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100 Best Chess Games of the 20th Century-RANKED!
Compiled by SirChrislov
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A beauty pageant of chess games! Selected, judged, ranked and (lightly) annotated by the author of the classic "Soviet Chess 1917-1991".

How do you pick only 100?

I know right? Ok, here's how GM Soltis' choice of the best played games from the last 100 years came to be: Out of thousands of carefully selected games, only 300 proved worthy candidates for the book. Those "chosen few" were judged primarily for their moves, evaluated in 5 categories, and after final rankings... these were the 100 beauties that made the show.

"No attempt was made to break ties and no particular significance should be attached to the order of games that received the same score. No attempt was made to balance the selection according to period, nationality of players, or opening. The aim was not to achieve mathematical exactitude. Chess is not that simple. The goal was to reduce, as much as possible, the subjective and personal predilections of the person doing the evaluation. Of course, there will be disagreements over the numbers. But I believe that a fair-minded judge would agree that in the main these evaluations are even-handed and unbiased." --The Author

Some interesting final "stats" (not found in book):

All classical world champions after Steinitz's death are represented here with at least one effort. Congrats to Mr. Kasparov who brought it the most times with 6 victories, more than any other player. Sadly, 2nd world champion Lasker made the list with one defeat, while the great Karpov got served 3 times(!):

Kasparov 6
Fischer 41/2
Botvinnik 41/2
Capablanca 41/2
Alekhine 4
Tal 31/2
Spassky 3
Smyslov 2
Petrosian 2
Euwe 1
Lasker -1 (Lasker vs W Napier, 1904 and Lasker vs Capablanca, 1914 are overrated acc. to Soltis.) Karpov -3 Consolation prize for Karpov vs Kamsky, 1992 perhaps? Although none his wins made it into the author's 100 best list, this Karpov victory is somewhat praised (and awarded 5 exclams!) by Soltis in the intro.

Who got the most games? Capablanca and Rubinstein are the players with the most games. Each are seen in 7 encounters.

Games between same opponents

Karpov-Kasparov (2)
Nimzovich-Rubinstein (2)
Gligorich-Petrosian (2)

Game with the most ! A whopping 21 exclams is given by Soltis to <Johansson v Rey-Ardid 1933> (game #15).

Top Scorers Games that received the 20-point maximum in any of the 5 criteria

(1) <Aesthetics> Polugaevsky-Nezhmetdinov 1958
Bogolyubov-Alekhine 1922
Stoltz-Steiner 1952
Rotlewi-Rubinstein 1907
Geller-Smyslov 1965
Larsen-Spassky 1970
Chekhover-Kasparyan 1936
Nezhmetdinov-Chernikov 1962

(2) <Originality> Lilienthal-Ragozin 1935
Gufeld-Kavalek 1962
Johner-Nimzovich 1926
Reti-Rubinstein 1923
Capablanca-Nimzovich 1928
Polugaevsky-E Torre 1981

(3) <Opposition> Keres-Dyckhoff 1935

(4) <Soundness> Capablanca-Marshall 1918
Kasparov-Anand 1995

(5) <Breadth/Depth> Estrin-Berliner 1965

Total Wht wins 56
Draws 7
Total Blk wins 37

by GM A. Soltis
McFarland 2000, 2006 (reprint).

Soltis concludes with the following note...

Will the 21st century produce 100 games this good? The author of another best games collection was not optimistic about the future. He compiled 157 examples of brilliant play from previous decades but concluded that "there has been no first-class play during the past few years." Contemporary masters were too concerned with money, and "emulatory games, formerly so popular and so frequent, are now of rare occurrence." So wrote Henry Bird in 1875. The same might be said of 2000. But we shall see...


#1. 1st, score 92/100 The Test That Stumped Them All...
Estrin vs Berliner, 1965 
(C57) Two Knights, 42 moves, 0-1

#2. 1st, score 92/100 NEZTRADAMUS I
Polugaevsky vs Nezhmetdinov, 1958 
(A54) Old Indian, Ukrainian Variation, 4.Nf3, 33 moves, 0-1

#3. 2nd, score 91 Precise Artistry: The Pappa Ruy of all Ruys
Capablanca vs Marshall, 1918 
(C89) Ruy Lopez, Marshall, 36 moves, 1-0

#4. 3rd, score 89 AA Masterpiece I "Divine Alekhine"
Bogoljubov vs Alekhine, 1922 
(A90) Dutch, 53 moves, 0-1

#5. 3rd, score 89 Best of the Beast: Hallowed Be Thy Game
Kasparov vs Topalov, 1999 
(B06) Robatsch, 44 moves, 1-0

#6. 4th, score 88 Guns N' Ragozins
Lilienthal vs Ragozin, 1935 
(E24) Nimzo-Indian, Samisch, 47 moves, 0-1

#7. 4th, score 88 The killer 'pawn-swarm' epidemic of 1962
Gufeld vs Kavalek, 1962 
(C64) Ruy Lopez, Classical, 32 moves, 0-1

#8. 4th, score 88 For Whom The Bell Tal's
Tal vs Hjartarson, 1987 
(C97) Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin, 43 moves, 1-0

#9. 5th, score 87 Swede Child O' Mine
Stoltz vs H Steiner, 1952 
(A21) English, 34 moves, 1-0

#10. 5th, score 87 Beloved The World Over...
Rotlewi vs Rubinstein, 1907  
(D32) Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch, 25 moves, 0-1

#11. 5th, score 87 "SirSmyslov" WCh. game Top-Choice
Botvinnik vs Smyslov, 1954 
(E67) King's Indian, Fianchetto, 33 moves, 0-1

#12. 5th, score 87 Lev and Let Die...
Tal vs Aronin, 1957 
(D32) Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch, 36 moves, 1/2-1/2

#13. 5th, score 87 Get yer "Hair Gell" slapped on, son
Geller vs Smyslov, 1965 
(D87) Grunfeld, Exchange, 31 moves, 1-0

#14. 5th, score 87 "The Great Gapsby" Nona's Nona Lisa
M Lazarevic vs N Gaprindashvili, 1961 
(A02) Bird's Opening, 33 moves, 0-1

#15. 5th, score 87 (aka 'Immortal Corr. Game')
N Johansson-Tegelman vs R Rey Ardid, 1933 
(C98) Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin, 47 moves, 1-0

#16. score 86 "Nimzowizard of Oz"
P F Johner vs Nimzowitsch, 1926 
(E47) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3, 40 moves, 0-1

#17. score 86 "Smokin' Port Ribs"
Portisch vs Pinter, 1984 
(D41) Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch, 33 moves, 0-1

#18. score 86 The Mesmerizing ...Rh1!!
Larsen vs Spassky, 1970 
(A01) Nimzovich-Larsen Attack, 17 moves, 0-1

#19. score 86 "Bringin' down the Ciric du Soleil"
Ivkov vs D Ciric, 1963 
(E08) Catalan, Closed, 41 moves, 1-0

#20. score 85 AA Masterpiece II "Mr. Baden-Baden"
Reti vs Alekhine, 1925 
(A00) Uncommon Opening, 40 moves, 0-1

#21. score 85 Yer AVRO Masterpiece, sir.
Botvinnik vs Capablanca, 1938 
(E40) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, 41 moves, 1-0

#22. score 85 Epic battle between composers. Must-View!
Chekhover vs Kasparian, 1936 
(E67) King's Indian, Fianchetto, 33 moves, 0-1

#23. score 85 A lyrical performance, #30 Fischer's M60MG
Gligoric vs Fischer, 1961 
(E98) King's Indian, Orthodox, Taimanov, 9.Ne1, 33 moves, 1/2-1/2

#24. score 85 Keres' Postal Masterpiece
Keres vs E Dyckhoff, 1935 
(C83) Ruy Lopez, Open, 54 moves, 1/2-1/2

#25. score 85 Unmissable-the famous slaughter over AK
Karpov vs Kasparov, 1993 
(E86) King's Indian, Samisch, Orthodox, 7.Nge2 c6, 27 moves, 0-1

#26. score 85 Sheer Witchcraft... (#48 M60MG)
Robert E Byrne vs Fischer, 1963  
(E60) King's Indian Defense, 21 moves, 0-1

#27. score 85 The bizarre (and mysterious) ...Rxh2
Maroczy vs Tartakower, 1922 
(A84) Dutch, 35 moves, 0-1

#28. score 85 Game of the...As if it needs an introduction
D Byrne vs Fischer, 1956  
(D92) Grunfeld, 5.Bf4, 41 moves, 0-1

#29. score 84 "Thrillin' Smirin"
Kasparov vs Smirin, 1988 
(E97) King's Indian, 41 moves, 1-0

#30. score 84 (aka "Benko's Masterpiece")
Bisguier vs Benko, 1963 
(D96) Grunfeld, Russian Variation, 31 moves, 0-1

#31. score 84 "MorTAL Kombat"
F Thorbergsson vs Tal, 1964 
(E77) King's Indian, 39 moves, 0-1

#32. score 83 The Immortal Martini Game! Shook Up!
Spassky vs Bronstein, 1960 
(C36) King's Gambit Accepted, Abbazia Defense, 23 moves, 1-0

#33. score 83 Freddy Masteryates
Alekhine vs Yates, 1923 
(E62) King's Indian, Fianchetto, 50 moves, 0-1

#34. score 83 Ya can't dance at two weddings son...
Szabo vs G Sigurjonsson, 1968 
(D47) Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav, 40 moves, 0-1

#35. score 83
Spassky vs Polugaevsky, 1961 
(E21) Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights, 42 moves, 1-0

#36. score 83
S Atalik vs Miles, 1993 
(E81) King's Indian, Samisch, 30 moves, 0-1

#37. score 83 "Slick Vik"
Korchnoi vs Tal, 1962 
(A62) Benoni, Fianchetto Variation, 54 moves, 1-0

#38. score 83 "Hustle & Flohr"
Flohr vs Rellstab, 1931 
(A34) English, Symmetrical, 36 moves, 1-0

#39. score 83 Petrosian's "Sniper Queen"
Petrosian vs Spassky, 1966 
(E63) King's Indian, Fianchetto, Panno Variation, 30 moves, 1-0

#40. score 83 *****5-Star endgame by the Botman!
Botvinnik vs Vidmar, 1946 
(D02) Queen's Pawn Game, 60 moves, 1-0

#41. score 83 Ljub-Oyster-Cult
Bronstein vs Ljubojevic, 1973 
(B03) Alekhine's Defense, 41 moves, 1-0

#42. score 83 Nb3 and that's all she wrote, bitchezzzz!
Kasparov vs Anand, 1995 
(C80) Ruy Lopez, Open, 38 moves, 1-0

#43. score 83 No offense my dear, but go sack yourself
Alatortsev vs Boleslavsky, 1950 
(A54) Old Indian, Ukrainian Variation, 4.Nf3, 27 moves, 0-1

#44. score 82 "Killing Mig Softly"
Euwe vs Najdorf, 1953 
(E60) King's Indian Defense, 37 moves, 1-0

#45. score 82 Rookinstein... in his element
Rubinstein vs Lasker, 1909  
(D30) Queen's Gambit Declined, 40 moves, 1-0

#46. score 82 Hey now, don't Dreev it's over
Gelfand vs Dreev, 1993 
(D47) Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav, 44 moves, 0-1

#47. score 82
Kholmov vs Keres, 1959 
(B30) Sicilian, 29 moves, 1-0

#48. score 82 "Hacky Psak" (a Vets vs Youth tourney it was)
Taimanov vs Psakhis, 1981 
(A04) Reti Opening, 35 moves, 0-1

#49. score 82 (aka the 'Slovak Immortal') Must-View!!
Polugaevsky vs Ftacnik, 1982 
(A30) English, Symmetrical, 29 moves, 0-1

#50. score 82 Historic: Hypermodernism vs Classical Skool
Reti vs Rubinstein, 1923 
(A06) Reti Opening, 50 moves, 1-0

#51. score 82 Familiar to Millions-the King March of '91
Short vs Timman, 1991 
(B04) Alekhine's Defense, Modern, 34 moves, 1-0

#52. score 82 Flawed play but great energetic game
Capablanca vs Nimzowitsch, 1928 
(E34) Nimzo-Indian, Classical, Noa Variation, 39 moves, 1/2-1/2

#53. score 82 AA Masterpiece III "Bookaholic"
Alekhine vs E E Book, 1938 
(D26) Queen's Gambit Accepted, 25 moves, 1-0

#54. score 82 Sheer positional genius...
Tolush vs Botvinnik, 1945 
(C19) French, Winawer, Advance, 41 moves, 0-1

#55. score 81 Ye Olde Main Line...
Euwe vs Keres, 1940 
(E19) Queen's Indian, Old Main line, 9.Qxc3, 34 moves, 0-1

#56. score 81 Bustin' Caps in yo' Tartass
Capablanca vs Tartakower, 1924  
(A80) Dutch, 52 moves, 1-0

#57. score 81 E.T. went down in flames!
Polugaevsky vs E Torre, 1981 
(D44) Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav, 40 moves, 1-0

#58. score 81 Itchy & Tarraschy
Tarrasch vs Teichmann, 1905 
(C87) Ruy Lopez, 68 moves, 1-0

#59. score 81 The Leningrad Masterpiece
A Shashin vs Korchnoi, 1973 
(E56) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with 7...Nc6, 35 moves, 1-0

#60. score 81 Romanticism... between two dudes! (ewww)
Portisch vs Kavalek, 1975 
(E80) King's Indian, Samisch Variation, 38 moves, 1/2-1/2

#61. score 81 "Hat-tricked" He sure made him famous.
Capablanca vs O Bernstein, 1914 
(D37) Queen's Gambit Declined, 46 moves, 1-0

#62. score 81 Why you Spiel the beans, mann?
Spielmann vs E Eliskases, 1932 
(D31) Queen's Gambit Declined, 32 moves, 0-1

#63. score 81 Bullchig!
Marshall vs Chigorin, 1905 
(A83) Dutch, Staunton Gambit, 30 moves, 1-0

#64. score 81 Nice game by Fischer's 6-0 guy
Taimanov vs Polugaevsky, 1960 
(D23) Queen's Gambit Accepted, 23 moves, 1-0

#65. score 80 NEZTRADAMUS II "Itchy and Rashid"
Nezhmetdinov vs O Chernikov, 1962 
(B35) Sicilian, Accelerated Fianchetto, Modern Variation with Bc4, 33 moves, 1-0

#66. score 80 Nice game by Fischer's other 6-0 guy
Larsen vs Petrosian, 1966 
(B39) Sicilian, Accelerated Fianchetto, Breyer Variation, 30 moves, 1-0

#67. score 80 Comfortably Nimz
Nimzowitsch vs Rubinstein, 1926  
(A34) English, Symmetrical, 46 moves, 1-0

#68. score 80
Smyslov vs Kotov, 1943 
(B24) Sicilian, Closed, 42 moves, 1-0

#69. score 80
Tarrasch vs Reti, 1922 
(B10) Caro-Kann, 40 moves, 1-0

#70. score 80 The Ghost of a Legend: 20 years later...
Fischer vs Spassky, 1992 
(B31) Sicilian, Rossolimo Variation, 41 moves, 1-0

#71. score 79 AA Masterpiece IV "Sixth Sense"
Gruenfeld vs Alekhine, 1923 
(D64) Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox, Rubinstein Attack, 34 moves, 0-1

#72. score 79 "The Great Capastrophe"
Lilienthal vs Capablanca, 1935 
(E24) Nimzo-Indian, Samisch, 26 moves, 1-0

#73. score 79 French defense, Lose-awer variation
Ivkov vs Portisch, 1961 
(C18) French, Winawer, 31 moves, 1-0

#74. score 79 Who ya gonna call? Bogostbusters!
Bogoljubov vs M Monticelli, 1930 
(E21) Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights, 39 moves, 0-1

#75. score 79 Bot's last great masterwork...
Botvinnik vs Portisch, 1968 
(A22) English, 26 moves, 1-0

#76. score 79 March of the Titan
Petrosian vs Unzicker, 1960 
(D30) Queen's Gambit Declined, 55 moves, 1-0

#77. score 78 Comfortably Nimz II
Nimzowitsch vs Rubinstein, 1928 
(A06) Reti Opening, 32 moves, 1-0

#78. score 78 Petrophobia!
Petrosian vs Gligoric, 1970 
(E97) King's Indian, 33 moves, 0-1

#79. score 78 "Go easy on me," that's what Shi said.
Kasparov vs Shirov, 1994 
(B33) Sicilian, 38 moves, 1-0

#80. score 78 Sahovski Crown Jewel: Voted #1 Golden Game
Ivanchuk vs Yusupov, 1991 
(E67) King's Indian, Fianchetto, 39 moves, 0-1

#81. score 78 O Queen of mine, Where Art Thou?
Geller vs Karpov, 1976 
(C16) French, Winawer, 42 moves, 1-0

#82. score 78
Keres vs Reshevsky, 1953 
(E41) Nimzo-Indian, 41 moves, 1/2-1/2

#83. score 78
Tarrasch vs Spielmann, 1912 
(C77) Ruy Lopez, 32 moves, 0-1

#84. score 78 "Black Szaboth"
Szabo vs Benko, 1975 
(A22) English, 77 moves, 1-0

#85. score 78
G Idigoras vs Panno, 1955 
(E63) King's Indian, Fianchetto, Panno Variation, 41 moves, 1-0

#86. score 77
Rubinstein vs Spielmann, 1912  
(A84) Dutch, 42 moves, 0-1

#87. score 77 Lev itt be
H Olafsson vs J Levitt, 1990 
(A30) English, Symmetrical, 28 moves, 1-0

#88. score 77 Better luck tomorrow son of sorrow
Gligoric vs Petrosian, 1954 
(A56) Benoni Defense, 36 moves, 1-0

#89. score 77 "The Brisbane Bomb" (GK's Crown Jewel)
Karpov vs Kasparov, 1985 
(B44) Sicilian, 40 moves, 0-1

#90. score 76
G Ilivitsky vs Polugaevsky, 1953 
(D48) Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav, Meran, 44 moves, 0-1

#91. score 76 Tal no play chess, Tal play with witchery
Tal vs Hecht, 1962 
(E12) Queen's Indian, 49 moves, 1-0

#92. score 76
Duras vs Teichmann, 1906 
(C87) Ruy Lopez, 64 moves, 1-0

#93. score 75 Bros before Hros!
Rubinstein vs Hromadka, 1923 
(C30) King's Gambit Declined, 29 moves, 1-0

#94. score 75 Longer than the frickn' Great Wall of China
Szabo vs Botvinnik, 1952 
(A94) Dutch, Stonewall with Ba3, 78 moves, 1/2-1/2

#95. score 75 Legend-in-the-making. Must-View!
Fischer vs Tal, 1962 
(B32) Sicilian, 63 moves, 1-0

#96. score 73 (No, not the 4-move miniature. lol)
F Lazard vs A Gibaud, 1909 
(C54) Giuoco Piano, 25 moves, 1-0

#97. score 73 And after all, you're my Wonderwall...
Capablanca vs K Treybal, 1929 
(D11) Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, 58 moves, 1-0

#98. score 73
Janowski vs Tarrasch, 1905 
(D02) Queen's Pawn Game, 37 moves, 1-0

#99. score 72 Soltis' one and only najdorf. What a najhole!
M Stean vs Browne, 1974 
(B94) Sicilian, Najdorf, 32 moves, 1-0

#100. score 71
J Mason vs Janowski, 1902 
(C78) Ruy Lopez, 65 moves, 1-0

101? Honorable mention (Near miss No. 5, c notes to 53...)
Capablanca vs Janowski, 1911 
(D04) Queen's Pawn Game, 66 moves, 1-0

101 games

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