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The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played

The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played

4.3 3
by Irving Chernev

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The bestselling author of Logical Chess Move by Move guides players through 62 masterly strategies for chess success. Each game provides a classic example of a fundamental problem and its best resolution, described with chess diagrams and Chernev's lively notes. The matches—all by chess greats such as Capablanca, Tarrasch, Fischer, Alekhine, Lasker, and


The bestselling author of Logical Chess Move by Move guides players through 62 masterly strategies for chess success. Each game provides a classic example of a fundamental problem and its best resolution, described with chess diagrams and Chernev's lively notes. The matches—all by chess greats such as Capablanca, Tarrasch, Fischer, Alekhine, Lasker, and Petrosian—turn theory into practice and illuminate the game for every player. This revised edition features an updated algebraic format.

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The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played: 62 Masterpieces of Chess Strategy

By Irving Chernev

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1965 Irving Chernev
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-13716-2



Rook on the Seventh Rank

J. R. Capablanca . S. Tartakover

New York 1924, DUTCH DEFENSE

Capablanca's play in the game that follows provides us with a magic formula for conducting Rook and Pawn endings: seize the seventh rank with your Rook, and advance your King to the sixth!

Capablanca gives up a couple of valuable Pawns to get his King and Rook onto the key squares. Once there, they keep the adverse King busy warding off threats of mate, and leave him no time to defend his Pawns. Four of these pawns fall victims in half-a-dozen moves, after which resistance is of course hopeless.

Capa's clear-cut, methodical play is so easy to understand that the whole ending is a marvellous piece of instruction, and a thing of beauty as well.

1 P–Q4
2 Kt–KB3 P–K3
3 P–B4
4 B–Kt5
5 Kt–B3
6 P–K3
7 B–Q3
8 O–O

Black evidently intends to attack on the King side by 9 ... Q–R4 and 10 ... Kt–Kt5–customary strategy in the Dutch Defense.

9 Q–K2!

This move makes Tartakover change his mind, since 9 ... Q–R4 is met by 10 P–K4, and White's center is imposing.

9 ...
10 B × B Kt × Kt
11 P × Kt Q × B

The exchanges have left White with a doubled Bishop Pawn. In compensation for this weakness, the Knight file has been opened and is available to his Rooks.

12 P–QR4!

A clever preventive move! It stops an unwelcome intrusion by 12 ... Q–R6, and also prepares to meet 12 ... Kt–B3 with 13 KR– Kt1, and if then 13 ... Kt–R4 14 P–B5 undoubles the Pawns by force, since the continuation 14 ... P × P 15 R–Kt5 is to White's advantage.

12 ...
B × Kt
13 Q × B
14 KR–Kt1 QR–K1
15 Q–R3

Another preventive move. Black cannot free himself by 15 ... P–K4 as 16 B × P would follow. The Queen's move also makes it possible for White to play 16 P–B4, giving him a grip on the square K5.

15 ...
16 P–B4! Kt–R4
17 Q–B3

The Queen returns to B3, to dominate the long diagonal.

17 ...

Having done its work on the Knight file, the Rook moves to the center, to support a break by 19 P–K4.

18 ...
19 P–K4!

White opens up the position to give his pieces more scope.

19 ...
P × P
20 Q × P P–Kt3

White stabilizes his position with this move and the next, before starting an attack on the King–side by P–R4 and P–R5.

21 ...
K–B1 22 K–Kt2 R–B2 23 P–R4

This leads to an exchange of Queens, leaving White with a tiny advantage–but all Capablanca needs is a microscopic advantage!

24 P × P
P × P
25 Q × Rch! Q × Q
26 R × Qch K × R
27 P–R5!

All according to plan! If Black plays 27 ... P × P, there follows 28 R–R1, K–B1 29 R × P, and White wins the Rook Pawn or the Queen Pawn.

27 ...
28 P × P P × P
29 R–R1

Good players always seem to hold the high cards. Capablanca's Rook controls an open file and will seize the seventh rank next move. Should Tartakover's Rook become ambitious and try to counter-attack by 29 ... R–B3. the reply 30 B–Kt5 would come like a flash and pin the unfortunate piece.

29 ...
30 R–R7

Rook to the seventh–the magic move in Rook and Pawn endings. What is the secret in the strength of this move? It is this:

(a) The Rook is in perfect position to attack any Pawns that have not yet moved–those still standing on the second rank.

(b) The Rook is prepared to attack any Pawns that have moved, by getting behind them without loss of time. The Pawns would be under constant threat of capture, no matter how many squares they advanced on the file.

(c) The Rook's domination of the seventh rank confines the opposing King to the last rank, preventing him from taking any part in the fighting.

30 ...
R–B3 31 P–Kt4 Kt–B5

The Knight hastens to get into active play. Black naturally avoids 31 ... R × P, as the reply 32 B × P allows his opponent to have two connected passed Pawns.

32 P–Kt5

Threatens to win by 33 R–R6, K–Kt2 34 P–B5.

32 ...
33 K–B3
34 B × Kt
P × B

This is the position, with White to move:

Now comes a brilliant continuation, which Capablanca must have planned many moves before. In a simplified ending where Pawns are worth their weight in gold, he gives away two Pawns! Moreover he lets Black capture them with check!

35 K–Kt3!

The King is headed for B6, a square from which he can assist the Rook in mating threats, and also help the passed Pawn take those last three steps.

35 ... R × Pch 36 K–R4 R–B6

Instead of this, if Black tries to exchange Rooks, this follows: 36 ... R–B8 37 K–R5, R–R8ch 38 K–Kt6, R × R 39 K × R, P–B4 40 P–Kt6, and the Pawn crashes through.

37 P–Kt6 R × Pch
38 K–Kt5 R–K5

Capturing the Queen Pawn would be fatal: 38 ... R × P 39 K–B6, K–Kt1 (on 39 ... K–K1 40 R–R8ch, K–Q2 41 P–Kt7, and Black must give up his Rook for the Pawn) 40 R–Q7, and White mates next move.

39 K–B6!

Excellent! The King is beautifully placed to support the passed Pawn, and incidentally to frighten Black with threats of mate.

Notice that White disdained capturing Black's Pawn. Now it acts as a buffer against annoying checks by the Rook.

39 ...
40 R–Kt7ch K–R1
41 R × P R–K1
42 K × P R–K5
43 K–B6
44 K–K5

White goes after the Queen-side Pawns. Contrasting the activity of the two Kings, White is practically a piece ahead!

44 ...
R–Kt5 45 P–Kt7ch K–Kt1

Black doesn't dare take the Pawn. If 45 ... RxP 46 RxR, K × R 47 K × P, K–B2 48 K–Q6, K–K1 49 K–B7, K–K2 50 P–Q5, and the Pawn cannot be stopped.

46 R × P
47 K × P
48 K–Q6
49 P–Q5
50 R–QB7 R–QR8
51 K–B6
R × P
52 P–Q6

The continuation (for anyone still skeptical) would be 52 ... R–Q5 53 P–Q7, R–B5ch (if 53 ... K × P 54 P–Q8 (Q) dis ch wins) 54 K–Kt7, R–Q5 55 K–B8, and the Pawn becomes a Queen next move.

"No one has ever played these endgames with such elegant ease as Capablanca," says Réti.



The King Is a Strong Piece

M. Tal · G. Lissitzin

Leningrad 1956, SICILIAN DEFENSE

To those of us who worry about the safety of the King, Tal's play in this game is a joy and a revelation. Tal realizes that the power of the King increases as the game progresses and as the pieces come flying off the board. By the time the ending has been reached, the King is truly a formidable fighting piece.

Watch Tal's King stroll nonchalantly into the heart of the enemy camp, gather up a couple of Pawns, and then prepare to escort one of his own Pawns to the Queening square. It is a treat to watch, an absorbing lesson in endgame procedure.

1 P–K4
P–QB4 2 Kt–KB3 P–Q3 3 P–Q4
P × P 4 Kt × P
Kt–KB3 5 Kt–QB3 P–KKt3 6 P–B4

Black avoids a trap with this move, indicating that one must not play mechanically even at this early stage. If 6 ... B–Kt2 (the natural follow–up to 5 ... P–KKt3) the continuation is 7 P–K5, P × P 8 P × P, Kt– Kt5 9 B–Kt5ch, K–B1 (on 9 ... B–Q2 or 9 ... Kt–Q2 10 Q × Kt wins a piece) 10 Kt–K6ch, and White wins the Queen.

7 Kt × Kt P × Kt 8 P–K5
Kt–Q2 9 P × P
P × P 10 B–K3

Other lines of play look more aggressive, but lead to no more than equality. For example: 10 Q–Q4, Kt–B3 11 B–K3, B–K2 12 B–K2, O–O 13 O–O, P–B4. Or 10 Q– K2ch, B–K2 11 B–K3, O–O.

10 ...
11 Q–B3
12 O–O–O B–B3
13 B–Q4

Proper development does not concern itself merely with placing the pieces where they are effective for attack. It is equally important to interfere with the range of influence of the opponent's pieces. You must dispute control, as Tal does here, of every file, rank and diagonal.

13 ...
14 P–KR4

Indicating his intention of opening up the Rook file by 15 P–R5.

14 ...

Black seizes an open file. Capturing the Rook Pawn instead would be dangerous, as after 14 ... B × P 15 Q–R3, P–Kt4 16 P–KKt3, Kt– B3 17 P–B5, and the Bishop is trapped.

15 Q–B2

Guards against the threat 15 ... B × B 16 R × B, Q–Kt3, and Black attacks the Rook as well as the Queen Knight Pawn.

15 ...
16 B × B

Tal is not tempted by the offer of a Pawn. It is easy to yield and then fall into something like this: 16 B × P, Q–R4 17 B–K3, R × KtP! 18 K × R, B × Ktch 19 K–B1, Q–R6ch 20 K–Kt1, Q–Kt7 mate.

16 ...
Kt × B 17

Here too Tal resists temptation. If 17 Q × P, Q–Q3 18 P–KKt3, R × KtP 19 K × R, Q–Kt5ch 20 K–B1, Q × Kt, and Black has a strong attack, one threat for example being 21 ... Q–R8ch 22 K–Q2, Kt–K5ch 23 K–K1, Q–B6ch 24 K–K2, B–Kt5 mate.

17 ...
18 Q × Q R × Q
19 Kt–R4!

A powerful move, even though the Knight moves to the side of the board. Tal has two objects in mind: To fix Black's center Pawns so that they may not advance, and to dominate his opponent's weakened black squares.

19 ...
20 B–Q3
21 KR–B1 R–K2
22 P–B5!

A fine positional sacrifice. At the cost of a Pawn Tal disrupts his opponent's Pawn structure on the King side. In addition to this, the acceptance of the sacrifice leaves Black's Bishop hemmed in by Pawns occupying white squares.

22 ...
P × P

Black is hypnotized into taking the Pawn, and that leads to his ruin.

23 R(B1)–K1!

Another fine positional move. Tal is a Pawn behind, but does not hesitate to exchange pieces. The point is that he must dispute control of the open King file, or else Black will double Rooks and gain complete possession of it.

23 ...
24 R × R R × R

This is the position with Tal to play:

25 K–Q2!

The beginning of a remarkable tour. The King is headed for the Queen side where it will terrorize all the Pawns in sight.

25 ...
26 K–B3

Clears the way for the Bishop to come into the game.

27 K–Q4

The King continues his journey along the black squares.

27 ...

Not only does Black want to exchange Bishops (being a Pawn ahead) but he has this idea in mind: 28 ... B × B 29 K × B, R–K6ch 30 K–Q4, R–K7, and his Rook controls the seventh rank.

28 R–Q2R–K3

Obviously, to go after the Rook Pawn.

29 Kt–B5 R–R3
30 K–K5! B × B
31 P × B
R × P
32 K–Q6

The King goes merrily on his way.

32 ...
33 K–B7

Despite the fact that he is two Pawns down, White's chances are better in the ending. His King is so wonderfully active, and Black's so woefully passive, that he is in effect a King ahead!

33 ...
34 K–Kt7 Kt–Q5

The Knight guards the Queen Bishop Pawn, freeing the Rook for active duty. Black threatens now 35 ... R–R7 followed by 36 ... P–B6, winning another Pawn.

35 R–KB2 P–R4
36 R × P
37 R–Kt4ch K–B1

Instead of this, if Black tried to exchange Rooks (being a Pawn ahead), this would teach him the error of his ways: 37 ... R–Kt3 38 R × Rch, RP × R 39 Kt × Kt, P × Kt 40 K × P, K–B2 41 P–QKt4, and White will have a new Queen in a few moves.

38 KxP!

The King fears nothing–not even discovered check.

38 ...
Kt × Ktch
39 K × Kt R–K3
40 K × P

(One must resolutely avoid the impulse to say, "The Pawns fall like ripe apples.")

40 ...
41 P–Kt4 P × P
42 P × P
43 K–B5
44 R–Q4

This cuts off Black's King from the Queen side, and the possibility of blocking the passed Pawn.

44 ...
45 K–Kt6

Better than 45 R–Q5 when 45 ... R–B5 (threatening 46 ... R–Kt5) allows Black counterplay.

45 ...
46 K–B7
47 R–K4ch

Drives the King still farther away from the Queen side.

47 ...
48 K–B6
49 P–Kt4 P–R4

Black sacrifices one Pawn to make a passed Pawn of the other. There was nothing in 49 ... R–B7ch, as after the reply 50 R–B4, Black has simply wasted a move.

50 P × P
51 P–Kt5 P–B4
52 R–QKt4 P–B5
53 P–Kt6 P–B6
54 P–Kt7 Resigns

The finish, had Lissitzin played on, would have been 54 ... R–B7ch 55 K – Q5, P–B7 56 P–Kt8(Q), P–B8(Q) 57 Q–Kt3ch, K–B3 (or 57 ... K–B4 58 Q–Kt6 mate) 58 Q–Kt6ch, K–K2 59 R–Kt7ch and quick mate.



Knight Outpost at Q5

I. Boleslavsky · G. Lissitzin


Boleslavsky knows that a good grip on the center almost always guarantees the success of a King-side attack. He therefore plans to anchor a Knight at Q5–so firmly that it can never be driven away. To accomplish this he must do away with two enemy pieces that bear down on that square, a Bishop and a Knight. He lures the Bishop off by a gift of a Pawn, and disposes of the Knight by pinning it and forcing its exchange.

Once Boleslavsky's Knight reaches the magic square Q5, combinations appear out of the air as a reward, and the King-side attack seems to play itself.

1 P–K4
2 Kt–KB3 P–Q3
3 P–Q4
P × P
4 Kt × P
5 Kt–QB3 P–KKt3
6 B–K3
7 P–B3

This move does many things: it strengthens the center, prevents an attack on the Bishop (and its subsequent exchange) by 7 ... Kt–Kt5, and prepares for a later Pawn storm by P–KKt4 and P–KR4.

7 ... 0–0
8 Q–Q2
9 O–O–O
Kt × Kt

An attempt by Black to free himself by 9 ... P–Q4 could lead to this interesting combination: 10 KtxKt, PxKt 11 P × P, PxP 12 Kt × P, Kt × Kt 13 Q × Kt, Q–B2 14 Q × R, B–B4 (threatens mate) 15 Q × Rch, K × Q 16 R–Q2, and White has the better prospects.

10 B × Kt
11 K–Kt1

Threatens 12 Kt–Q5, Q–Q1 (if 12 ... Q × Q 13 Kt × Pch wins a Pawn) 13 Kt × Ktch, and White will win the Queen Pawn.

11 ...
12 B–K3
13 P–QR3 KR–Q1

Prepares for an eventual ... P– Q4, which would free his game.

14 Kt–Kt5

This powerful move interferes with Black's plans. If Black replies to it with 14 ... Q × Q, then 15 R × Q follows and White threatens 16 R × P as well as 16 Kt–B7, QR–B1 18 Kt × B, and he has the advantage of two Bishops against Knight and Bishop.

14 ...

The Queen Pawn is attacked three times, but if White took it this would be the consequence: 15 Kt × QP, Kt–Kl 16 B–B5, Kt × Kt 17 B × Kt, B–B1 18 Q–Kt4, R × B! 19 RxR (on 19 Q × Q, RxR is checkmate) Q × Q 20 P × Q, B × R, and Black has won a piece.

This is the position, with White to play:


At this point Boleslavsky has two objects in mind:

(1) Prevent Black from freeing himself by ... P–Q4.

(2) Establish his Knight firmly at the outpost station Q5.

To bring the latter about it is necessary to rid the board of the two black pieces that guard the square Q5, the Bishop at K3 and the Knight.

15 P–QB4!

A brilliant sacrifice which must be accepted. Refusing the Pawn means that Black could never free himself by ... P–Q4. It would also enable White to play 16 Kt–B3 next move (attacking the Queen) and thus gain time for 17 Kt–Q5, establishing a strongly-supported outpost.

15 ...
16 Kt–B3 Q–Kt6
17 B × B Q × B

One black piece has been disposed of. Now to get rid of the other!


White pins the Knight to keep it from running away. Now he is assured of being able to remove it from the board.

18 ...
19 BxKt
Q × B
20 Kt–Q5

Now we shall see whether Boleslavsky's imaginative strategy is justified. He has given up a solid, valuable Pawn for something that is intangible–the unassailable position of his Knight. The Knight, it is true, dominates the board and cannot be driven off, but is that worth a Pawn?

20 ...

Black tries to prevent the advance of the adverse King–side Pawns. He intends to meet 21 P–KKt3 with 21 ... Q–R6, while the reply to 21 P–R3 would be 21 ... B–R3 followed by 22 ... B–B5.

21 Q–K2
22 Q–B1!

A subtle preparatory move. If at once 22 P–KKt3, Q–R6 blockades the Rook Pawn.

22 ...


Excerpted from The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played: 62 Masterpieces of Chess Strategy by Irving Chernev. Copyright © 1965 Irving Chernev. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Irving Chernev (1900-1981) was a Russian-American chess author who wrote more than 20 books, including the bestselling Invitation to Chess (Ishi Press) and Logical Chess Move By Move (Batsford).

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The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While I'm sure this book is still a very fine piece of chess literature, it only presents its games in descriptive notation, which I was not expecting, and if you can't read descriptive notation you may want to find another edition.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago