Several databases of the best chess games consist of millions and millions of chess moves. The number of chess moves made is uncountable in the royal chess game history. Studies have shown that the average number of moves per game stands at roughly 38. So, choosing the best chess moves from the best chess games ever played is difficult. However, we have shortlisted some of the renowned chess games where some of the game’s legends played their best chess moves. These moves helped the player tackle vital positions and finally assisted them in drawing or winning the game.
Here are the 11 best chess moves ever played in chess history:
- Judit Polgar’s, Qg7+
- Nona Gaprindashvili’s Qf6
- Boris Spassky’s suicidal move against Yuri Averbakh
- Chiburdanidze Double-exchange sacrifices against Malanuik
- Wilhelm Steinitz’s subtle attacking strategy
- Rubinstein’s special move against Rotlewi
- Hou Yifan’s bold move against Ider
- Vera Menchik’s 21.Rd7! Move against Sonja Graf-Stevenson
- Fischer’s brilliance against Panno
- Anand’s pre-determined strategy against Aronian
- Kasparov’s stunning move against Portisch
The list of the best chess moves is never-ending. Help us extend this list by commenting below. Suggest which chess game is the best according to you. Don’t forget to give your reasons. Remember, the chess game you mention should have moves that changed the course of the game. Learn about the best chess strategies, opening moves, and chess traps to beware off.
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Judit Polgar’s qg7+ chess move
Polgar is the youngest Grandmaster, breaking Grandmaster Bobby Fischer’s record. She has played numerous queen-sacrifice checkmate combinations, including the superb finish in the clash against Lars Bo Hansen in Farum (Denmark) in 1989. Here is how the board’s position is at the end of 32 moves:
The move Qh7+ achieved a similar result, but Qg7+ showed something dazzling. Here, White’s proposed doubled rooks with the bishop that controls f8. The position is so dominant that the queen has options since finding two moves is more manageable than one. This fantastic move was played by Polgar when she was 13, and she became the only woman to be on the list of the top-10 world ranking.
Among Polgar’s numerous magnificent hits, another significant move came in 1994 against GM Alexei Shirov.
Nona Gaprindashvili’s qf6 move
Nona Gaprindashvili obtained the grandmaster title in 1977 at Lone Pine. In 1974, she defeated Rudolf Servaty of Germany with her special move. Look at the game’s miniature shown below at the end of 16 moves. Nona Gaprindashvili played as a white:
Qf6, the 17th move, restricts f-pawn that keeps the defense out of the seventh rank, thereby preparing for the 18th move “Bh6” and 19th move “Qg7#”. So, except for giving up his queen, there is surprisingly minimal thing that Black can do. Or else resign, which Servaty thought was the best thing to do.
Qd4, the 15th move by Gaprindashvili, is arguably an impressive one. Here is what the board looks like on the 15th move:
If Stockfish, one of the most powerful chess engines, gets this game for the first time, it won’t recommend Qd4 until it reaches a depth of about 30 moves, i.e., 15 moves per side. And before that point, it gives the Black a sleek edge in the position. Thus, it’s harsh to blame Servaty for getting into this position.
Also, keep in mind the move 15. Qd4 introduces the double-rook sacrifice, which only makes sense if Gaprindashvili already saw 17. Qf6.
Boris Spassky’s suicidal move against Yuri Averbakh
Spassky plays White, and Averbakh plays the black side in the USSR Championship. Here is the position after White’s 16th move Nf3:
White is about to open the H file through which his rook can eye the black king. The center is locked, and White has a space advantage. Black is not able to develop his queen’s knight. The white pawn controls the c6 square, and if it goes to d7, it blocks the queen. And another knight of Black doesn’t have a square to go. So, White is controlling both the wings.
Now, Black has no counterplay, Spassky’s king is under scrutiny, and his pieces are developed. Now, what does Spassky play here? The move that Spassky played creatively found a resort out of desperation. Spassky played Nc6. He sacrificed his knight as a pawn to develop his pieces.
Averbakh captured the knight, but now the e6 & c6 squares aren’t under control by the white pawn. Spassky then placed his other knight on d4, surviving the attack and drawing the game. The move may sound like a suicide, but it worked for Spassky.
Chiburdanidze Double-exchange sacrifices against Malanuik
GM Maia Chiburdanidze proposed a subtle finishing touch and a double-exchange sacrifice against Vladimir P Malanuik in 1982. Here is the board’s position at the end of 25 moves:
The three significant moves in the sequence are potent illustrations of its concept. The first exchange sacrifice removed the defender of c4, allowing the bishop to occupy that square. The second sac propelled out the foremost defender of f7. And when the black queen tried to defend that square herself, the sacrifice of the bishop took care of that.
In the final position, the queen is unfortunately lost by its commitment to the f7-square. So, it’s time to let the king be beheaded or die instead. This silent finishing move is the most striking that induced Malanuik to resign.
Wilhelm Steinitz’s subtle attacking strategy
We presume that good chess moves involve sacrifices or creating threats, but they may involve a hidden chess strategy. The best players of chess are not likely to overlook the direct threats. And one needs to find the best chess moves with a hidden plan while playing against strong opponents.
A similar case arose in 1892 during the World Championship, played in Havana between Steinitz & Chigorin. Look at the board’s position at the end of 19 moves!
Steinitz implemented a hidden strategy at this position and played the move 20.Qf1. When Steinitz played this move, it led him to sacrifice two rooks for a knight & a pawn to bring the Black king to the center.
The move Qf1 is multi-purpose as it removes the queen and a discovered attack by the rook on e8. Also, it permits the queen to access the h-file, which soon opens up with a rook sacrificing on h7.
It is noticeable that White doesn’t rush on the sacrifice of h7. Instead, it first tries to exchange the bishop of Black on g7. The captured bishop thus leaves the dark squares around the king very weak.
Rubinstein’s special move against Rotlewi
An excellent chess move plays a vital role in saving time. A lost tempo impacts a chess game as it may give a fair advantage to the opponent to play astonishingly and make the best chess move. Take a look at the position after White’s move 22.g3:
Here, White had just played the usual move 22.g3 to propel the queen away from his king. The black queen & knight are not by any means the only pieces focused on the white king, and soon more will participate in the attack.
With an element of surprise, Akiba Rubinstein reacted by ignoring the threat to his queen and played 22…Rxc3 is on the opposite side of the board!
First, Rubinstein sacrifices a queen and a rook on the next move. The move 22…Rxc3 then becomes a vital swing rook if White removes the Black queen.
Therefore, this remarkable move from Rubinstein undoubtedly turned out to be the winning chess move.
Hou Yifan’s bold chess move against Ider
GM Hou Yifan is known to be the strongest woman to have ever played the game of chess. Apart from being a grandmaster, she is a professor and a 2018 Rhodes scholar.
In a game against Borya Ider (2017), Yifan faced a dilemma while playing the move 15. Take a look at the board’s position after 14 moves:
In this position, Yifan had two options for making a move 15. One was the cautious 15.Nc5 move that would defend against 15…Ne6 will lead to a proper equal position. And the other one was 15…Nxd5 move that will put constant pressure on Ider.
Yifan took the bold step instead of being cautious and played the move 15…Nxd5. By playing this ambitious move, she showed that in the most complicated situation, she reacted similarly to the grandmasters as Mikhail Tal would do, with the confidence to handle consequences better than their opponents.
The pressure Yifan built on Ider eventually led to large amounts of material. By the time Ider resigned, Yifan had already captured two bishops, a rook, and a pawn for the queen.
Thus, the renowned move of Hou Yifan became one of the best chess moves of all time.
Vera Menchik’s 21.rd7! move against Sonja
One of the untitled grandmasters of the game of chess was Vera Menchik. But due to the Second World War, she couldn’t make it to become the first female grandmaster before GM Nona Gaprindashvili. World champions like Alexander Alekhine recognized her.
In a clash against Sonja Graf-Stevenson in 1937, the board’s position after 20 moves is shown below.
Menchik, who was playing as White, really wants to play Qxh5 on move 21 that will threaten Qxh7#. Capturing the queen doesn’t help Black since it opens up the b1-h7 diagonal for Bh7 mate. Although, the instant 21.Qxh5 doesn’t work for more than just a slight advantage after 21…Qxh2+.
So, Menchik decided on playing 21.Rd7. Playing this move not only diverts the queen from that check on h2 but also attacks the bishops. Therefore, now 21…Qxh2 doesn’t really work because Black loses an extra piece. And 21…Qxd7 then turns into a forced sequence than a usual mating idea.
With this extravagant move, Sonja Graf-Stevenson, reacted similarly as most unfortunate victims of this royal game would do. Later on, Stevenson admitted defeat and moved on to the next round.
Fischer’s brilliance against Panno
A list of the best chess moves would be incomplete without the legendary GM Bobby Fisher. While competing against Panno in 1970, Fisher made the winning move in the position, as shown below. Here is the position after Panno’s move 27…Nf8:
The board’s position in this situation indicates that Black has everything under control. After 27…Nf8, the king defends h7 with the knight’s help, and White doesn’t have any dark-squared bishop to take advantage of the weak squares that appear to be around the king.
The bishop of White would rather be on the diagonal b1-h7 than the restricted h1-a8 diagonal. And by playing the incredible move 28.Be4 makes a way to get onto this diagonal quickly.
Thus, searching for a winning chess move isn’t difficult after all. We just need to be aware, focus on the opponent’s movement and then react accordingly to minimize extra moves and win quickly.
In this example, Bobby Fischer made a renowned chess move that exposed the Black king quickly after sacrificing the knight on h7.
Anand’s chess move against Aronian
Viswanathan Anand faced Levon Aronian at the Tata Steel Tournament, Wijkaan Zee. Although Anand is well-prepared anytime and in this match, he showed a whole new level of technicality.
In the position, as shown below, it is clear that White is threatening the rook of the Black on f8.
Instead of diverting the Rook, Anand planned to move a second piece on a square where there is a chance of getting captured, i.e., 15…Bc5!
Now, White plays 16.Be2 and then Black reveals the third piece so that it gets captured with 16…Ne5.
The d-pawn attacks the two pieces, and on capturing either of the pieces, we have a smothered mate with Qd4+ Kh1, Qg1+ Rxh1, and …Nf2#.
The game progressed and reached the position as shown below after White played 23.Qd3. Anand now played the pre-determined tactical move 23…Be3, which later turned out to be the winning move.
Kasparov’s stunning move against Portisch
In the list of the best chess moves of all time, we will definitely find the name of the legendary GM Garry Kasparov. In the match between Garry Kasparov and Lajos Portisch, Kasparov played the stunning 21.Bxg7, which sealed the game for him.
When Black recaptured with 18…Bxd5 brings us to the position, as shown below:
Kasparov would not miss 19.Bxh7+ Kxh7 20.Rxd5, even on his worst day. Portisch reacted by playing 20…Kg8, thus making sure that his king is back to safety.
But unfortunately for Portisch, his precautionary move proved extremely deceptive since Kasparov showcased the winning move 21.Bxg7.
Now, a White knight wants to be on e5, but a knight on e5 restricts a bishop on b2. And after 21.Bxg7 move, there is no longer a protected bishop, and the Black king is exposed.
And since the knight is on the rim, Kasparov has plenty of time to retreat his rook with 29.Rd3 and then start his attack and finally leads to an unstoppable checkmate.
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Learning the game of chess from the greatest players of all time helps us improve our game. The best chess moves of the grandmasters also assist us in uplifting our tactics and strategy to handle pressure and make us confident in placing our moves. The chess moves mentioned above are incredible, and with continuous practice, patience, and determination, we can also learn these moves and play when a similar situation arises.
It is also important to turn our attention to the recently played best chess games so that we can add strategic ideas and valuable tactics to unleash in our own games.
Best Chess Moves – FAQs
In chess, you can win in just 2 moves. The two-move checkmate/fool’s mate is a set of chess moves that allows the black chess piece player to checkmate the white king in two moves. Take a look at the 16 best chess openings to win the game.
Some of the notable chess games of the 2020s are:
1. Andrey Esipenko vs Magnus Carlsen at Tata Steel Masters, 2021.
2. Fabiano Caruana vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in World Championship Candidates (2020/21).
3. Magnus Carlsen vs. Ian Nepomniachtchi at the World Championship Match, 2021.
The best chess moves are classified based on the situation or in what position the game is standing. If the status on the chessboard is tough to handle, then the best chess move helps to overcome it, and if the situation is not too challenging, then the best chess move saves time and helps to win easily.
A chess game can be the best if the clash between the two personalities lasts for some time and both players play with excellent strategies. Or, there is the best chess move from several moves shown by one of the players to draw a game from a losing position or drive victory. Take a look at the best chess opening and chess strategies to take your game up a notch.
Castling, promotion, and en passant are three types of special moves.