Yosha Iglesias

6 months

The 10 most famous chess moves

After having reviewed the 10 most famous chess games in a previous article, let's see the 10 most famous chess moves in history!

I chose these moves because of their beauty, originality, fame of the players or the stakes of the game.

I'm pretty sure that most Grandmasters are able to name the players of each game just by reading the famous move.

What about you?

How many games can you recognize when seeing the following list?

  • 23...Qc3-g3
  • 12.Qh4xBf6
  • 18.Nd4-c6
  • 30.Qb2-h8+
  • 29...Bd6xh2
  • 24.Be3-a7
  • 11...Ke8-e7
  • 47...Bf5-h3
  • 14.g2-g4
  • 50.Qf4-h6+

We are going to take a close look at each of these moves, but you can also replay the games in their entirety using the viewer below.

Select the game in the upper left corner.

·

Stefan Levitsky vs Frank James Marshall, 2022.11.27
Frank James Marshall
1

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

a

b

c

d

e

f

g

h

Stefan Levitsky
0

1.d4e62.e4d53.Nc3c54.Nf3Nc65.exd5exd56.Be2Nf67.O-OBe78.Bg5O-O9.dxc5Be610.Nd4Bxc511.Nxe6fxe612.Bg4Qd613.Bh3Rae814.Qd2Bb415.Bxf6Rxf616.Rad1Qc517.Qe2Bxc318.bxc3Qxc319.Rxd5Nd420.Qh5Ref821.Re5Rh622.Qg5Rxh323.Rc5Qg3!! 0-1 (23) Black wins. 24.Qxg3 (24.hxg3Ne2#) (24.fxg3Ne2+25.Kh1Rxf1#) 24.Ne2+25.Kh1Nxg3+26.Kg1Ne2+27.Kh1Rc3 0-1 Black wins. 0-1

Most Famous Chess Move #1: Stefan Levitsky vs. Frank Marshall, 1912

Frank Marshall

Frank Marshall

Frank Marshall was one of the very best players in the world in the early 20th century.

He is still known for his tactical abilities and his contributions to the opening theory, most notably for the gambits named after him in the Spanish Opening and the Semi-Slav.

In 1912, against Levitsky, Marshall played one of the most famous chess moves in history!

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

h

g

f

e

d

c

b

a

Black is up a piece, but with everything hanging, the conversion doesn't look that easy.

Marshall put his queen 3 times en prise by the magnificent 23...Qg3!! and White instantly resigned as there was no hope in any variation: 24.hxg3 Ne2#; 24.fxg3 Ne2+ 25.Kh1 Rxf1#; 24.Qxg3 Ne2+ 25.Kh1 Nxg3+ -+

Most Famous Chess Move #2: Rashid Nezhmetdinov vs. Oleg Chernikov, 1962

Rashid Nezhmetdinov

Rashid Nezhmetdinov

Rashid Nezhmetdinov was one of the most brilliant attackers in chess history, at least as talented as his friend Mikhail Tal in chaotic positions.

While he never became a Grandmaster, Nezhmetdinov produced many gems that made him one of the most popular chess players ever.

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

a

b

c

d

e

f

g

h

After playing his last move 11...Bf6, Chernikov stood up for a walk, confident that his opponent would repeat the moves with 12.Qh6 Bg7 13.Qh4 Bf6, as recommended by the theory of the time.

But after a very long thought, Nezhmetdinov played what might be the greatest positional queen sacrifice of all time: 12.Qxf6!!

While the position remains equal according to the computer, it's much easier to play for White, despite having only two minor pieces for the queen!

Kholmov played the best response 12...Ne2+! forcing White to lose some tempi but after 13.Nxe2 exf6 14.Nc3 Nezhmetdinov soon had a decisive initiative.

Most Famous Chess Move #3: Ratmir Kholmov vs. David Bronstein, 1965

Ratmir Kholmov

Ratmir Kholmov

Ratmir Kholmov was one of the strongest Soviet players at the beginning of the second half of the 20th century.

Facing the legendary World Championship finalist David Bronstein, Kholmov displayed one of the best demolitions of the Sicilian Defense ever.

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

a

b

c

d

e

f

g

h

The f6-bishop is a perfect defender of Black's king.

To remove it, White first has to sacrifice a knight with 18.Nc6!! Nxc6 and then a pawn with 19.e5!!

Now 19...Nxe5 would lose to 20.Ne4! Nd7 21.Rxd6! followed by Rxd7! and 19...Bxe5 is met by another sacrifice 20.f6!! Bxf6 21.Bd3 +-

Black tried 19...Bg5+ but White won after 20.Rxg5 f6 21.exd6! Qf7 22.Rg3! bxc2 23.Bc4! with a decisive attack.

Most Famous Chess Move #4: Tigran Petrosian vs. Boris Spassky, 1966

Tigran Petrosian

The Armenian legend Tigran Petrosian became World Champion by beating Mikhail Botvinnik in 1963.

He regained his title in 1966 against Boris Spassky. The conclusion of the 10th game became an instant classic!

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

a

b

c

d

e

f

g

h

30.Qh8+!! Boris Vasilievich resigned as 30...Kxh8 is met by 31.Nxf7+ winning a rook and a queen!

The amazing Garry Kasparov reflected on Bronstein games in My Great Predecessors - Part 3.

Most Famous Chess Move #5: Boris Spassky vs. Bobby Fischer, 1972

It might be the most discussed move of all time and ironically it's the only move on this list that can't be given a double exclamation mark.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

h

g

f

e

d

c

b

a

The first round of the Match of the Century was quietly heading towards a draw when Bobby Fischer shocked his opponent and the whole world with his move 29...Bxh2?!?

Analysis proved that the position remains a draw with precise play but Black needlessly put themselves on the edge of the abyss.

30.g3 h5 31.Ke2 h4 32.Kf3 Ke7 33.Kg2 hxg3 34. fxg3 Bxg3 35.Kxg3 and Fischer could not hold this difficult endgame.

You can replay the games in their entirety using the viewer below. Select the game in the upper left corner.

2022.11.27 ·

Stefan Levitsky vs Frank James Marshall, 2022.11.27
Frank James Marshall
1

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

a

b

c

d

e

f

g

h

Stefan Levitsky
0

1.d4e62.e4d53.Nc3c54.Nf3Nc65.exd5exd56.Be2Nf67.O-OBe78.Bg5O-O9.dxc5Be610.Nd4Bxc511.Nxe6fxe612.Bg4Qd613.Bh3Rae814.Qd2Bb415.Bxf6Rxf616.Rad1Qc517.Qe2Bxc318.bxc3Qxc319.Rxd5Nd420.Qh5Ref821.Re5Rh622.Qg5Rxh323.Rc5Qg3!! 0-1 (23) Black wins. 24.Qxg3 (24.hxg3Ne2#) (24.fxg3Ne2+25.Kh1Rxf1#) 24.Ne2+25.Kh1Nxg3+26.Kg1Ne2+27.Kh1Rc3 0-1 Black wins. 0-1

Do some chess strategy training with Bobby Fischer!

Most Famous Chess Move #6: Anatoly Karpov vs. Wolfang Unzicker, 1974

Anatoly Karpov, a few moves before playin 24.Ba7!!

In 1974, Anatoly Karpov showed he was the best active player in the world, as Bobby Fischer hadn't played for two years.

At the Nice Olympiad, Karpov won the gold medal on the first board by scoring 12/14 points and produced one of the finest positional wins in his Spanish Defense against Wolfgang Unzicker.

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

a

b

c

d

e

f

g

h

Black threatens Rxa2 Qxa2 Qa8 and it seems that White must either accept the exchanges or give up the a-file to Black.

The not-yet 12th World Champion played the star move 24.Ba7!! blocking the a-file.

Having prevented Black's play on the queenside, White slowly but surely won on the kingside.

Funnily enough, the bishop hasn't left a7 for the rest of the game!

Most Famous Chess Move #7: Gata Kamsky vs. Anatoly Karpov, 1993

Karpov playing the Caro Kann against Kamsky in 1996

The self-proclaimed Famous F...ing Legend Gata Kamsky and Anatoly Karpov faced each other in the FIDE World Championship final in 1996, but they played their most famous encounter 3 years earlier.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

h

g

f

e

d

c

b

a

This position was known as great for White, as 11...O-O?? is met by the crushing 12.Bxh6! +- and 11...g5?? allows 12.Bxg5 +-

A previous game saw Hector beating Hodgson with White after 11...Qa5+?! 12.Bd2 Qh5 13.Qxh5 Nxh5 14.Ne5 +/-

Karpov unleashed the incredible novelty 11...Ke7!!

Now that the queen defends the h8-rook, g5 becomes a threat!

For instance 12.O-O?? loses after 12...g5! 13.Qh3 g4 Kamsky rightfully decided to sac a pawn with 12.Ne5! Bxe5 13.dxe5 Qa5+! 14.c3 Qxe5 and Karpov later won this dynamically equal position.

Most Famous Chess Move #8: Veselin Topalov vs. Alexei Shirov, 1998

Alexei Shirov

Former world #2 Alexei Shirov beat Vladimir Kramnik in 1998 to qualify for the World Championship match against Garry Kasparov that would never take place.

The same year, he played in Linares one of the most incredible moves in chess history.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

h

g

f

e

d

c

b

a

The natural 47...Bg4? is met by 48.Kf2 Kf5 49.Ke3 and White is able to draw this opposite-colored-bishops endgame.

To win a crucial tempo, Shirov sacrificed his bishop with 47...Bh3!!

White had to take as 48.Kf2 Kf5 49.Ke3 Bxg2! is no improvement. 48.gxh3 Kf5 49.Kf2 Ke4! 50.Bxf6 d4 51.Be7 Kd3 52.Bc5 Kc4 53.Be7 Kb3 and Topalov resigned.

Most Famous Chess Move #9: Judit Polgar vs. Ferenc Berkes, 2003

Judit Polgar

The former youngest chess Grandmaster ever Judit Polgar won many brilliancies throughout her career including her most famous combination against her compatriot Ferenc Berkes in her home city of Budapest.

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

a

b

c

d

e

f

g

h

Black just captured a Bishop on g5 but now 14.Bxa8?? would lose to 14...g4! 15.Ne5?! Bg5! 16.f4 exf3 -+

To prevent g4, Judit simply played it herself! 14.g4!! threatens to take the a8-rook and after 14...Rb8 15.h4! White has an unstoppable attack that soon brought Judit victory.

Most Famous Chess Move #10: Magnus Carlsen vs. Sergey Karjakin, 2016

Magnus Carlsen only needed a draw to retain his crown in this final rapid game of the 2016 World Championship.

From a position where he was simply up an exchange, the Norwegian seemed to allow Black some dangerous counterplay, but he had foreseen the magical blow 50.Qh6+!!

The Russian Grandmaster resigned as it's mate on the next move either by 50...gxh6 51.Rxf7# or by 50...Kxh6 51.Rh8#

You can replay the games in their entirety using the viewer below. Select the game in the upper left corner.

·

Stefan Levitsky vs Frank James Marshall, 2022.11.27
Frank James Marshall
1

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

a

b

c

d

e

f

g

h