Exercises in Style: From Wilhelm Steinitz to Magnus Carlsen (3/4)

by Johannes Fischer
8/3/2017 – Tigran Petrosian had a unique style. But do you recognize his games if you just see the moves? Have a try! Part 1 and 2 of the "Exercises in Style" presented games by Steinitz, Lasker, Capablanca, Aljechin, Euwe, Botvinnik, Smyslov and Tal, now follow games by Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer and Karpov. Do you know which World Champion played which game?

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The first undisputed World Champion in the history of chess was Wilhelm Steinitz, while the 16th and current World Champion is Magnus Carlsen. In this article and in the days to come ChessBase presents 16 games by the World Champions — one per World Champion. Without giving any information when, where and against whom these games were played, can you find out which World Champion played which game by just looking at the moves?

To simplify the task, the 16 World Champions were divided into four groups. In the first group were Wilhelm Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker, José Rául Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine, the second group consists of Max Euwe, Mikhail Botvinnik, Vassily Smyslov and Mihail Tal. The third group, presented here, includes Tigran Petrosian, Boris Spassky, Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov.

The games were chosen with a random generator. But only tournament and matchgames were taken into account and only wins. Games between two World Champions were also ignored.

Game 1


Game 2


Game 3


Game 4


If you want to you can explain your choice the in comments. It is, of course, easy to find out who played which game if you search for the games in the ChessBase Megabase. But this would spoil the fun, so if you do, please keep it to yourself! Moreover, we'll reveal who played which game soon. And part four of the "Exercises in Style" series will follow soon.

See also


Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".
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vinniethepooh vinniethepooh 8/4/2017 07:29
I think that this time the choices are quite obvious and I am confident of getting full marks.

Game 1 is typical Spassky ready to hop on the chances given to him. Also, this one can be solved pretty easily- by elimination.

I am pretty sure everyone will get Game 2 right. After all, Petrosian- him and his usual slow maneuovering struggles, who cannot understand them?

Game 3 should be Karpov, particular because of the opening, but also who could show such technique other than the great Tolya! (That's what he is called, I believe :))

That leaves Game 4 for Fischer and I think its clear. The endgame skill was phenomenal so it could be either of Karpov or Fischer. But it is quite clear that Karpov is Game 3, therefore, choosing Fischer.

So, finally guys, my answers:

Peter B Peter B 8/4/2017 02:04
Going purely by opening choice, Fischer has to be Game 4. He never played 1 d4, I don't think ever played the 2 c3 sicilian, and against the Najdorf he almost always played 6 Bc4 not 6 Bg5. I can't see Karpov or Petrosian playing Game 1, so that'd be Spassky. Then I think Karpov is more likely than Tigran to play a 2 c3 Sicilian, plus some of the manoevres on the Qside look perhaps more Karpov like. So I'm saying: 1 Spassky, 2 Petrosian, 3 Karpov, 4 Fischer. But I've only got one of eight so far so what would I know!
Resistance Resistance 8/3/2017 07:42
Tough one. Spent some time before spotting what I THINK are distinctive signs... Anyway:

Game 1 - Spassky (--too agressive a game for Karpov; too direct, for Petrosian; and too dynamic, perhaps, for Bobby. At first, though, I wasn't sure if it was a Karpov, Fischer or Spassky game--).

Game 2 - Petrosian (--seems like the kind of 'slow-moving', deceitfully quiet games I've seen from him; too protracted and tactical for Karpov or Fischer; too slow for Spassky--).

Game 3 - Karpov (--the most difficult game for me to settle on; I'm still not fully sure about its author, but since I already have Petrosian in Game 2, and since it doesn't really look like a Fischer game to me (though it opens with 1. e4), and since Game 3 and 4 do not look like Spassky games either, I'm picking Karpov for this one; it might be Petrosian's or Spassky's, too--).

Game 4 - Fischer (--the game opens with 1. e4; not dynamic, but rather direct in nature, the player with the white pieces seems to have no problem heading into an ending in order to decide matters there, despite having what it seems to be only a slight advantage; subtle, sharp endgame player. It doesn't look like a Spassky or Petrosian game to me; it might be Karpov's, though, but it seems a bit too agressive a game for him--).
jialibun jialibun 8/3/2017 01:41
game 3.4: spassky by move 7.d4
jialibun jialibun 8/3/2017 01:40
game 3.3: fischer by move 7.Ne5
jialibun jialibun 8/3/2017 01:38
game 3.2: petrosian by move 8.Bd2
jialibun jialibun 8/3/2017 01:35
game 3.1: karpov by move 31.h5