nc3 0-0 8.b3 Nbd7 9.Bb2 Qe7 10.Nb5 Ne4 11.Nxd6 cxd6 12.Nd2 Ndf6 13.f3 Nxd2 14.Qxd2 dxc4 15.Bxc4 d5 16.Bd3 Rfc8 17.Rae1 Rc7 18.e4 Rac8 19.e5 Ne8 20.f4 g6 21.Re3 f5 22.exf6 Nxf6 23.f5 Ne4 24.Bxe4 dxe4 25.fxg6 Rc2 26.gxh7+ Kh8 27.d5+ e5 28.Qb4 R8c5 29.Rf8+ Kxh7 30.Qxe4+ Kg7 31.Bxe5+ Kxf8 32.Bg7+ Kg8 33.Qxe7 Resigns. [Click to replay]

Paul Morphy - Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard [C41]
Paris, 2 November 1858
Philidor's Defence
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Bg4 4.dxe5 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 dxe5 6.Bc4 Nf6 7.Qb3 Qe7 8.Nc3 c6 9.Bg5 b5 10.Nxb5 cxb5 11.Bxb5+ Nbd7 12.0-0-0 Rd8 13.Rxd7 Rxd7 14.Rd1 Qe6 15.Bxd7+ Nxd7 16.Qb8+ Nxb8 17.Rd8 mate. For a discussion of various historical points regarding this game, see our feature article Morphy v the Duke and Count. [Click to replay]


Paul Charles Morphy

The Morphy game is a popular choice. In C.N. 2287 Yasser Seirawan wrote to us:

'Regarding the best game of chess ever played, certainly none of my own games spring to mind. Morphy v the Duke and Count is arguably the most quoted game of all time and has much that is special about it. It is fair to say that no other game has brought so much pleasure to so many. The best game of chess ever played? Can there be such a thing? Would a perfect game not be boring? Can a mere off-hand game be the best ever? I don't know the answers, and in spite of the questions, Morphy v the Duke and Count gets my vote.'

Subsequently (see page 148 of A Chess Omnibus) we quoted a contrasting view, from pages 4-5 of Learn Chess by John Nunn (London, 2000):

'It's not an especially good game, as one might expect when the strongest player of his day confronts two duffers.'

On such matters, of course, there can be no consensus, or any reason for one. Even terms like 'best', 'greatest' and 'most beautiful' could be debated ad infinitum. And then there is the adjective 'perfect'. On pages 334-335 of the October 1919 BCM B. Goulding Brown described the game H.E. Atkins v J. Barry (in the 1910 Anglo-American cable match) as 'the nearest that I know to perfection', and The Golden Treasury of Chess by Francis J. Wellmuth (New York, 1943) gave it on pages 172-173 with the heading 'The Perfect Game'.

Henry Ernest Atkins - John Finan Barry [C14]
Anglo-American Cable Match, 11 March 1910
French Defence
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bxe7 Qxe7 7.Nb5 Kd8 8.c3 f6 9.exf6 gxf6 10.Qd2 c6 11.Na3 Nf8 12.Nf3 Bd7 13.g3 Be8 14.Bg2 Nbd7 15.c4 dxc4 16.Nxc4 Nb6 17.Nxb6 axb6 18.0-0 Ng6 19.Rfe1 Bd7 20.Qc3 Re8 21.Nd2 Qf8 22.a4 Ne7 23.a5 b5 24.Nb3 Nd5 25.Bxd5 exd5 26.Rxe8+ Bxe8 27.Nc5 Qf7 28.Re1 Kc7 29.Qe3 Bd7 30.Qf4+ Resigns. [Click to replay]


Henry Ernest Atkins

Atkins' victory was also highly praised by Emanuel Lasker in his annotations in the New York Evening Post, which were reproduced on pages 75-76 of the American Chess Bulletin, April 1910. The world champion concluded:

'Mr Atkins must be congratulated upon this game, in which every move he made, starting with his eighth, is beyond criticism.'

That assessment was quoted by Fred Reinfeld when he gave the game on pages 70-72 of A Treasury of British Chess Masterpieces (London, 1950). Lasker had preferred 7 Qd2, on the grounds that 7 Nb5 'puts the white knight out of play', but Reinfeld regarded this as 'carping criticism' and concluded:

'Had Lasker omitted the qualifying phrase, he would have been more just as well as more generous.'

As mentioned in C.N. 5624, on page 28 of the November-December 1933 Chess Review Irving Chernev quoted as 'the perfect game' the following:

Richard Réti - Boris Kostić [C01]
Teplitz-Schönau (round 8), 10 October 1922
Sicilian Defence
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 d5 4.exd5 exd5 5.Be2 Nf6 6.0-0 Be7 7.dxc5 0-0 8.Nbd2 Bxc5 9.Nb3 Be7 10.Bg5 h6 11.Bh4 Nc6 12.c3 Be6 13.Nfd4 Ne4 14.Bxe7 Qxe7 15.Bd3 Nc5 16.Bc2 Nxb3 17.axb3 Nxd4 18.Qxd4 a6 19.f4 Qf6 20.Qxf6 gxf6 21.Rad1 f5 22.Rd4 Kg7 23.Bd1 Rac8 24.Bf3 Rc5 25.b4 Rb5 26.Ra1 Rc8 27.Kf2 Kf6 28.Ke3 Ke7 29.h3 Kd6 30.Be2 Rb6 31.Ra5 Ke7 32.Bf3 Rg8 33.Kf2 Rd8 34.Rc5 Rc6 35.Rxc6 bxc6 36.Rd1 Rb8 37.Ra1 c5 38.bxc5 Rxb2+ 39.Ke3 Rb5 40.Kd4 a5 41.Ra2 Kd7 42.Be2 Rb1 43.Rxa5 Rb2 44.Bf3 Rd2+ 45.Ke3 Rc2 46.Kd3 Rb2 47.Ra6 Kc7 48.Rd6 Rb1 49.Kd4 Re1 50.Bxd5 Re2 51.g3 Re1 52.c4 h5 53.Ra6 Rd1+ 54.Ke5 Re1+ 55.Kf6 Re3 56.Ra7+ Kd8 57.Ra8+ Kd7 58.Rg8 Resigns. Réti annotated the game in an article about the isolated queen's pawn on pages 38-41 of the February 1929 El Ajedrez Americano. [Click to replay]

Other documented nominations of the kind discussed above continue to be sought.

Copyright to all historical pictures and scans: Edward Winter


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All articles by Edward Winter


Edward Winter is the editor of Chess Notes, which was founded in January 1982 as "a forum for aficionados to discuss all matters relating to the Royal Pastime". Since then over 5,600 items have been published, and the series has resulted in four books by Winter: Chess Explorations (1996), Kings, Commoners and Knaves (1999), A Chess Omnibus (2003) and Chess Facts and Fables (2006). He is also the author of a monograph on Capablanca (1989).

Chess Notes is well known for its historical research, and anyone browsing in its archives will find a wealth of unknown games, accounts of historical mysteries, quotes and quips, and other material of every kind imaginable. Correspondents from around the world contribute items, and they include not only "ordinary readers" but also some eminent historians – and, indeed, some eminent masters. Chess Notes is located at the Chess History Center. Signed copies of Edward Winter's publications are currently available.



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