Monday, April 21, 2008


"There are, as chess players and George Steiner are fond of remarking, more possible positions in chess than there are atoms in the universe. The chances of dropping a tray full of ball-bearings on the floor and their falling in such a way as to spell the phrase 'Little Scrotely welcomes careful drivers' are greater by far than those of two identical chess games ever being played."

Stephen Fry,

I came across this passage while I was clearing out a bunch of old books to take to the charity shop on the High Road.

Mr. Fry's getting himself a bit carried away there don't you think? I mean, I know chess is supposed to be pretty inexhaustable but that doesn't mean there aren't countless short draws that finish in the same way. The 10. ... Re8, 11. Ng5 Rf8, 12. Nf3 Re8 line in the Zaitsev played many times by A. Karpov and even once by myself springs to mind.

Anyhoo, it got me wondering if we were to limit our search only to games between grandmasters, what would be the longest pair of identical games that we could find? I don't mean doubles like these two that are kinda, sorta alike but a pair that are exactly the same.

Does anybody know? Like Justin's puzzle yesterday, I haven't a clue.


ejh said...

Do they have to finish at exactly the same point? There's quite often been games where the draw has been agree - or indeed the regignation offered - in one of them and they've played on for a few moves in the other.

Jonathan B said...

My idea is that it should be exactly the same - so, Yes, they should end at precisely the same point.

I can recall a game from Brussels 20 years ago when, I think, Portisch and Short played out a game in the QGD that had occurred in the first Kasparov - Karpov match. The original game ended in a three-fold repetition but in the sequel they only repeated twice so it wouldn't count according to my criteria.

Jonathan B said...

After I posted I remembered a Judit Polgar game from one of her early olympiads (1988?)when she played a Bb5 Sicilian finishing off with a queen sac and winning in 20-25 moves or so ... all of which had appeared in a recently published book. I can't recall whether that was analysis or a game citation though.

Anonymous said...

I have a copy of 'Paperweight' directly behind me, fourth in my 'to be read' pile.

Jonathan B said...

My copy is about to go to the charity shop unless somebody wants it ... email me and it's yours.

Jonathan B said...

btw, my anonymous friend, how big is your pile?

I used to have a pile ... then it turned into a shelf ... then a whole bookcase.

Now I've surrendered and am just chucking them all out and starting again (along with a load of stuff I did actually manage to read too)

Anonymous said...

About 25. All the ones I've read are on the shelves, and I've read every word of them. If I don't read them in full they don't make the shelf. So Finnegan's Wake got binned obviously! Will Mr Fry make it? Time will tell.