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Awesome / Chess

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  • The Immortal Game, 21 June 1851. Two of the greatest chess players in the world, Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky, sat down for a casual game during a break in a tournament. Anderssen then proceeds to sacrifice a pawn, a bishop, both rooks, and then his queen ... to checkmate with three minor pieces in twenty-three moves.
  • Seven years later, in 1858, the American master player Paul Morphy visited Paris, where he was invited to the opera by the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard. Both being fairly good chess players in their own right, they decided to challenge Morphy to a game of chess. As it was bad form to refuse such a challenge, Morphy accepted, even though he would rather watch the opera he came for. Going for as short a game as possible, he checkmated his cooperating opponents in only seventeen moves... after which he resumed watching the opera performance. (To this day, the Opera Game is routinely shown to students as a lesson in the value of rapid development and seizing the initiative in chess.)
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  • Bobby Fischer had many, starting with "The Game of the Century", a brilliancynote  won against grandmaster Donald Byrne played in 1956 — when Fischer was thirteen.
  • The Babson Task is the task of composing a "White to play and mate" problem in which Black can promote a pawn, and whatever piece he promotes to, White has to promote to the same kind of piece. It sounds impossible: why should White have to promote to a rook or bishop when a queen is more powerful? The knight can make moves the queen cannot, but why should White's knight promotion be determined by a promotion at the other end of the board? Pierre Drumare worked on this task for twenty years before coming to the conclusion that it was impossible. It was solved in 1983 by Leonid Yarosh, hitherto a complete unknown in the chess problem world. He subsequently bettered this achievement by creating a version with a "perfect" key. note  (And there was a happy ending for Drumare, who subsequently succeeded in composing his own Babson Task, albeit one with certain aesthetic flaws compared to Yarosh's. In fact, over a dozen Babsons have been composed since then, and Yarosh's is still the best.)
  • Deep Blue versus Kasparov. Whether it is more awesome that someone could build a robot that could take on Kasparov or that Kasparov could manage to take on a super robot you decide.
    • And, almost exactly twenty years later in December 2017, the Neural Network based Alpha Zero completely dominated Stockfish 8, one of the strongest chess engines in the world at the time (and over 1000 ELO points higher than Deep Blue), after teaching itself how to play for 4 hours with no outside input beyond the rules of the game. What ices the cake is Alpha Zero's position based play feels almost human like, and it freely gives up pawns to improve it's position against Stockfish.
      • Google declined to pursue Alpha Zero Chess any further than the paper they released on how it works, so the Internet took the paper and built an Neural Net AI based on the paper. Known as Leela Chess, it has over the last six months built up to phenomenal strength and is able to occasionally beat the strongest conventional engines in the world such as Stockfish 9. Many estimate that by the end of 2018 the program will be the strongest chess player in the world. What make's Leela's play remarkable is it's highly positional nature including a willingness to sacrifice material fearlessly to obtain positions that have been thought impossible to attain against the brute force chess engines that have dominated the last 20 years of Chess since Deep Blue. Her strategic depth puts other systems (and humans) to shame, and often overcoming shortcomings in her tactical play which scores much lower than many of her opponents.
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  • The Turk, a supposedly robotic chess player that toured the courts of Europe in the Eighteenth century and convinced people that it really was an eighteenth-century robot that could play chess. There were endless theories about how it might work, helped along by ingenious design elements that concealed its real "mechanism": a human player inside. The player could tell which pieces were moved by a system of magnets; when a piece was lifted up, the magnet under that square would fall, and when it was put down again, the magnet on the new square would rise. See the other wiki for more, including the Turk's legendary match with Napoleon!
  • Any checkmate, in formal or informal play at any skill level, where a Pawn delivers the final blow.
  • Forking the enemy King, Queen and Rook with one's Knight.
  • No consensus exists on the topic of the greatest game ever played but "Kasparov's Immortal" is a popular choice among aficionados.
  • Nobody taught Capablanca to play chess. He learned the moves by watching his father play with a friend, and he played his first game because he spotted his father illegally moving his knight two squares diagonally like a bishop. Teased by his son for cheating, Papa Capa crustily told him that he didn't even know how to play the game. So they set the pieces up, and Capablanca won the first game he ever played. Later he was taken to the local chess club and matched up against a proper player, who very kindly gave the untrained four-year-old a Queen start. Capablanca hosed him.
  • The Immortal Losing Game was this for both David Bronstein and Bogdan Śliwa. Bronstein for setting up an entire series of swindles from a seemingly "lost" position; Śliwa for successfully avoiding each and every one of them.
  • Just about any move marked with a double exclamation mark (!!). Especially those that result in checkmate. Some ! moves also count.
  • In 1982, during a "chess awareness" publicity tour stop in Orlando, Florida, then-US Open Chess Champion Andrew Soltis invited a randomly selected twelve year old boy named Aaron Butler up onto the stage from the crowd to play against Soltis in an exhibition game. The idea being that Soltis would teach the boy (and the crowd) to play chess. Butler then proceeded to beat Soltis in two moves, using a combination of moves called the "Fool's Mate", which you can assume happened only with Soltis's active cooperation. When asked about it later, the boy said, "It just seemed like the right thing to do."
  • Chessmasters tend to enjoy giving "simultaneous exhibitions" — that is, playing many opponents at once (usually amateurs). Others like to play "blindfold", picturing the game in their heads. Many amazing records have been set over the years, but the crown probably belongs to Reuben Fine, grandmaster and psychoanalyst. In 1945, Fine played four simultaneous blindfold rapid-transit games and won them all! (What does "rapid transit" mean? Ten seconds per move, that's what.) The icing on the cake: one of his opponents was Robert Byrne, himself a brilliant player who would go on to be US champion.
  • A member of, MoralIntentions, has played 26 games against a handicapped AI, where the final board position is both checkmate and displays one of the letters of the alphabet.
  • Any game where a grandmaster finds a way to recover from a major screwup.
  • The following apocryphal story, told by the chess teacher George Koltanowski. He was teaching the rules of chess to a new student, who wished to play a game immediately. George was about to checkmate the student on the next move, but the student surprisingly promoted a pawn to a king! George had forgotten to inform the student of the restriction, and had to stick to his own rule. So he played a move that checkmated both kings simultaneously!
    • In one version of the story, he promotes his own pawn into a king of his opponent's colour, and mates all three on the same move!
  • Yet another game involving Kasparov, known as "Kasparov versus the World", played in 1999 over the Internet in which Garry Kasparov took on a team of over 50,000 people from 75 different countries and won. Excellent moves were played throughout by both sides, and the game was more or less even right up until the end. In fact, the only reason that the World Team was unable to force a draw was because, at the time, there were no seven-piece endgame tablebases.
  • "The Windmill," a 1925 game where Carlos Torre Repetto defeated former champion Emanuel Lasker by sacrificing his queen to enable his rook and bishop to decimate all of Lasker's other pieces, with Lasker helpless to stop it as his king kept getting put in check with only a single possible move to escape.

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