Theory and praxis: an instructive game for developing your chess

By Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen

Every once in a while, I give lessons to players who are relatively new to this game. At the very start, I like to boost their motivation and interest in chess. I have a few favorite games for this purpose.
I usually start with a beautiful and instructive game. White’ plays logically and ends up punishing Black’s inferior opening. This way we discuss the principles of sound opening play. The game continues with a few tactical motifs and an intuitive sacrifice where White sacrifices a knight for a long-lasting initiative. Such situations must be treated energetically, and the climax is reached when White gives the queen to deliver a beautiful mate. If you don’t find such a story exciting…well, then I suggest you try bobsled or MMA instead.

I once had a student who loved seeing pictures of the players. He wanted to hear stories about how they behaved and what amazing things they were capable of doing. I believe this might be the key to make someone amazed by the game. I promise you; the World Champions from the 19th century until now, are far from ordinary stories. They're all chess magicians and were all extremely bright, and with that comes extraordinary life stories. Tell your friend about that!

When seeing such a game, a typical reaction from the student is something like: “But… I can’t play like that.” Well, I have no illusion that all my students are the next Paul Morphy or Magnus Carlsen, but you never know. One thing I do know is that everyone picks up a few things when seeing an instructive game, as long as it’s well explained.

Another student of mine once gave me excellent advice after a group lesson. He said it’s pedagogically smart to tell the students which topics they are about to learn before I go ahead teaching. This way they will focus on the right things during the lesson. So here I go; this is what you will learn in this game!

  • The opening principles
  • How to play with the initiative
  • An intuitive sacrifice
  • The relative value of pieces
  • The power of pins
  • A queen sacrifice
  • The Opera mate

I apologize if you have seen the game before, but if not, you’re in for a real treat. Playing White in this game is the legendary Paul Morphy, who was the best player in the world in the mid-nineteenth century. While preparing this blog post I ended up reading about his life [], and perhaps you want to take a look as well.

Paul Morphy - Duke Karl and Count Isoard
Paris 1858

Feel like putting your theories into practice? Check out our lessons and games in Magnus Trainer!

Photo by Lisa Meinen