What are the rarest moves in chess?

Answered by Edward Huber

The rarest moves in chess can be categorized into different types, such as underpromotions, positional sacrifices, and unique tactical ideas. Among these, underpromotions are indeed quite rare and often result in memorable and spectacular games.

Underpromoting to a bishop is particularly uncommon because it is usually advantageous to promote to a queen, which is the most powerful piece on the chessboard. However, there are a few instances where promoting to a bishop can lead to an interesting and unexpected outcome.

One famous example of an underpromotion to a bishop occurred in a game between Johann Allgaier and an unknown player in 1819. In this game, Allgaier found himself in a losing position, but he managed to turn the tables with a stunning move. Instead of promoting his pawn to a queen, he promoted it to a bishop, delivering a checkmate that took his opponent by surprise.

While this example showcases the beauty of underpromotions, it is worth noting that they are not common in practical play. In most cases, promoting to a queen provides the greatest advantage and is therefore the most logical choice. Underpromotions are often seen in composed studies or chess problems, where the goal is to find the most creative and aesthetically pleasing solution.

Knight underpromotions, on the other hand, occur more frequently than bishop underpromotions. They can be seen in tactical situations where promoting to a knight instead of a queen or bishop leads to a decisive advantage. For example, in some endgame scenarios, promoting to a knight can result in a fork or a checkmate, which would not be possible with a queen or a bishop.

While underpromotions are rare and exciting, there are other types of rare moves in chess as well. Positional sacrifices, for instance, are moves where a player willingly gives up material in order to gain a strategic advantage. These sacrifices often require deep understanding and calculation, as they involve long-term planning and the ability to assess the value of the position accurately.

Another category of rare moves includes unique tactical ideas that may arise in specific positions. These moves can be surprising and unexpected, catching opponents off guard. They often require precise calculation and a keen eye for tactical opportunities.

Underpromoting to a bishop is indeed one of the rarest moves in chess. While promoting to a queen is usually the most advantageous choice, underpromotions to a bishop or knight can lead to remarkable and memorable games. However, it is important to note that underpromotions are more commonly seen in composed studies and chess problems rather than in practical play. Chess offers a wide range of rare and extraordinary moves, including positional sacrifices and unique tactical ideas, which add to the beauty and complexity of the game.