Most beautiful chess game

This one gets my vote

Geller-Najdorf Zurich 1953

He could have won it quicker in a couple places, as Bronstein points out, but this game is a tour de-force on why Geller was one the greatest players of all time. This is like another dimension of chess that the titled players mostly know about.

Early in the opening, Bronstein points out that Black should have played …d5 instead of …Be7. After …Be7, it is all White.


20 thoughts on “Most beautiful chess game

  1. It’s good technique by Geller, and a game every player should know. On the other hand, this was pretty routine good knight vs. bad bishop stuff even back in 1953.

  2. “Should know”, yes.

    Otherwise, how can I have played a few thousand games and never have I seen anything like this. Most likely because I or my opponent were simply not that good. I never even see Crafty come up with simple positional play as good as these super GMs did all the way back then. Computers have a desire for more direct threats and not simplifying.

    There are a lot of these games from that tournament. It’s not just “dang, that’s a good knight!” vs. bad bishop, it’s also where to put the pawns and defend/attack with the king. It’s much more about planning than sacking to get to the king middle-game stuff. You are an Expert Aziridine, so you already understand these things. The only games I have run into this have been against Neal, who has been previously rated Expert since maybe a decade or two ago, or three!

    The interesting thing about Zurich ’53 is where else do you find a world champion commenting on games between other super-GM’s? There is Kasparov’s “My Predecessors”, Euwe was a great author/analyst. Can’t think of too many.

    I’m holding off from going over some of Smyslov’s games until later (I have a best games collections by him), but so far, besides Smyslov, I think it’s fairly obvious that Bronstein was the strongest participant in the tournament. I think Petrosian got stronger later in his career, but he and Sammy fart around way too much in the opening for me to give them the nod. Najdorf was also very strong, and finished just behind Tigran.

  3. Have you ever checked out any of the games of Leonid Stein? I am in the midst of cleaning up an annotation of a game where he pushed Keres around the board with an Isolated Pawn no less!

  4. I say “every player” because every player should have read Zurich 1953 ๐Ÿ™‚
    Other classic games on the same theme: Smyslov-Rudakovsky, USSR ch 1945, Fischer-Gadia, Mar del Plata 1960 (both annotated in Silman’s Reassess Your Chess), and Fischer-Bolbochan, Stockholm 1962 (in Fischer’s 60 Memorable Games).
    Unfortunately few top players are also good writers. The only tournament books I can think of that were written by top players are Alekhine’s book on New York 1924 and Tal’s on Montreal 1979. On the other hand, several players have written superb collections of their own games: Alekhine, Botvinnik, Bronstein, Keres, Smyslov, Tal, Fischer, Karpov, Korchnoi, Anand and Shirov are just a few.
    I would not discount the other two runners-up in Zurich, Keres and Reshevsky. They and Bronstein would have had real chances of winning had the Soviets not ordered their players to stop Reshevsky at all costs but go easy on Smyslov. Sammy in particular never paid much attention to opening study but he was certainly not inferior to Botvinnik and Smyslov in his understanding of the middlegame.
    Sounds like you’ve met Delroy for the first time ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I’m still going over the Zurich ’53 book, which I now consider to be the “bible of positional play” when you factor in Bronstein’s commentary along with the games themselves.

    Looking at the games online (they are already there) doesn’t really do justice. I like going over the games at the board, book in hand, much like Blunderprone did.

    I will say that I think I understand why he could have read this book and then had a miserable tournament. I think it’s because it is about higher-level chess, and has dulled me on the fancy tactics aspect of chess somewhat.

    The fancy tactics are great for online chess, since it’s a quick game and not about truth so much.

    At a tournament, I would expect myself to at least understand the long games, if not win some of them, but I would be vulnerable in short, sharp games, which favors whoevers been doing their “MDLM homework the most”. I looked at some tactics puzzles the other day, and I was not finding them all at first because that is a different sort of creativity, but I get it back quickly when I do study tactics.

    I looked at a game where Stein beat Gufeld once in Gufeld’s autobiography. Stein sacked a piece for great play and won in a Benoni type opening, sort of a positional sack and not so easy to follow. I know he was being heralded as a potential future world champ, but I think Karpov dismantled him in one of the games inside “How Karpov Wins”. Karpov was like the doctor giving a checkup and showing people the flaws in their game.

    Aziridine, I think you are right, I wouldn’t underestimate Reshevsky vs. any of these players as he really has nothing to fear except for his ridiculous time-pressure, which was basically every single game. Bronstein won the two games against Sammy and I would say that David simply had to be his normal unorthodox self (which would hit Sammy on the clock), and then play continue to play solid/strong moves at a confident pace, allowing Sammy to fall apart a bit in time-pressure at or around the 40th move, and that is exactly how those two games went.

    I saw Reshevsky lose one knight ending because he tried to go for an unbelievable win instead of playing for a draw. He definitely tried to win this tournament.

    The other game collections you mention, those ones sound good too. I may never get to reading them, but I know they are legendary. I let go of Alekhine’s book because I thought someone would redo it in Algebraic some day. Bad move, Nunn annotated some of the games, but probably not quite half of them.

    When Keres goes for a win at the end to win the tournament, you can expect some junk in his game because he seems to up his game by adding more junk to it, but making it harder for the opponent to calculate. Smyslov “merely” needed to calculate it correctly to win. Smyslov’s only loss came to Kotov, Smyslov was attacking and went for a bad combo, but then seemed to calculate the bad combo badly, like lose 2 pieces for a rook. I guess he had gotten rusty after scooping up so many wins, but he was far ahead by that time.

    Deepest combination award definitely goes to Euwe-Stahlberg. Crafty tracks Euwe’s move. I don’t know how he not only figured this out but had the guts to play it. Crafty also liked Stahlberg’s Rc5 on the move before, even though Bronstein thought Black was cramped and had nothing better than the exchange sacrifice on c3, which does not work out well for Black. Rc5 was much better. I am following Crafty for like another 10 moves or more before I can see why White is winning. Deepest combo I ever remember seeing, at least Kasparov’s deep combos usually threatened the king, something you could make a more concrete sense of.

    I have Smyslov’s best games book, and I’ve seen a nice win from him here already. I would have thought that Euwe would have scored a lot higher.

  6. Based on the combo played in the game, Stahlberg’s 15…Rc5 gives White the advantage, which is why Bronstein suggested 15…Rxc3. For the exchange he gets the bishop pair, and more importantly, he removes the white d-pawn that’s cramping his position. This is the type of positional sacrifice computers typically don’t appreciate and I guess Crafty doesn’t like it. I’m impressed to see that 15…Rxc3 is Rybka’s first choice though – in fact it suggests that White should probably aim for a draw by repetition soon afterwards.
    Euwe’s 16.Nc6 was more a case of accurate long-term evaluation than deep calculation: Euwe probably just felt that the rook and passed c-pawn would outweigh Black’s two minors in the endgame, and he was right. Keep in mind that at 52 he was the veteran of the tournament, and after a strong start he faded as the 30 rounds began to take its toll.

  7. Aziridine, thanks for all your insight. That’s interesting what you say about Euwe and his reasoning, my feeling is that your evaluation is spot on.

    Yes, I do get a favorable variation for Black many moves later, when Black has four pawns for the rook, after sacking the bishop for the g3 pawn and check there.

    You are right, Crafty doesn’t see it for a while, and I had to get a pawn-roller going in the center. It does appear appear to be an active/effective strategy.

    I entered into the American Open 4 day U2000 section. I’ve had a touch of a cold for the past few days, but what’re ya gonna do? Got ta play. ๐Ÿ™‚

    See, this is why I don’t play RollingPawns Rossolimo against the Sicilian. Like I’ve said before, Black follows the correct strategy and shoves the d-pawn down White’s throat. hehe. It’s amazing how many players as Black will go for that …f5 stuff, no, right down the center she goes!

    Sicilian Rossolimo

    Ha! Bronstein even preferred 18.Nh4 going after Black’s f-pawn – did I call that or what. Bronstein also thought 22.b4 was “too bold” which is putting it nicely, as I think it just plain loses. Bronstein likes b3 and then Nc4 as the correct strategy for White here.

  8. To be fair to RollingPawns’ opponents, that’s not the Rossolimo Taimanov played, it’s the Moscow (Black played 2…d6 instead of 2…Nc6) and he handled in a pretty unusual way, gambitting the d-pawn. RollingPawns’ treatment of the opening is sounder ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Good luck at the American Open – I’ll be playing this weekend too…

  9. Aziridine is right, I do not sacrifice anything in Moscow variation and play Maroczy bind, which doesn’t allow d5 at all. d5 can be played in Rossolimo after Bxc6, bxc6, but I don’t see anything dangerous in it for White.
    I won 2 games in this exact line, though my opponent was lower rated.
    If you have any specific line, you are welcome to show it.
    Good luck with American Open.

  10. Thanks!

    Yeah, I don’t know it like you guys do.

    Aziridine, which section of the American Open(?) will you be playing in?

    If you are playing in that tournament, then at least put your first name down so’z I can say hi. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. I’m playing in the Calchess championship. The American Open’s an interesting event – maybe I’ll try it next year!

  12. I recall this game when I posted on it :

    This was the first Z-1953 game mentioned when I did the Effim’s Biography:

    What I liked most about this game was that he beat Najdorf in his own game. These were my commentary on the game at the above post:
    Najdorf plays the Black side of a mainline Sicilian Defense of the variation named after him. Geller takes him into classical territories of the line with a prepared variation that was meant to offset the positional feel of the game and make use of the developmental advantage for White. The prepared line takes control of Blackโ€™s light squares and begins a queen side advance. Underestimating itโ€™s potential, Najdorf attempts some tactical ideas of his own but Gellerโ€™s play is much deeper. He refuses the gambit pawn offer and uses it as a weakness to get a positional advantage for his knight. After the pieces are traded off, Geller demonstrates how his centralized knight is stronger than the bishop.

  13. Dumb question time. Are you a chess coach/teacher? I say that because it seems like more of the bloggers I follow teach chess for a living and that seems to be a scholastic event (never heard about it before). I’ve considered teaching chess as well. Once I wanted to be a history teacher (also not unusual hobby for chess bloggers ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

    I am going over this Chess Tactics for the Tournament Player. I notice that I generally find the tactic/idea, but just as often mess up with the move order. I suppose if I had never taken time out to learn tactics like I did a couple of months ago, I would probably find the ideas to be novel.

    Another thing that appears obvious is that the side having the tactic is usually already winning, positionally. So not only does one have a magic arrow pointing to a tactic, but also a winning position. Even the study, it’s like okay, I already know there must be a winning move, only question is one of calculation and a requisite amount of imagination/guestimation.

  14. Nope, not a coach. Calchess just happens to be the name of the chess association in NorCal. It’s the official (not scholastic) state championship, but I expect all my opponents will be younger than 18 anyway.

  15. Oh, northern cal. Well, I hope you do well in your section, Aziridine. Be the state champ! ๐Ÿ˜‰ hehe. I’ve never been good enough to get into any invitationals.

    Blunderprone – same here, I am an enthusiast as well! I think it’ll be so interesting to see where my chess is at. I’m following your story as well, will be interesting to see how you do in that memorial tournament coming up. ๐Ÿ™‚

    My strategy for this tournament was some opening preparation, but mostly studying the Zurich ’53 tournamen, and a little bit of tactics.

    My feeling is this, I will play it intuitively and try to work from my strengths as much as possible. Sure, if someone burns me bad with their Sicilian Dragon, I may say ‘fuhgetaboutit’ and turn to my old vintage Grand Prix attack and go hellbent for leather on the attack. But I’ll take it as it comes at first and see where the cards fall, see if I can’t think my way past the opening and give it a full go even in an even ending.

    I’ll go with the theory that I don’t remember my openings anyway, and my opponent won’t get the easy stereotyped attack that they are looking for most likely, anyhow – except for a freeing push like …d5 which Black can get in a lot of openings anyhow, but that is not the center of the universe for a chess game, it’s merely move 12 or so. They get equality, yes, but then what? What happens after they’ve equalized, how will they attack and defend for the next 20+ moves? Did they really come here for a draw anyway? Probably not. Probably if I am doing well in the tournament, they will have the higher rating and have little incentive to draw me.

    For an 8 round tournament, I feel the best strategy is simply to run the race, keep the pace. I may go for some risky attacks, will depend mostly on my mood and results. I usually start strong but this time I may simply go for stuff if I so feel and not worry about the results. If I win, I will focus more on results, but if I start off cold, I may simply play whatever and not get hung up about tournament results, try not to think about it, but if I start out winning, then that is a different story.

  16. Do you have some kind of online DB in California? You already have a list of pre-registered in U2000, American Open, so it would be good to find some games. I tried, but didn’t find any DBs, maybe you can try clubs – their web sites, you probably know some. I didn’t see an American DB either, strange.

  17. There’s a California database at
    Honestly though, I’ve never bothered to prepare against <2000 opponents – the vast majority of class players (and many low-rated experts as well) will make a mistake within six or seven moves of leaving book. If you hear your opponent's a theory hound don't play the Poisoned Pawn Najdorf against them, otherwise just don't worry about it.

  18. Thanks for the support, guys. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ve looked at that before (2hr download for me, I guess) and remember it being mostly old games, decades old.

    I would love to see some of their games, but I know from the chess club that I go to, he kept asking people to contribute their games and I was the only one doing it, so they stopped asking. I guess most chess-players are probably paranoid about other people preparing for them.

    Yes, I prefer the White side of the Poisoned Pawn, so perhaps that is sort of a poor idea in general, like tempting fate. Silman helped convince me of White’s prospects during one of his lectures. I read somewhere that he is lecturing here or reviewing games(?), we shall see, not sure, will believe it when I see it.

    I looked at the Calgames DB. It does have recent games, but from players who would be playing up higher like in Open or U2200 sections.

  19. Pingback: Most beautiful chess game ยซ LinuxGuy_on_FICS « Chess-Stack Discussion Forum

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