The 6 best rapid chess games of all time


The “PRO” in the PRO Chess League stands for Professional Rapid Online. It is certainly all of these things. And now, with the Arena Royale event taking place September 16-24, it’s time to review the greatest rapid games in history.

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Classic time controls give players time to really immerse themselves in a position (not literally, as it’s a bit difficult to bite a chessboard without knocking at least a few checkers off their squares). However, as time gets shorter, calculations and deeper thinking become less important, while intuition and feeling become more important. That can lead to more bugs, but the best faster games are no less epic than slower ones. If this were not the case, correspondence would be the supreme discipline of the game of chess.

So here are some of the best.

Magnus Carlsen vs. Sergey Karjakin, 2016

GM Sergey Karjakin fought GM Magnus Carlsen for his money at the 2016 World Cup. After seven draws in the 12-game classic, Karjakin took the lead in the eighth game, but Carlsen equalized in the 10th game and the match soon turned into a quick tie-break over four games. After two draws, Carlsen won the third and only needed one more to keep his title.

Throughout the game, Carlsen retains a sustained advantage, but Karjakin’s 48 … Qf2 looks evil and threatens to checkmate on g2. Defensive moves like 49.Rg1 or 49.Qg3 keep White an advantage, the computer says, but there is actually a checkmate, starting with 49.Rc8 +.

If White has miscalculated something, then this chess takes a winning position and makes it impossible to defend against Black’s threats by losing. But while Karjakin could have survived longer with 49 … Bf8, he chose instead the move that made Carlsen’s amazing 50.Qh6 + !! made possible. Either 51 … Kxh6 52.Rh8 # or 51 … gxh6 52.Rxf7 # is mate.

No misjudgment. Just play, set and match.

IM Danny Rensch was reviewing the game when it happened. Even more remarkable than the game, however, is Danny’s beard.

Wassily Ivanchuk vs. Artur Jussupow, 1991

This game between 1991-93 World Cup candidates GM Vassily Ivanchuk and GM Artur Yusupov was played in the early days of rapid chess to break a tie.

Less than a decade earlier, FIDE had gone so far as to use roulette to decide a candidate match (between GM Vasily Smyslov and GM Robert Hubner in 1983) instead of solving the argument that would have watered down the game with faster time controls. Don’t ask how it was better to play a casino game.

Now, in the 21st century, short term checks are, of course, just a normal part of chess.

It is one of those games that is so complex that computers still have problems with it to this day. At depth 30 the analysis of the match report goes from White +5.8 after 27.Kf1 to a draw after 27 … Re6. This is how a computer says it has no idea what is going on. Then it tries to tell you that 28.Qb7 is a “mistake” even though White is actually already lost.

Here is NM Sam Copeland’s video review of the game:

Anish Giri vs. Alexander Morozevich, 2012

Unlike the previous two games, this competition between GM Anish Giri and GM Alexander Morozevich took place in a fairly low tournament as it had no impact on the World Cup. The World Mind Games event only ran from 2011-14 and chess wasn’t even the focus of the event, which included other games like Bridge and Go. Giri plays bridge, that’s a thought, but no, the bridge players played bridge and the chess players played chess.

If you’d rather play with Giri before watching the game, try this lesson.

Catalan is usually a long-term strategic opening for White, but here Giri is relentlessly delivering in quick succession until Morozevich retires after just 25 moves.

It was sort of a role reversal given standard expectations. Giri has a not entirely fair reputation as a draw master, while Morozevich, whose number 2 in the world rankings in classical chess (achieved in 2008) is actually higher than Giri’s # 3 (in 2016), is considered one of the more resourceful attackers in chess. But here Giri played a bit like Paul Morphy in the middlegame.

Vladimir Kramnik vs. Viswanathan Anand, 2008

Like Giri in the previous game, GM Viswanathan Anand’s total score in this non-championship event was below average -1, although it was an event with a little more stamina. The Amber Tournament was held every year from 1992-2011, usually in Monaco. It was one of the first annual tournaments to focus on fast-paced games that were uniquely linked to blindfolded games. The same 2008 Amber Rapid that this game was played in was also a celebrated win for Ivanchuk against Karjakin, with a stunning opening novelty from Ivanchuk that quickly stalled Karjakin.

Instead, this game between Anand and GM Vladimir Kramnik was an exchange of blows. In the same year they also played for the world championship, which Anand also won.

Unlike Giri in the previous game, who quickly crushed Morozevich with tactical punches, this fight was an endurance fight that the computer looked at for even the longest time. Kramnik finally makes a mistake with 41.Qb6, but it is a gross mistake that does not miss Black’s next move, but the next one. On move 41 even the silicon needs a few seconds to achieve the spectacular 42 … Qf3 !!

If Kramnik takes the queen, capturing gxf3 again leads to an inevitable mate on h1. It’s hard to imagine playing with two queens and losing, but if Kramnik had been in the mood he could have ended the game with 44.Bxf3 gxf3 45.b8 = Q Rh1 #.

We can forgive him for not being in the mood.

Teimour Radjabov vs. Oleksandr Bortnyk, 2016

We have to get something from the FIDE World Rapid Championship, an event that somehow didn’t exist before 2012. (Also the official FIDE rating lists for rapid and flashlight.) And why not another relentless, romantic attack in the style of Giri-Morozevich, here by GM Teimour Radjabov against GM Oleksandr Bortnyk. Bortnyk is a speed demon who shot 3300 on, but was outdone in this game.

According to the computer, Bortnyk is caught in a forced checkmate after beating the knight with 19 … gxf5. For the next five moves, 20-24, Radjabov only has one move at a time to stay on the mate line, including the women’s bag 21.Qxh5 +. After forcing Radjabov to figure out the best sequel for some time, Bortnyk eventually let a mate in one pass, but the alternative was to ditch his queen just to delay the inevitable for a few moves.

It’s always nice when mate shows up on the board without the loser having to throw stones in the way just to prolong the misery.

Edward Lasker versus George Thomas, 1912

It may be the most famous game on the list, but a fast paced game? Before the First World War? Somehow. We’ll explain in a moment.

First, let’s make sure it’s clear which Lasker we’re talking about. It is not the 1894-1921 world champion, Emanuel Lasker, but his very distant relative Edward Lasker who has never been close to the world champion (although he almost became a US champion in 1923) but through that game and one in 1924. in chess history there is still a draw against Emanuel.

Edward Lasker in 1924. Among the several indications that it is not Emanuel: missing mustache. Photo: Wikimedia / Public Domain.

According to Edward Lasker’s 1942 book Chess for fun & chess for blood (perhaps the greatest title in the history of chess literature) he explained the game’s time control as one where neither player could use more than five minutes more than the other. In other words, if one player had taken 10 minutes for the game so far, the other player would have to make their next move before thinking a total of 15 minutes.

It is essentially the “hourglass” time control, which is rare today. The faster player determines the pace of the game, but the slower player is still guaranteed at least five minutes to play, even if the other participant moves immediately. Of course, no one moves immediately, and in taking five minutes, Lasker and Thomas chose a timing that, for practical reasons, would have been played … fast.

As for the game itself, you may have seen the amazing hunt for queen and king before.

Lasker’s decision to play 18.Kd2 # instead of 18.OOO # remains controversial. This writer likes it for a reason similar to what Lasker explains: “I was actually thinking about castling, but the performance-oriented engineer in me got the hang of it and I played [Kd2] what it took to move only one piece. “The rook is allowed to deliver mate from its original square, no less along the line, and that never happens. or f-file.

Here’s a man-made example in puzzle shape because we can.

The turn order and other circumstances of Lasker vs. Thomas are actually a bit unclear. Edward Winter explains the situation and everything else about this game, including the two Lasker quotes above, here.


Narrowing down all the fast-paced games in history to just six of the best inevitably leaves room for controversy. Here is a still limited collection of several great games that missed the cut, starting with one from NM Jeremy Kane, Director of Training Content at, and the Ivanchuk Karjakin game mentioned above.

As you can see, it doesn’t take hours on the chessboard to create a masterpiece. Minutes to an hour or so will do.

What’s your favorite quick game of all time? Let us know! And watch the PRO Chess League Arena Royale now on until the final on September 24th.


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