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I'm looking for games from famous grandmasters, in which pawn promotion to a rook, a bishop, or a knight is a better move than queen promotion. I tried to Google some, but I couldn't find anything.

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3 Answers 3

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Knight promotion is reasonably common (though not nearly as much so as Queening); Rook and especially Bishop, much less so, because the only motivation is stalemate avoidance(*). Tim Krabbé has a collection of underpromotion in serious play. You can judge for yourself how famous the players are in each case: https://timkr.home.xs4all.nl/chess2/minor.htm

(*) In principle one could also underpromote in order to get stalemated. This does not seem to have happened yet in actual play, but the same Krabbé page shows several examples of composed studies where such an underpromotion is the only drawing move.

P.S. Further Googling brings up a page that cites a drawing N-promotion in "a game between Michael Adams and Tony Miles at Tilburg on 17 November 1993": https://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/underpromotion.html

These players probably qualify as sufficiently famous . . .

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    There are also players who promote to a bishop because they can.
    – Kevin
    Mar 9, 2023 at 0:53
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    Right, and Krabbé already notes this near the top of that page: "Sometimes players, especially young amateurs (but even Topalov has done it in a tournament game against Kramnik), will promote to Rook or Bishop when that new piece has to be captured anyway." But such an underpromotion is not actually better than Queening, which is what the OP asked for. Mar 9, 2023 at 2:32
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    The Lasker Trap is probably the best known example of an underpromotion in opening theory and as the name suggests it has been played by Lasker who certainly meets the criteria of being famous.
    – blues
    Mar 9, 2023 at 13:27
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    It's a well-known example but I can't find a game where Lasker played it. According to chessjournal.com/lasker-trap the line is named for a "consultation simul" game in 1899 where White avoided the trap with 6 Qa4+ (instead of Bxb4); Lasker still won quickly, but there was no promotion, let alone an underpromotion. Mar 9, 2023 at 14:40
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Here is a list of underpromotions in famous games: https://www.chess.com/article/view/9-amazing-underpromotions

Underpromotion to a knight is not that rare, especially in cases where the new knight gives a check or fork. But bishop / rook underpromotions are exotic, usually to avoid a statemate.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RptrNJFFJJw

This is the "trap line" of Albin Counter-Gambit. at 3:10, you can see that promoting to a Knight is better than promoting to a Queen, simply because promoting to Queen is too slow (not to mention it would be lost anyway), and Knight promotion delivers a check which lets you keep the initiative. It's a line that requires a lot of analysis, so if you are rated lower than 1600, you may feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities in this variation.

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