|Bobby Fischer, age 13, gives a
Simultaneous Exibition in New Jersey, 1956.
The Game of the Century refers to a chess
game played between Donald Byrne and 13-year old Bobby Fischer
in the Rosenwald Memorial Tournament in New York City on October
17, 1956. It was nicknamed "The Game of the Century" by Hans
Kmoch in Chess Review.
In this game, Fischer (playing black) demonstrates
brilliance, innovation, improvisation and poetry. Byrne (playing
white), after a standard opening, makes a minor mistake on move
11, moving the same piece twice (wasting time). Fischer pounces,
with strong sacrificial play, culminating in an incredible queen
sacrifice on move 17. Byrne captures the queen, but Fischer more
than compensates by taking many other pieces. The ending is an
excellent demonstration of pieces working together to achieve a
Chess book author Graham Burgess suggests three lessons to be
learned from this game, which can be summarized as follows:
- In general, don't waste time by moving the same piece
twice in an opening; get your other pieces developed first.
- Material sacrifices are likely to be effective if your
opponent's king is still in the middle and a central file is
- Even at 13, Fischer was a player to be reckoned with.
Donald Byrne (1930-1976), by the time of this game, had
already obtained first place in the 1953 US Open Championship,
and would later represent the United States in three Olympiads
(1962, 1964, and 1968). He became an International Master in
1962. Robert "Bobby" Fischer (1943- ) won the world chess
championship in 1972.
The game is given here in algebraic notation:
- 1. Nf3
- A noncommittal move. From here, the game can develop
into a number of different openings.
- 1. ... Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7
- Fischer has opted for a defense based on
"hypermodern" principles: he's inviting Byrne to
establish a classical pawn stronghold in the center,
which Fischer hopes to undermine and transform into a
target. Fischer has fianchettoed his bishop, so it can
attack the a1-h8 diagonal including its center squares.
- 4. d4 O-O
- Fischer castles, concentrating on protecting his
- 5. Bf4 d5
- This introduces the Grünfeld Defence, an opening
usually brought about with the opening moves 1.d4 Nf6
2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5.
- 6. Qb3
- The so-called Russian System, putting pressure on
Fischer's central d5 pawn.
- 6. ...dxc4
- Fischer relinquishes his centre, but draws Byrne's
queen to a square where it is a little exposed and can
- 7. Qxc4 c6 8. e4 Nbd7 9. Rd1 Nb6 10. Qc5 Bg4
- At this point, Byrne's pieces are more developed,
and he controls the center squares. However, Fischer's
king is well-protected, while Byrne's king is not.
- 11. Bg5?
- Here Byrne makes a mistake - he moves the same piece
twice, losing time, instead of developing in some way.
Both [Burgess, Nunn and Emms] and [Wade and O'Connell]
suggest 11. Be2; this would protect the King and enable
a later kingside castle. For example, the game Flear-Morris,
Dublin 1991, continued 11. Be2 Nfd7 12. Qa3 Bxf3 13.
Bxf3 e5 14. dxe5 Qe8 15. Be2 Nxe5 16. O-O and white is
After 11. Bg5
- 11. ... Na4!!
- Here Fischer cleverly offers up his Knight, but if
Byrne takes it with Nxa4 Fischer will play Nxe4, and
Byrne then suddenly has some terrible choices:
- 13. Qxe7 Qa5+ 14. b4 Qxa4 15. Qxe4 Rfe8 16. Be7
Bxf3 17. gxf3 Bf8 produces a terrible pin.
- 13. Bxe7 Nxc5 14. Bxd8 Nxa4 15. Bg5 Bxf3 16.
gxf3 Nxb2 gives Fischer an extra pawn and ruins
Byrne's pawn structure.
- 13. Qc1 Qa5+ Nc3 Bxf3 15.gxf3 Nxg5 gives Fischer
back his piece and a better position.
- 12. Qa3 Nxc3 13. bxc3 Nxe4!
- Fischer offers to Byrne material, in exchange for a
much better position that is especially dangerous to
white: an open e-file, with white's king poorly
- 14. Bxe7 Qb6 15. Bc4
- Byrne wisely decides to decline the offered
- 15. ... Nxc3! 16. Bc5 Rfe8+ 17. Kf1
After 17. Kf1
- This is a very clever move by Fischer; the move that
made this game famous. Instead of trying to protect his
queen, Fischer viciously counter-attacks using his
bishop and sacrifices his queen.
- 18. Bxb6
- Byrne takes Fischer's offered queen, which leads to
a massive loss of material, but other moves are no
better. For example, 18.Bxe6 leads to a forced smothered
mate with 18...Qb5+ 19.Kg1 Ne2+ 20.Kf1 Ng3+ 21.Kg1 Qf1+
- 18. ... Bxc4+
- Fischer now begins a series of discovered checks,
picking up material.
- 19. Kg1 Ne2+ 20. Kf1 Nxd4+ 21. Kg1 Ne2+ 22. Kf1 Nc3+ 23.
- This move by Fischer takes time out to capture a
piece, but it doesn't waste time because it also
threatens Byrne's queen. Byrne's queen cannot take the
knight on c3, because it's protected by Fischer's bishop
- 24. Qb4 Ra4
- Fischer uses his pieces together nicely in concert;
the knight on c3 protects the rook on a4, which in turn
protects the bishop on c4. This forces Byrne's queen
- 25. Qxb6
- Byrne's queen picks up a pawn, but it's now poorly
- 25. ... Nxd1
- Fischer has taken a rook, 2 bishops, and a pawn as
compensation for his queen; in short, Fischer has gained
significantly more material than he's lost. In addition,
Byrne's remaining rook is stuck on h1 and it will take
precious time to free it, giving Fischer opportunity to
set up another offensive. White has the only remaining
queen, but this will not be enough. Most players would
resign at this point, but Byrne plays on until mate.
- 26. h3 Rxa2 27. Kh2 Nxf2 28. Re1 Rxe1 29. Qd8+ Bf8 30.
Nxe1 Bd5 31. Nf3 Ne4 32. Qb8 b5 33. h4 h5 34. Ne5 Kg7
- Fischer breaks the pin, allowing the bishop to
attack as well.
- 35. Kg1 Bc5+
- Now Fischer "peels away" the white king from his
last defender, and begins a series of checks that
culminate in checkmate. This series of moves is
interesting in the way Fischer shows how to use various
pieces together to force a checkmate.
- 36. Kf1 Ng3+
- The knight enters the fray to force Byrne's king to
- 37. Ke1 Bb4+ 38. Kd1 Bb3+ 39. Kc1 Ne2+ 40. Kb1 Nc3+ 41.
Kc1 Rc2# 0-1
Through the Game of the Century