I would like this question to be Community Wiki because I hope to collect several answers.

Can you name famous games where part of the fame comes from the circumstances surrounding the game? I hope it is clear that this is not really a subjective question. Which games are selected will depend on people's preference, but for each answer it will be clear cut whether the game has a famous story or not.

To get the ball rolling, let me mention the following (if this question is liked, I will edit it to list all answers with, if possible, a link to the game):

  • Tal - Benko, Belgrad 1959: Benko wore sunglasses to "avoid being hypnotized" by Tal.
  • J. Polgar - W. Browne?: Polgar used to bring a teddy bear to the chess table. In this game, Browne (I think) took a toy cannon, aimed it at the bear, and started the game... which he won.
  • Steinitz - Bardeleben, Hastings 1895: Steinitz's last move reached a position in which he had a forced mate in 10. Bardeleben left the tournament hall without finishing the game. Legend has it that he did not want to allow Steinitz the pleasure of reaching the mate, but it seems that he left because of noise and did let Steinitz know.
  • Interestingly, Nakamura wore sunglasses vs Carlson a few weeks ago, perhaps as a psychological ploy.
    – tbischel
    Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 21:19
  • I've seen him wearing them before.
    – yrodro
    Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 2:40
  • I noticed that the proposed FIDE dress code would prohibit sunglasses. fide.com/images/stories/NEWS_2013/FIDE/… Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 17:36
  • Oh boy! What will Nakamura do?..
    – yrodro
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 3:26

7 Answers 7


Bobby Fischer's games in the 1965 Capablanca Memorial gained fame because he was denied a visa to travel to Cuba, and was the only player in the tournament who had to play all of his games from New York by telephone. It was especially grueling because those games typically lasted 8 hours or more due to the communications lag.


There was a game involving Frank Marshall, in which he claimed his last move excited the spectators in such a way, they showered him with golden coins. However, I've also read the coins were not intended for him, but tossed on the table by those who bet against him, for the winning gamblers to collect. But it was an amazing move though.

More info here:


Game two of the Fischer-Spassky world championship in 1972 comes to mind. Fischer forfeited it because of the cameras in the main hall. Due to Fischer's theatrics, Spassky agreed to play the 3rd game away from the audience, and lost. Then the drama by the Soviets around "devices" allegedly placed in Fischer's chair designed to disrupt Spassky's thinking.

The entire Karpov-Korchnoi world championship match of '78 was wrapped in oddness including a Russian "psychic" whose image graced the cover of (then) Chess Life and Review. The Soviets sent the "psychic" strictly to unnerve Korchnoi who apparently believes in such things. Florencio Campomanes, future president of FIDE, allowed the psychic to sit in the first row, even after it was agreed he would not. Then there was the yogurt scandal, where the Soviet support staff sent the snack to Karpov without Karpov asking, raising protests from Korchnoi's team since the timing and type of yogurt could have been a coded message. Ah, and also Campomanes allowed Karpov an unscheduled break in the tournament so he could rest.

  • 1
    A lot of your answer is matter of opinion, and not strictly facts.
    – Akavall
    Commented Sep 22, 2013 at 23:49
  • @Akavall: No it is not. Everything that Tony said is documented, except the line that reads "The Soviets sent the 'psychic' strictly to unnerve Korchnoi who apparently believes in such things."
    – yrodro
    Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 2:24
  • 1
    @yrodro I'd like to see some documentation on the claims regarding Compomanes; he was not FIDE president until 1982, so FIDE president during the match was either Euwe or Olaffson.
    – Akavall
    Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 3:39
  • The match was in the Philippines. Campo was the host/organizer/FIDE rep. Perhaps he was not the president then.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 3:59
  • @Akavall: Ok, what about this link for documentation: mark-weeks.com/chess/78kk$$01.htm ? Why did the soviets bring the "psychic" is not clear, and there is no mention of the unscheduled break. Tony edited the presidency issue. All in all, the bulk of Tony's answer is not a matter of opinion.
    – yrodro
    Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 20:00

Albert Einstein vs Robert Oppenheimer - Einstein won obviously :)

Neither of them was a professional chess player, but the game is so famous, simply because everyone wants to see Einstein playing chess!

  • 1
    my only complaint is that the guys voice sucks. Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 21:12
  • 1
    @tryingToGetProgrammingStraight agreed :)
    – Lynob
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 11:51

Games 2 and 6 of the Kasparov-Deep Blue rematch in 1997 would be good candidates because of the controversy surrounding those games and the match in general.

Unfortunately, I don't have a good link handy and Wikipedia is rather bare.

  • 2
    This answer can be improved by explaining the controversy. Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 22:30

Do clearly fictive games count? One word: Mate of Dilaram. (A very old Mansuba - chess problem - by As-Suli. This works because Mansubas were very game-like. A prince bets his favorite harem dame since he already lost everything else, and just as he is about to be mated, she prompts him the hidden win. Of course nothing of the story is acceptable by todays standards - especially the cheating part.)


How GM Bernstein saved his life from the Sovjet Secret Service by game of a chess: From third hard, so perhaps apocryphal.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.