I have been frequenting tactics puzzles and a few books over the past year. I come across these underpromotion puzzles frequently, however, I never find them in real games.

  1. Has there ever been a world championship game where an underpromotion was necessary?

  2. And if not, what was the highest level game that involved an underpromotion?

  • This is not a world championship game but was played recently by two former world champions: Anand vs Carlsen. Carlsen's underpromotion is brilliant: youtu.be/gpbZEV02eE4
    – Zuriel
    Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 1:49

2 Answers 2


Found a Rubinstein game!

[fen ""]
[Date "1908.??.??"]
[White "Alapin, Simon"]
[Black "Rubinstein, Akiba"]
[WhiteElo "2500"]
[BlackElo "2640"]
[Result "0-1"]

1.e4 e5 2.Ne2 Nf6 3.f4 Nxe4 4.d3 Nc5 5.fxe5 d5 6.d4 Ne6 7.Nf4 c5 8.Nc3 cxd4 9.Ncxd5 Nc6 10.Bd2 Nxf4 11.Nxf4 Nxe5 12.Bb5+ Bd7 13.Qe2 Bd6 14.c3 O-O 15.Bxd7 Qxd7 16.cxd4 Nc6 17.O-O Nxd4 18.Qd3 Bxf4 19.Bxf4 Rad8 20.Rad1 Qg4 21.Rde1 Ne6 22.Qe3 b6 23.h3 Qh5 24.Be5 Rfe8 25.Qa3 f6 26.Bd6 Qd5 27.Bg3 Qc5+ 28.Qxc5 Nxc5 29.Bc7 Rxe1 30.Rxe1 Rd2 31.Re8+ Kf7 32.Ra8 Rxb2 33.Rxa7 Kg6 34.a4 h5 35.a5 bxa5 36.Rxa5 Rc2 37.Bg3 Kh6 38.Bf2 Ne4 39.Be3+ Kg6 40.Ra4 Ng3 41.Bf4 Ne2+ 42.Kh2 h4 43.Bd6 Kh5 44.Ra5+ Kh6 45.Rf5 Kg6 46.Rf2 Rd2 47.Bf4 Rc2 48.Bd6 Kf7 49.Ba3 Ke6 50.Bf8 g6 51.Bg7 f5 52.Bh6 Kf6 53.Bf8 g5 54.Bd6 Ke6 55.Bb8 Rd2 56.Bc7 g4 57.hxg4 fxg4 58.g3 h3 59.Bb8 Kd5 60.Bf4 Rc2 61.Be3 Ke4 62.Bg5 Kd3 63.Bh6 Nd4 64.Rxc2 Nxc2 65.Bf4 Ke2 66.Bb8 Ne3 67.Kg1 Kf3 68.Bc7 Nf1 69.Bb8 Nxg3 70.Bc7 Ne2+ 71.Kh2 Nf4 72.Bb6 g3+ 73.Kh1 Nd3 74.Kg1 h2+ 75.Kh1 Nf2+ 76.Bxf2 gxf2 77.Kxh2 f1=R 78.Kh3 Rh1#  0-1

and just now, one by lasker:

[fen ""]
[Site "New York, NY USA"]
[Date "1892.11.01"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "3"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Gustave Simonson"]
[Black "Emanuel Lasker"]
[ECO "C67"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "135"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d4 Nxe4 5.O-O Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6
7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.Nc3 h6 10.Bf4 Be6 11.Rad1+ Kc8
12.Ne1 g5 13.Bd2 b6 14.Nd3 c5 15.f4 c4 16.Nf2 gxf4 17.Bxf4 Kb7
18.Nfe4 Kc6 19.Rd2 Be7 20.h3 Rad8 21.Rfd1 Rxd2 22.Rxd2 Rg8
23.Kf1 Nh4 24.Bg3 Ng6 25.Ne2 Kb7 26.Nf6 Rh8 27.c3 c5 28.Ne4
Kc6 29.Kf2 Rd8 30.Rxd8 Bxd8 31.Ke3 Bc7 32.Bf4 b5 33.Bxh6 Bxe5
34.Nf4 Nxf4 35.Bxf4 Bg7 36.h4 b4 37.Bg5 Bd5 38.Bf6 Bh6+ 39.Bg5
Bf8 40.h5 Kd7 41.h6 Bxe4 42.Kxe4 Ke6 43.g4 f6 44.h7 Bg7 45.Bh6
Bh8 46.a3 bxa3 47.bxa3 a6 48.a4 f5+ 49.gxf5+ Kf7 50.Bd2 Kg7
51.Bf4 Kxh7 52.Be5 Bg7 53.Bxg7 Kxg7 54.Kd5 Kf6 55.Kxc4 Kxf5
56.Kxc5 Ke6 57.Kb6 Kd5 58.a5 Kd6 59.c4 Kd7 60.c5 Kc8 61.Kxa6
Kb8 62.c6 Kc7 63.Kb5 Kb8 64.Kc5 Kc8 65.Kd6 Kb8 66.Kd7 Ka8
67.c7 Ka7 68.c8=R 1-0

Both were found on https://timkr.home.xs4all.nl/chess2/minor.htm


I'm not sure about a world championship game, but genuine underpromotions do occur now and then in grandmaster games.

For a starting shot, here is the famous 2012 game with a knight promotion by Hikaru Nakamura. According to the FIDE rating website, Nakamura's rating at the time was 2783 the month game was played. By "highest level," I took that to mean the highest rating of a player in a professional game with a genuine underpromotion occurred.

[Title "Hikaru Nakamura-Vladimir Kramnik, Chess Olympiad, Istanbul Turkey, 9/6/19"]
[FEN ""]
[startply "122"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. c4 c6 5. d4 d5 6. cxd5 cxd5 7. Nc3 Ne4 8. Qb3 Nxc3 9. bxc3 O-O 10. Nd2 e6 11. e4 Nc6 12. O-O Na5 13.  Qd1 Qc7 14. Qf3 b6 15. Ba3 Rd8 16. e5 Ba6 17. Rfe1 Rac8 18. Bb4 Bh6 19. Qd1 Nc6 20. Ba3 Na5 21. Bb4 Nc6 22. Ba3 Na5 23. Nb1 b5 24. h4 Nc6 25. Bc5 Qb8 26. Qe2 Na5 27. Nd2 Rxc5 28. dxc5 Qc8 29. Nf3 Qxc5 30. Nh2 Bg7 31. h5 g5 32. h6 Bxh6 33. Qh5 Bg7 34. Qxg5 Nc6 35. Ng4 Qe7 36. Qxe7 Nxe7n37. a4 d4 38. axb5 Bxb5 39. Rxa7 d3 40. Rxe7 d2 41. Rd1 Be2 42. Ne3 Bxe5 43. c4 h5 44. Ra7 h4 45. Ra2 Bxd1 46. Nxd1 hxg3 47. fxg3 Bxg3 48. c5 f5 49. Ra7 e5 50. c6 e4 51. Bh3 Rc8 52. Ra6 Rf8 53. Ra5 f4 54. Kf1 e3 55. Ke2 Rf6 56. Ra8+ Kg7 57. Ra7+ Rf7 58. Rb7 Kf6 59. Kf3 Re7 60. Rxe7 Kxe7 61. c7 e2 62. c8=N+ Kf6 63. Kxe2 Ke5 64. Nb6 Kd4 65. Bg2 Be1 66. Nd5 Ke5 67. Nb4 Bh4 68. Nd3+ Kf5 69. Kxd2 Kg4 70. Ke2 Bf6 71. N1f2+ Kg3 72. Bf3 Bd8 73. Ne4+ Kh4 74. Ne5 Bc7 75. Ng6+ Kh3 76. Ne7 Bd8 77. Nf5 Bb6 78. Kf1 Kh2 79. Bg4 f3 80. Nh4
  • This game is somewhat preferrable, as genuineness comes in 3 classes: a) UP is completely superfluous (Lasker game, Kc6! is 3 moves faster, b) UP is the fastest but not the only win (Rubinstein), c) UP is the only win (Nakamura). Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 18:29

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