Famous moves

There is an abundance of books on chess tactics. Many of them show well-known brilliancies from the classic era of chess. Today a lot of the combinatorial themes have moved into the standard repertoire of any tournament player. Nobody raises an eyebrow over a bishop sacrifice on h6 or over a smothered mate starting with Nf7. Even blitz players will find these moves in a matter of seconds. Nowadays, the true artistry is to achieve positions that allow such combinations, rather than executing them once they become possible.

Still, what attracts many of us to chess in the first place is the magic of unexpected moves that seem to demonstrate the triumph of mind over matter.

One famous example is the the following position from a game between Levitsky and Marshall in 1912:

Here Marshall as black moved Qc3-g3! The queen can be captured three ways, but all of them lead to mate.

According to legend, spectators showered gold coins over the board in their excitement and admiration over this stunning move. Many years later, Marshall was asked about the veracity of this story, and he is said to have confirmed that it was true.

Of course, many modern players of even moderate strength are able to find such moves, but in all likelihood this is due to their familiarity with the classic brilliancies. It is a lot more difficult to find a brilliant move when there is no precedent.

Once the ice is broken, the same theme will recur many times. Sometimes even entire games are replayed.

Marshall's famous move was echoed by the great Aljechin in a blindfold game against Supico:

There is some confusion among the sources about where (Lisbon or Teneriffa) and when (1941, 1942 or 1945) this game was played , but the sources agree that it was indeed played blindfold by Aljechin. In this position he played Qd6-g6! forcing mate in a few moves.







My own favorite is not any of these, but a less known brilliancy, Eliskases - Holzl (1929). Unfortunately, there seems to be some doubt over whether Eliskases actually played the move attributed to him.

What I like about this combination is the association it brings to the Japanese martial arts, where you do not overcome your opponent simply by overpowering him, but rather by making him lose his balance so that his own force works against him.

The astonishing move in this position is Rc5-d5! White puts an unprotected rook on a square where it can be captured in four ways.

Apparently Eliskases actually played Rc5-e5! which is just as effective but - at least in my opinion - not quite as impressive.

  Last edited or checked April 10, 2004

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