Return to The most beautiful chess move ever played (thing)

The scene is [Breslau], [Germany], the sixth round of the [German Open] [Chess Championships], in a quiet tournament hall surrounded by a gallery of [spectators], and the year is [1912]. A strong player, [Stephan Lewitzky], who at this point was one of [Russia]'s most promising young [master]s, is playing the legendary [American] player [Frank Marshall]. Frank was the [US champion] from [1906] to [1936], and was one of the strongest players in the world, a feared [tactician] famous for his vicious and complicated attacks.

Lewitzky, playing White, has not been playing his best, and has been [on the defensive] for most of the game, and now he is in [dire straits]. Marshall has just captured his [knight] on h3, and he can't capture back because he will lose his [queen] to a knight [fork] on f3, so in desperation he has moved his [rook] to c5, attacking Marshall's [queen]. He hopes to hang on for a few more moves, and possibly to get [counterplay] against White's [king], but Marshall's next move ends the game abruptly.

The entire score of the game is given in the notes below.

+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    |    |    | r  | k  |    |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+ 
| p  | p  |    |    |    |    | p  | p  |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    |    | p  |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    | R  |    |    |    | Q  |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    | n  |    |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    | q--|----|----|----|->  | r  | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| P  |    | P  |    |    | P  | P  | P  | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+ 
|    |    |    |    |    | R  | K  |    |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+

Marshall played 23...Qg3!!, one of the strangest and most [spectacular] moves ever played in a game of [tournament chess]. His queen can be captured on this square in 3 different ways, all of which lead to a lost position or [checkmate]:

  • 24.hxg3 Ne2++ (checkmate from the knight, with the rook on h3 covering the king's escape squares)
  • 24.fxg3 Ne2+ 25.Kh1 Rxf1++
  • 24.Qxg3 Ne2+ 25.Kh1 Nxg3+ 26.Kg1 (the knight cannot be captured - 26.hxg3 is impossible because the h-pawn is [pin]ned to the king, and 26.fxg3 Rxf1++ is checkmate) 26...Ne2+ 27.Kh1 Rc3 - Black is a clear piece up, and with the queens off the board the position is an easy win.

All other moves lose quickly due to the double threat of checkmate on h2 with the queen, and the capture of White's queen on g5. Lewitzky therefore did [the honourable thing], and [resign]ed.

Marshall described this as "The most [elegant] move I have ever played." This concept of elegance or [beauty] in chess is something that is almost impossible to explain to a non-chess player, because the beauty resides in factors which are very specific to [the rules of the game] - the [harmonious interaction] of the pieces involved, the [unexpectedness] of the move in a relatively simple position, the [thrill] of sacrificing one's most powerful piece to force a win. If chess players did not universally share this [sensation] of beauty in certain moves, then it would not be possible to explain the lasting and seemingly [timeless] attraction of the game, or how more books have come to be written on [chess] than all other games and sports combined. Like the chilling [vibrato] at the height of a [virtuoso] violinist's [cadenza], it is possible for a chess move to [electrify] both the players and the audience.

In this case, the spectators in the [gallery] were said to be so astounded by Marshall's move that they showered the board with [gold roubles] after the game, and Marshall himself confirmed this story, though many sources say that the coins were in fact payments made by angry [gambler]s who had been betting on the [outcome].

The move has ensured both Marshall and Lewitzky's [immortality] in [the world history of chess], and is universally praised by chess critics and analysts. The only reason that the full game itself does not appear on most peoples' lists of [the best chess games ever played] is that, up to that point, and mainly due to Lewitzky's poor form, the quality of play had not been very high. One [brilliant] move can't make a brilliant game, but it can make you [famous].


The full game: 1.d4 e6 2.e4 d5 3.Nc3 c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.exd5 exd5 6.Be2 Nf6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Bg5 0-0 9.dxc5 Be6 10.Nd4 Bxc5 11.Nxe6 fxe6 12.Bg4 Qd6 13.Bh3 Rae8 14.Qd2 Bb4 15.Bxf6 Rxf6 16.Rad1 Qc5 17.Qe2 Bxc3 18.bxc3 Qxc3 19.Rxd5 Nd4 20.Qh5 Ref8 21.Rde5 Rfh6 22.Qg5 Rxh3 23.Rc5 Qg3 0-1

+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    |    |    | r  | k  |    |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+ 
| p  | p  |    |    |    |    | p  | p  |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    |    | p  |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    | R  |    |    |    | Q  |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    | n  |    |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    |    |    |    | q  | r  | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| P  |    | P  |    |    | P  | P  | P  | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+ 
|    |    |    |    |    | R  | K  |    |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+

[Annotation] and [commentary] (Warning - the annotation and analysis is done by an amateur player, and is NOT very accurate in places): http://www.angelfire.com/games3/AJs01Downloads/html_stuff/gcm_lev-mar_1g0.html
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