Yosha Iglesias

2 months

The 10 most famous chess combinations in history

After reviewing the 10 most famous chess games and the 10 most famous chess moves in previous articles, let's see the 10 most famous chess combinations in chess history!

If you still haven't read these two articles, you can do so in any order, but keep in mind that if you don't see your favorite combination here, it might already have been published.

Please also note that these are the most famous chess combinations, not necessarily the best combinations ever played.

The combinations are sorted in chronological order.

  • Adolf Anderssen vs. Jean Dufresne, 1852
  • Emanuel Lasker vs. Johann Bauer, 1889
  • Edwin Adams vs. Carlos Torre, 1920
  • Martin Ortueta vs. Jose Sanz, 1933
  • Vera Menchik vs. Sonja Graf, 1937
  • Bobby Fischer vs. Samuel Reshevsky, 1958
  • Mikhail Tal vs. Sviridov, 1969
  • Nona Gaprindashvili vs. Rudolf Servaty, 1974
  • Larry Christiansen vs. Anatoly Karpov, 1993
  • Garry Kasparov vs. Veselin Topalov, 1999

You can replay all the games and analysis with the viewer below. Select the game in the upper left corner.

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Adolf Anderssen vs Jean Dufresne, 1852.??.??
Jean Dufresne
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Adolf Anderssen
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1.e4e52.Nf3Nc63.Bc4Bc54.b4Bxb45.c3Ba56.d4exd47.O-Od38.Qb3Qf69.e5Qg610.Re1Nge711.Ba3b512.Qxb5Rb813.Qa4Bb614.Nbd2Bb715.Ne4Qf516.Bxd3Qh517.Nf6+gxf618.exf6Rg819.Rad1Qxf320.Rxe7+Nxe7 (20....Kf821.Re3+) (20....Kd821.Rxd7+Kc822.Rd8+Kxd823.Be2+) 21.Qxd7+Kxd722.Bf5+Ke8 (22....Kc623.Bd7#) 23.Bd7+Kf824.Bxe7#1-0

1. Adolf Anderssen vs. Jean Dufresne, 1852

Adolf Anderssen

We already saw Adolf Anderssen's Immortal in the 10 most famous chess games and we now take a look at the brutal yet elegant finish of his Evergreen game against Jean Dufresne.

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Black just took a knight on f3 with their queen, taking advantage of the pin on the g-file.

White would be dead lost, if not for the magnificent combination that Anderssen had foreseen:

20.Rxe7+! Nxe7 (20...Kf8 21.Re3+ or 20...Rd8 21.Rxd7+ Kc8 22.Rd8+! are no improvement for Black) 21.Qxd7+!!

In the most epic way, White's queen sacrifices herself so the remaining pieces can deliver checkmate.

There are two amazing mating patterns:

21...Kxd7 22.Bf5+ Ke8 (22...Kc6 23.Bd7# would also have been legendary) 23.Bd7+ Kf8 24.Bxe7#

Play through the whole game below:

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Adolf Anderssen vs Jean Dufresne, 1852.??.??
Jean Dufresne
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Adolf Anderssen
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1.e4e52.Nf3Nc63.Bc4Bc54.b4Bxb45.c3Ba56.d4exd47.O-Od38.Qb3Qf69.e5Qg610.Re1Nge711.Ba3b512.Qxb5Rb813.Qa4Bb614.Nbd2Bb715.Ne4Qf516.Bxd3Qh517.Nf6+gxf618.exf6Rg819.Rad1Qxf320.Rxe7+Nxe7 (20....Kf821.Re3+) (20....Kd821.Rxd7+Kc822.Rd8+Kxd823.Be2+) 21.Qxd7+Kxd722.Bf5+Ke8 (22....Kc623.Bd7#) 23.Bd7+Kf824.Bxe7#1-0

2. Emanuel Lasker vs. Johann Bauer, 1889

Emanuel Lasker

The following combination is the 2nd World Champion's most famous.

The double bishop sacrifice has become an instant classic, regularly shown in every chess club since then. It's often wrongly presented as the first double bishop sacrifice, but John Owen was the pioneer in his 1884 game against Amos Burn.

The sacrifice was correct, but Owen misplayed and lost.

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Emanuel Lasker has just played 14.Nh5! and after 14...Nxh5 (diagram) Lasker unleashes the now-typical, but at the time shocking, combination:

15.Bxh7+!! Kxh7 16.Qxh5+ Kg8 17.Bxg7!!

Like a remorseless general, Lasker sacrifices his second bishop to destroy the black king's surroundings.

Seeing that the mate is forced after 17...f6 18.Bh6!, Bauer reluctantly accepts the second sacrifice, but soon finds himself at a severe material disadvantage after 17...Kxg7 18.Qg4+ Kh7 19.Rf3! e5 20. Rh3+ Qh6+ 21.Qxh6+ Kxh6 22.Qd7!

Play through the whole game below:

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Adolf Anderssen vs Jean Dufresne, 1852.??.??
Jean Dufresne
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Adolf Anderssen
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1.e4e52.Nf3Nc63.Bc4Bc54.b4Bxb45.c3Ba56.d4exd47.O-Od38.Qb3Qf69.e5Qg610.Re1Nge711.Ba3b512.Qxb5Rb813.Qa4Bb614.Nbd2Bb715.Ne4Qf516.Bxd3Qh517.Nf6+gxf618.exf6Rg819.Rad1Qxf320.Rxe7+Nxe7 (20....Kf821.Re3+) (20....Kd821.Rxd7+Kc822.Rd8+Kxd823.Be2+) 21.Qxd7+Kxd722.Bf5+Ke8 (22....Kc623.Bd7#) 23.Bd7+Kf824.Bxe7#1-0

3. Edwin Adams vs. Carlos Torre, 1920

Carlos Torre (left) and Edwin Adams

The renowned Mexican Grandmaster Carlos Torre began his chess career as a kid when he was taken under the wing of the strong American amateur Edwin Adams, who served as his mentor and sponsor.

It's now believed that the following combination was not played in a real game between the two, but is the result of analysis by Torre, who used it to express his gratitude towards Adams and make him gain chess immortality.

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18.Qg4!!

The first of six consecutive moves in which White puts or leaves their queen en prise!

18...Qb5! (Of course not 18...Qxg4? 19.Rxe8+! Rxe8 20.Rxe8#) 19.Qc4!! (Not the tempting 19.a4?? as after 19...Qxe2!! 20.Rxe2 Rc1+ 21.Re1 Rxe1+ 22.Nxe1 Rxe1# White would be the one suffering from a back-rank mate!)

19...Qd7! 20.Qc7!! Qb5!

The queens continue their dance of death and now comes a new amazing idea 21.a4!! (Not 21.Qxb7?? as 21...Qxe2! wins) 21...Qxa4! 22.Re4!!

The rook leaves the e2-square where it gave the possibility of Qxe2 (22.b3? Qb5 23.Qxb5?? Qxe2 -+) 22...Qb5 (or 22...h6 23.Qxc8!) 23.Qxb7!! and Black is finally defenseless.

It should be noted that Judit Polgar beat Anatoly Karpov in their 2003 game with a similar sacrifice, but Karpov resigned just before she could sac her second bishop!

Play through the whole game below:

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Adolf Anderssen vs Jean Dufresne, 1852.??.??
Jean Dufresne
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Adolf Anderssen
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1.e4e52.Nf3Nc63.Bc4Bc54.b4Bxb45.c3Ba56.d4exd47.O-Od38.Qb3Qf69.e5Qg610.Re1Nge711.Ba3b512.Qxb5Rb813.Qa4Bb614.Nbd2Bb715.Ne4Qf516.Bxd3Qh517.Nf6+gxf618.exf6Rg819.Rad1Qxf320.Rxe7+Nxe7 (20....Kf821.Re3+) (20....Kd821.Rxd7+Kc822.Rd8+Kxd823.Be2+) 21.Qxd7+Kxd722.Bf5+Ke8 (22....Kc623.Bd7#) 23.Bd7+Kf824.Bxe7#1-0

4. Martin Ortueta vs. Jose Sanz, 1933

Jose Sanz Aguado

One of the best Spanish players in the 30s and 40s, Jose Sanz won the Spanish Championship in 1943.

His combination against Martin Ortueta is the definition of a "study-like win".

When Xavier Tartakower asked Henri Rinck whether he could make a study of it, the legendary composer answered, "You want me to make a study of it, but it's already a study."

There is nothing to add, nor to take away.

It might explain why, as for the Adams vs. Torre game, some people expressed their doubt regarding the game's authenticity.

Real game or composition, it's one of the most famous chess combinations in history!

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Black is up two pawns, but with such a poor structure, it looks as though the win will require some work.

Instead, Jose Sanz forces resignation with five powerful blows!

31...Rxb2!! 32.Nxb2 c3 33.Rxb6!

A nice counterblow that had to be anticipated.

33.Nd3 c4+ 34.Rxb6 cxd3 would have been an easy win, but now Black has to find only moves not to lose!

33...c4!! (33...axb6?? 34.Nd3 is hopeless for Black).

Black threatens 34...c2 but 34.Rb4! and once again, Black seems on the verge of defeat, but the third pawn comes to its colleagues' rescue!

34...a5!! and neither 35.Rxc2 cxb2 nor 35.Nxc4 c2 gives White any chance.

Play through the whole game below:

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Adolf Anderssen vs Jean Dufresne, 1852.??.??
Jean Dufresne
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Adolf Anderssen
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1.e4e52.Nf3Nc63.Bc4Bc54.b4Bxb45.c3Ba56.d4exd47.O-Od38.Qb3Qf69.e5Qg610.Re1Nge711.Ba3b512.Qxb5Rb813.Qa4Bb614.Nbd2Bb715.Ne4Qf516.Bxd3Qh517.Nf6+gxf618.exf6Rg819.Rad1Qxf320.Rxe7+Nxe7 (20....Kf821.Re3+) (20....Kd821.Rxd7+Kc822.Rd8+Kxd823.Be2+) 21.Qxd7+Kxd722.Bf5+Ke8 (22....Kc623.Bd7#) 23.Bd7+Kf824.Bxe7#1-0

5. Vera Menchik vs. Sonja Graf, 1937

Sonja Graf (left) and Vera Menchik

While Sonja Graf was undoubtedly the 2nd best female chess player in the world in the 20s and 30s, Vera Menchik was a much better player.

Menchik had notable victories against prominent players such as Max Euwe, Jacques Mieses, Samuel Reshevsky, and Friedrich Sämisch.

If it were not for her tragic death during WWII, she would likely have been the first woman to earn the title of grandmaster.

In their 1937 encounter, Vera Menchik delivered a final blow that is a perfect combination of force, aesthetics, and cleverness.

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21.Qxh5? is very tempting as 21...gxh5?? 22.Bh7# is mate, but Black has the resource 21...Qxh2+! 22.Qxh2 Nxh2 and as the g5-knight is en prise, the game continues.

To avoid this defense, Menchik plays 21.Rd7!! in order to distract Black's queen!

Understanding that 21...Qxd7 would have been met by 22.Qxh5!, Sonja Graf resigned.

You can replay all the games and analysis with the viewer below. Select the game in the upper left corner.

Play through the whole game below:

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Adolf Anderssen vs Jean Dufresne, 1852.??.??
Jean Dufresne
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