It would seem natural that there would be many tournaments dedicated to the memory of great players, particularly former World Champions. But only a few players, and not all of them ex-champions, have been so memorialized.

The 10th Tal Memorial starts Monday. Having a memorial to Tal is definitely fitting. He was a well-liked, even beloved World Champion, with a style that inspired awe in his fans and some of his rivals.

José Raúl Capablanca, the third World Champion, also has a memorial tournament. Indeed, there have been 51 Capablanca Memorials since 1962 held in Cuba, where he was born. Such an homage to Capablanca is not surprising as he was a beloved figure in his time and also a great hero to the island nation.

Aside from Capablanca and Tal, however, there aren’t any world champions who have regular, elite tournaments held in their name.

There have been a handful of major competitions held in memory of Alexander Alekhine, the fourth World Champion, most notably in 1956 and 1971 and 2013, but not an annual commemoration.

Max Euwe, the fifth World Champion, was memorialized in annual tournaments in Amsterdam starting in 1987. But that series ended in 1996.

The sixth world champion, Mikhail Botvinnik, had an outsized influence in chess history. He was World Champion for 13 years, he played all the champions from Emanuel Lasker through Bobby Fischer, and he was
among the trainers of Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, and Vladimir Kramnik. He was also an early trailblazer in computer chess. Despite all of this accomplishments, he has only been commemorated in two major events: a match between Kramnik and Kasparov in 2001 and a rapid event in 2011.

After Botvinnik, the list of events in memory of World Champions really thins out.

There are, however, a number of players who weren’t World Champions who have memorial events. Paul Keres is the most notable example, both in terms of his greatness as a chess player (he was a major contender for the title from approximately 1937 through 1965) and in his memorial legacy. There is an annual tournament in in his memory in Vancouver, Canada, as he won there in 1975 in his final event before dying on his way home a few days later. There are also regular memorial events held for him in Tallinn, in his native Estonia.

A more surprising recipient of a commemorative event is the Slovenian grandmaster Milan Vidmar, whose career highlights were primarily in the first third of the 20th century. He died in 1962 and, since 1969, 20 memorials to him have been held, generally on a biennial schedule.

Two more recent honorees both passed away within the last decade and at young ages: Karen Asrian of Armenia and Vugar Gashimov, the super strong grandmaster from Azerbaijan. Asrian died in 2008, age 28, and there was a memorial event that year in his honor. It has continued every year then, with the ninth edition being held this year. Gashimov died in January of 2014 at age 27 and there has now been an elite-tournament in Shamkir, Azerbaijan, for three consecutive years.

The first Tal Memorial was in Riga in 1995 and was won by Kasparov with a score of 7.5/10, a half a point better than Viswanathan Anand, whom he defeated in their individual game. In that game, Kasparov used the
Evans Gambit, which was a suitable and swashbuckling way to honor Tal’s memory.

Kasparov, Garry vs. Anand, Viswanathan
Riga Tal Memorial | Riga | Round 4 | 1995.??.?? | ECO: C51 | 1-0
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Kasparov had pulled the Scotch out of mothballs several years prior and turned it into a major opening, and now he surprised Anand with another museum opening.
4... Bxb4 Later that year Kasparov tried the Evans Gmabit again. Piket tried a different variation, but the result was the same.
4... Bb6 5. a4 a5 6. b5 Nd4 7. Nxd4 Bxd4 8. c3 Bb6 9. d4 exd4 10. O-O Ne7 11. Bg5 h6 12. Bxe7 Qxe7 13. cxd4 Qd6 14. Nc3 Bxd4 15. Nd5 Bxa1 16. Qxa1 O-O 17. e5 Qc5 18. Rc1 c6 19. Ba2 Qa3 20. Nb6 d5 21. Nxa8 Kh8 22. Nb6 Be6 23. h3 Rd8 24. bxc6 bxc6 25. Rc3 Qb4 26. Rxc6 Rb8 27. Nxd5 Qxa4 28. Rc1 Qa3 29. Bc4 1-0 (29) Kasparov,G (2805)-Piket,J (2670) Amsterdam 1995  )
5. c3 Be7
5... Ba5 is the other main line. After
6. d4 d6 7. Qb3 Qd7 White generally castles or takes on e5, while 8.Nbd2 is a reasonably important third option.  )
6. d4
6. Qb3 is also played. Black seems to be fine after
6... Nh6 7. d4 Na5 8. Qb5 Nxc4 9. Bxh6 gxh6 10. Qxc4 exd4 11. cxd4 Rg8  )
6... Na5 7. Be2 This wasn't quite a novelty when Kasparov played it, but it was almost unknown before he put it on the map in this game.
7. Nxe5 Nxc4 8. Nxc4 d5 9. exd5 Qxd5 10. Ne3 used to be the main line of the 5...Be7 6.d4 line, but as Black has no trouble here after
10... Qa5 or
...   )
7. Bd3 is the trendiest option.
7... d6 8. dxe5 dxe5 9. Nxe5 Nf6 10. O-O O-O has been tested by some very strong players: Vachier-Lagrave, Kryvoruchko, Short, Shirov, Nisipeanu, Wei Yi, and Ganguly are among those who have prosecuted the case for White; Kramnik, Karjakin, Bruzon, and Malakhov are among those who have defended Black's cause.  )
7... exd4 8. Qxd4!? Very dynamic. The pawn on c3 is isolated and gets in the knight's way, but the threat of Qxg7 seriously inconveniences Black.
8. cxd4 is the obvious move, keeping the beautiful pawn center intact. It is a playable option, and Black should meet it with one of the following moves:
8... Nf6  )
8... Nf6 The most natural reply, but nowadays Black follows the classical advice about what to do when offered a gambit. First accept it, then return it for the sake of speedy development and play in the center.
8... d6 9. Qxg7 Bf6 10. Qg3 Qe7 - or
...   )
8... d5 9. Qxg7 Bf6 10. Qg3 dxe4 11. Nd4 Ne7 12. Nb5 and now another important moment. Black has generally played 12...Nd5, which isn't very good on account of the energetic 13.c4, but Black has another, better way to handle the threat to c7.
12... Nac6!! 13. Nxc7+ Qxc7! 14. Qxc7 Be5 15. Qxe5 Nxe5 16. Nd2 Bf5 17. f3 Nd3+ 18. Bxd3 exd3 19. Kf2 O-O-O 1/2-1/2 (19) Cawdery,D (2428)-Makoto,R (2403) Cape Town 2015  )
9. e5 Nc6 10. Qh4 Nd5 11. Qg3 g6
11... Kf8!? is a different sort of concession. Castling is out and the rook is stuck on h8, but on the other hand Black isn't creating any new weaknesses - which he is in the game.  )
12. O-O Nb6
12... O-O is presently the most popular option, when White chooses between 13.Bh6, 13.Rd1, and 13.c4.  )
12... h5 has also been taken for a few trips around the block. While it may weaken the g5 and g6 squares down the line, it stops Bh6. There's also a semi-threat of ...h4 followed by ...d6, so White replies with
13. h4 , and now Black plays ...Nb6 and ...d6 in either order. This looks like a reasonable line for Black.  )
13. c4 Clearing c3 for the knight and potentially opening the long diagonal for the c1-bishop, though it's still likelier to head for h6 than b2.
13... d6 14. Rd1 Nd7? It's a mistake, though a logical and good-looking one. Black plugs up the d-file, brings another piece around his king, and aims to eliminate the cramping pawn on e5.
14... Na4! 15. Bh6 f6! is a strong idea found years later by GM Igor Stohl. The computer likes it (as well), and offers the following interesting continuation:
16. c5!? Nxc5 17. Bb5 Bd7 18. exd6 Bxd6 19. Rxd6 cxd6 20. Nc3 Ne5 21. Rd1 White has sufficient compensation for his large material deficit, but not more than that.  )
15. Bh6! Ncxe5 16. Nxe5 Nxe5 17. Nc3 Black had of course foreseen
17. Bg7?! and intended
17... Bf6 18. Bxh8 Bxh8 , when Black is in good shape with two pawns for the exchange.  )
17... f6
17... Nd7 is a good practical try. Black can survive direct tries, so White's best is the surprisingly unforcing
18. Bf3!! Nc5 19. Rab1 c6 20. Ne4! Nxe4 21. Bxe4 Black is bound from east to west. His king won't be safe anywhere, he is undeveloped, and there's no clear way to rectify the problem. It's important to remember that one can sometimes take time to build the attack even after sacrificing material; it's not always necessary to play a series of violent, forcing moves once the attack starts.  )
18. c5! Black's solid center is his last bastion of strength, so White starts to undermine it.
18... Nf7? Now White is able to finish the job with characteristically energetic play.
18... Bf5 was better, though Black is still in trouble after
19. Rac1 c6 20. cxd6 Bxd6 21. Qe3 Qe7 22. g4! Nxg4 23. Bxg4 Qxe3 24. Bxe3 Bxh2+ 25. Kxh2 Bxg4 26. Rd6  )
19. cxd6 cxd6
19... Nxh6? 20. dxc7  )
19... Bxd6 20. Bb5+! c6 21. Bf4!  )
19... Nxd6 20. Bc4 Bf5 21. Nb5! Rc8 22. Qb3!  )
20. Qe3 Nxh6 21. Qxh6 Bf8 As if resetting the board for the next game.
22. Qe3+
22. Qh4 and  )
22. Qf4 are strong alternatives.  )
22... Kf7 23. Nd5 Be6 24. Nf4 Qe7
24... Bd7 25. Qb3+ Kg7 26. Qxb7  )
24... Bc8 25. Rac1 Kg7 26. Rxc8! Qxc8 27. Rc1 Qd7 28. Rc7  )
25. Re1!
25. Re1! A nice concluding tactical blow.
25... d5 26. Bf3 d4 27. Qe4 Re8 28. Nxe6 Qxe6 29. Qxe6+ Rxe6 30. Bd5  )


Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.