Checkmate in the World Chess Championship


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Official matches for the ultimate title started in 1886, yet there has only been one case of a checkmate in the World Chess Championship.

Think of all the attacking chess played by brilliant players since Wilhelm Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort contested the first official title match back in the latter stages of the 19th Century. It is hard to believe there has just been one checkmate in al of those encounters.

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Grandmaster Gambits: 1. e4 - Part 1

Checkmates are Rare

In fact, contrary to what the general public may believe, the vast majority of decisive chess games are finished long before a checkmate appears. Most players resign when they know their position is hopeless. It is considered an insult to play on when the opponent has a large advantage and it is a waste of energy too.

There is one game which brought a checkmate in the World Chess Championship but it was over 100 years ago.

The Last Match of the Roaring Twenties

There is a link to our recent post showing Alexander Alekhine in action as today’s checkmate is from his match against Efim Bogoljubov at the end of the Roaring Twenties.

Alekhine’s two matches against Bogoljubov are often dismissed as lightweight encounters put in place to avoid a rematch with José Raúl Capablanca. True, the 1934 encounter didn’t see Bogoljubov on his best form. However, their first title match, in 1929, closed a decade which had brought the best out of the challenger, including a magnificent first place at the Moscow International tournament of 1925.

Indeed, Elk and Ruby’s recent book, The Creative Power of Bogoljubov, Volume I: Pawn Play, Sacrifices, Restriction and More by Grigory Bogdanovich, makes a very valid case for Bogoljubov’s credentials as a title challenger.

The World Champion’s Checkmate

We join the game just after Alekhine has played 24 …Bc8, attacking Bogoljubov’s queen.

Bogoljubov - Alekhine 1929Efim Bogoljubov – Alexander Alekhine
Game 8
World Chess Championship, 1929

White played 25 Qf3 and Black captured the pawn with 25 …Rxg6. Presumably, Bogoljubov now felt uncomfortable with his king on the same file as the rook and he stepped into the corner with 26 Kh1.

Alkehine Attacking

Alekhine is not going to miss an opportunity like 26 …Ng3+! which forces the h-file open after White accepts the knight sacrifice with 27 hxg3. Black’s attack continues to flow easily with 27 …hxg3+ 28 Nh3.

Checkmate Attack at the World Chess Championship

This does not look good for Bogoljubov and Alekhine wastes no time in smashing through the fragile defense with 28 …Bxh3 29 gxh3.

Alekhine Checkmating Attack

Black to play and checkmate the white king in two moves

29 …Rxh3+

30 Kg2 Rh2 checkmate.

Checkmate at the World Chess Championship

The innocent-looking bishop on c5 covers the g1 square, ensuring there is no escape for the white king.

Our series on checkmates will continue next Monday.

There are many more beautiful checkmate patterns in our course, The Checkmate Patterns Manual, by International Master John Bartholomew and CraftyRaf.

There is a shortened, free version of the course here.

Here is a handy guide to the episodes in our series of blog posts on Checkmate Patterns.

The Ultimate Guide to Checkmates in Chess

Checkmate Patterns: Six of the Best

Famous Checkmate Patterns

Historical Checkmate Patterns

Beautiful Checkmate Patterns

Essential Checkmate Patterns

Picturesque Checkmate Patterns

Checkmate Patterns in Action

Adolf Anderssen’s Checkmating Skill

The King Hunt

Checkmate in the Traxler Counterattack

Highlighted course

Grandmaster Gambits 1. e4 - Part 2: Aggressive Lines

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