A Review of Chernev’s “1000 Best Short Games of Chess”

The full title of this well-known chess book is “The 1000 Best Short Games of Chess: A Treasury of Masterpieces in Miniature”, but it is usually shortened to “1000 Best Short Games of Chess”.

 
The book was first published in 1955 and has been reprinted many times (see below for different front covers).

 

 

1000_Best_Short_Games_1 1000_Best_Short_Games_2

 

1000_Best_Short_Games_3_A1000_Best_Short_Games_4

 
But why is this book so popular?

 
First, it is written for the club player.

 
This means the moves are in Descriptive Notation (DN) rather than in Algebraic Notation (AN). DN was popular in England and the United States during this time. And those countries stayed DN until the 1980s.

 
It also means the notation is kept brief. Even so, this short and simple notation brings the number of pages to 555. But it still easy to bring along to a tournament or to read while waiting for a bus or a college class to begin. Consider Bilguer’s “Handbuch des Schachpiels” runs 1040 pages and is hard bound. It is big, heavy and more appropriate for a library.

 
Secondly, there is ample space for the reader to add his own notes, provided of course, he is willing to write small. Personally, I prefer to put everything into a word processor and the I can always update the game. But, of course, this book was written well before anyone had laptops and word processors.

 
The manuscript was written on a typewriter, which is evident as the text and diagrams are not sharp (as one might expect on computer designed material) and there are blemishes and imperfections that occasionally appear in the book that only can come from using a typewriter.

 
So why doesn’t anyone offer an improvement or upgrade to this book?

 
It is extremely costly to rewrite a book from DN to AN. And the book still sells quite well 65 years after it was first printed. It is worthwhile to learn DN just to read and enjoy this book.

 
Last night I searched Amazon for another copy (mine is falling apart from decades of use), and it can still be bought there.

 
But you came here for short games. Here are some of my favorites from the book. Please know I’ve used other annotations than what Chernev provided when I found them more interesting or complete. I don’t have the space restrictions as Chernev struggled with.

 

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Game #23
Greco-N.N.,
Rome 1620?
[Escalante]
1.e4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Bd3 f5 4.exf5 (White is willing to give up his rook to get the king.) 4…Bxg2 5.Qh5+ g6 6.fxg6 Nf6 (This is a huge error. Black has to play 6…Bg7 7.gxh7+ Kf8 8.hxg8=Q+ Kxg8 and while White’s rook may fall, Black has to worry about his very exposed king. Amusing by the way, is 6.fxg6 e5? 7.g7+ Ke7 8.Qxe5+ Kf7 9.gxh8=N#.) 7.gxh7+ [White is now willing to give up his queen for the forced mate. King safety is more important than safety for the rook or queen, and even both. Note: While 7.g7+ Nxh5 8.gxh8=Q Bxh1 9.Qxh7 would eventually win, the text move is faster, and fast attacks are always better for winning the game (less mistakes possible) and for one’s own ego.] 7…Nxh5 8.Bg6mate 1-0

 
Game #212
Canal-N.N.
Simul
Budapest, 1934
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 c6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Bf4 e6 7.h3 Bxf3 8.Qxf3 Bb4 9.Be2 Nd7 10.a3 O-O-O

2020_02_20_A
11.axb4! Qxa1+ 12.Kd2 Qxh1 (And now we have a Boden’s mate.) 13.Qxc6+! bxc6 14.Ba6mate 1-0

 

Game #222
F. Gobl-Jonas
Augsburg, Germany, 1926
1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.e5 Nfd7 4.e6 fxe6 5.d4 Nf6 6.Bf4 c6 7.Nf3 Nbd7 8.Bd3 c5 9.Ng5 Qb6 10.Nb5 e5 11.dxe5 c4 12.exf6 Qxb5 13.f7+ Kd8 14.Ne6mate 1-0

 

Game #227
Nielsen-Ottosen
Copenhagen, 1941
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bd7 5.Nc3 g6 6.Bc4 Nc6 7.Nd5 Bg7 8.Be3 Nge7 9.Bg5 Bxd4 10.Qxd4 O-O (Has to defend his rook. He can’t take the attacking queen as 10…Nxd4? loses to 11.Nf6+ Kf8 12.Bh6#.) 11.Nf6+ Kh8 12.Ng4+ Nxd4 (Definitely not 12…f6?? 13.Bxf6+ winning.) 13.Bf6+ Kg8 14.Nh6mate 1-0

 

Game #780
Blackburne-West
Blindfold Game
Hamilton, Victoria, 1885
[Blackburne, “Mr. Blackburne’s Games of Chess”, #360, pgs. 286/7]
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.exd5 exd5 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.Nf3 Nf6 7.O-O Bxc3 8.bxc3 O-O 9.Ne5 Be6 10.f4 Ne4 11.f5 Nxe5 (Bad now, though the Knight might have been taken at move 9 if Black were playing for a majority of Pawns on the Queen’s side.) 12.dxe5 Bd7 13.f6 g6 14.Ba3 (Better than Bh6.) 14…Re8 15.Bxe4 dxe4 16.Qd2 Kh8
2020_02_20_B
17.Qg5 (Qh6 is not so good as it looks. Black would have replied with Rg8 and then and then have been able to wiggle out of his difficulties by g5.) 17…c6 18.Rf4 Qa5 19.Qh6 Rg8 20.Qxh7+ Kxh7 21.Rh4mate 1-0