The Most Famous Chess Matches of All Time

Chess is a rich game with a millennium of history and more than two billion games played on just one online website! The centuries-old mind sport has evolved through time, and in the last five decades, it has truly transformed into a professional, viewer-friendly sport. Classic matches in professional chess have been masterclasses in tactical thinking, the art of outwitting your opponent, and strategy.

Here are seven of the most famous chess matches of all time:

The 19th Century

Lionel Kieseritzky – Adolf Anderssen, 1851 (The Immortal Game)

There are several notable chess games during the romantic age of chess, but one, in particular, stands out for being so brilliant that all other brilliance are called after it. We’re talking about the first Immortal Game, which took place in 1851 between Lionel Kieseritzky, a renowned French player, and Adolf “Attack, always attack!” Anderssen.

Count Isouard/Duke Karl – Paul Morphy, Paris 1858

Paul Morphy was a chess player from the United States. Many people considered him to be the greatest chess player of his day. Even Bobby Fischer, one of the best players of all time, included him in his top ten list.

Sadly, Morphy passed away before the first formal World Chess Championship in 1886. It would’ve been fascinating to see how he stacked up against Steinitz.

chessboard, chess pieces, man holding a chess piece

The 20th Century

José Raul Capablanca – Mikhail Botvinnik, Rotterdam 1938

The next match pits José Raul Capablanca against Mikhail Botvinnik, two of the best players of the twentieth century. The game, which took place at a tournament in 1938, pitted the best chess players of the time against one other.

From 1921 until 1927, Capablanca was the third World Chess Champion, and he was regarded as one of the world’s best players at the period. Many notable chess games have been left for us to appreciate and learn from.

Mikhail Botvinnik would win three World Chess Championships (1948–57, 1958–60, and 1961–63) and was best recognized for his decades as the head of the Soviet School of Chess.

He was far younger than Capablanca (more than 20 years), and he had a chance in the event to show that he could compete with Alekhine and Capablanca at this stage of his career.

Botvinnik’s classic games are a joy to go through move by move because his scientific method did not obscure the brilliance of his move choices.

Robert James Fischer – Donald Byrne, New York 1958

Donald Byrne, one of the best American chess players at that day, and Bobby Fischer, then 13 years old, played a game dubbed the “Game of the Century.”

Fischer made two stunning sacrifices in this legendary chess game, thoroughly crushing his 26-year-old opponent using the Grunfeld Defense.

Veselin Topalov (2640) – Anatoly Karpov (2740), Linares 1994

Anatoly Karpov is a master of positional play. In a game Karpov played in a good tournament in 1994 in Linares, the classic chess game occurred. Karpov won the competition with a perfect 11/13 score.

Furthermore, the list of players he left behind in the final standings is astonishing. To name a few, there’s Vladimir Kramnik, Garry Kasparov, Vishy Anand, Veselin Topalov, Boris Gelfand, Vassily Ivanchuk, Evgeny Bareev, and Alexei Shirov.

Veselin Topalov vs Garry Kasparov , Wijk aan Zee 1999 (Kasparov’s Immortal)

A compilation of the most famous chess games would be incomplete without Garry Kasparov, widely considered among the best chess players in world history.

Playing through his renowned chess games step by step is not only a great way to improve, but it’s also fun and educational.

Kasparov was one of fourteen players selected for the 1999 Wijk aan Zee tournament held in the Netherlands. Tata Steel Chess is the new moniker for this tournament. The competition was quite challenging! Greats like Topalov, Vassily Ivanchuk, Kramnik, Rustam Kasimdzhanov, Alexei Shirov, and Anand competed.

Garry Kasparov would eventually win with a magnificent 10/13 score. One game in particular, though, stood out. Kasparov’s Immortal quickly established itself as one of the best chess games ever played.

In round 4, the classic chess match between Topalov and Kasparov and took place. The Bulgarian Super GM was widely expected to put the chess world champion to the test. Kasparov, on the other hand, delivered a true masterwork.

chess pieces

The 21st Century

Vishy Anand – Magnus Carlsen, Bilbao 2012

The seventh and final game in this compilation of the world’s most famous chess games involves two of today’s greatest chess players: Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen.

Without their games, no study of the classics would’ve been complete.

From 2007 through 2013, India’s Vishy Anand was the undefeated World Champion. He defended his title against Boris Gelfand, Veselin Topalov, and Vladimir Kramnik, among others.

Magnus Carlsen, a teenage Norwegian, defeated defending World Champion Vishy Anand in a twelve-game match in 2013. Carlsen even won the game after ten games and was crowned World Chess Champion for the first time. Magnus Carlsen was able to defend his championship the following year in a match against Vishy Anand.

Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand played one of the most famous chess games a year from their first World Championship encounter. Both players competed in the Sao Paulo-Bilbao Master competition in 2012.