Sometimes I get asked, “What is the shortest game of chess ever played?”
It seems like a simple question. But the problem is trying to define exactly what a game of chess is.
For example; Do only complete games count? How many moves IS a complete game? Does one of the players need to come up with a new move? Otherwise, one can claim both opponents are just repeating or copying a game, from memory, and not really “playing”?
What type of players count? For example, what if one of the players just knows how to move his pawns? He can never win, but is it a game of chess?
Do Over The Board (OTB – that is, tournament games and matches, and usually with clocks) count more than skittles? Can a computer actually “play” a game of chess? Or is it just programming?
Perhaps these questions are for another time.
Meanwhile, let me give you my answer to the question, “What is the shortest game of chess ever played?”
I am defining a game with at least two players (person, computer, team, alien, ghost, or anyone or anything) that can make an independent choice on his, her, their, or its, move.
I am also defining a game with at least one move, or one ply being made. So prearranged draws, in which both players are absent from the board, do not count.
So, the shortest game possible, at least among GMs, is the following:
GM Bobby Fischer-GM Oscar Panno
Palma de Mallorca Interzonal
As a protest against the Tournament Directors, GM Panno actually resigned at this point.
Most players believed that Panno was going to lose the game against strongest player in the tournament, and of the world, but he should have played the game anyway.
If one is so inclined to insist that a game which one of the players does not show up, and loses the game on time, is actually a game, then we have the following:
GM Bobby Fischer-GM Boris Spassky
World Championship, Game #2
Reykjavik, July 11 1972
Fischer didn’t show up and lost by forfeit. Perhaps the best-known example of a forfeit loss.
A sub-category of the question, “What is the shortest game of chess every played…” that continues with “…that ended in a checkmate?”
Many players would say it’s Scholar’s Mate:
1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.Qf3 Nd4?? (To attack the queen and threaten Nxc2+, winning the rook. But it immediately loses to to…) 4.Qxf7#.
Indeed, I’ve seen this played in many beginner and scholastic games.
But nothing can beat Fool’s Mate (1.f3 e5 2.g4 Qh4#). And now the question is “Has it ever been played in a rated game?” If so, when was it first played?
I have an old copy of Chess Life and Review in front of me. In it, a claim is made. Here is what it says;
Here, one game was over before the TD could get all the clocks started! The moves were 1.P-KB3 P-K4 2.P-KN4; would anyone care to guess Black’s 2nd? The players of this game now hold the dubious world record of the shortest game resulting in mate ever played in a rated event.” – Dr. Lindsay F. Phillips, Tournament Director, “U.S. Junior Open Co-Champions Brown and Anderson”, Chess Life and Review, Nov. 1977.
This is an interesting claim. Surely, Fool’s Mate has occurred in a rated game before 1977. Does anyone have proof of this??