Kasparov vs. Topalov, Wijk aan Zee 1999
Despite losing a historic match to the computer engine Deep Blue two years earlier, Garry Kasparovwas at the height of his powers in 1999, winning tournaments by big margins and recording the highest Elo rating ever at that time (2851). Kasparov has a long list of brilliancies to his credit, but this game is his virtually undisputed masterpiece.
Kasparov vs. Topalov is everything a chess game should be, a ferocious fight with brilliance from both players, numerous tactical themes, and a king hunt that drives the king all the way from one side of the board to the other! It’s difficult to imagine any other game atop this list, but we eagerly await new contenders in the coming years.
Aronian vs. Anand, Wijk aan Zee 2013
Undisputed world champion from 2007 to 2013, Viswanathan Anand is one of the most fluid and intuitive players in chess history. Where Jose Capablanca’s intuition served him best in the endgame, Anand’s serves him best in the middlegame.
Played in advance of his coming 2013 world championship match against Magnus Carlsen (though Carlsen would not qualify for several months), Anand showed in this game the attacking skill that makes him such a beloved player; particularly 16…Nde5!! sticks in the memory as Black’s pieces burst forth and cannot be contained.
Karpov vs. Kasparov, World Championship 1985, game 16
There is no greater rivalry in chess history than that between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. The brilliant games they have contested could fill a substantial book.
This game from their world championship match in 1985 demonstrates Kasparov at his very best, offering a pawn sac in the opening, establishing a tremendous knight on d3, clamping down with 21…g5!! and always performing crisp calculation and tactics.
Byrne vs. Fischer, New York 1956
At the age of 13, Bobby Fischer alerted the world to his presence, winning one of the finest games of all time against IM Donald Byrne with the black pieces. Fischer’s 11…Na4!! and 17…Be6!! constitute two of the great hammer-blows in chess history; together they decimated the white position.
Ivanchuk vs. Yusupov, Brussels 1991
The stakes could hardly be higher as this game was played in a rapid tiebreak in the world championship Candidates’ cycle. Needing to win, Artur Yusupov gave it his all, swinging each piece he could into the assault and eventually overcoming Vassily Ivanchuk’s best resistance with multiple fine attacking ideas.
Short vs. Timman, Tilburg 1991
King walks are not unheard of in chess, but the seemingly out-of-the-blue advance of Nigel Short’sking with 31.Kh2!!, 32.Kg3!!, 33.Kh4!!, and 33.Kg5!! intending 34.Kh6!! with mate on g7 is unique in the annals of chess.