Sometimes a player’s brilliant effort is ruined at the very end, as in the following game of the day.

Savielly Tartakower, the great early 20th century player, once said, “The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake.” That is true in the following game between Vladimir Belous, a Russian grandmaster, and Robert Hess, an American grandmaster. Hess plays a great game, but it all comes undone at the end.

As a side note, the game was played in the PRO Chess League on With four rapid games per match, the league has certainly produced lots of exciting chess.

Belous, V. vs. Hess, Ro
PRO League Atlantic 2017 | INT | Round 4 | 01 Feb 2017 | ECO: A19 | 1-0
1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4 c5 4. Nf3
4. e5 Playing this move first would be a more accurate way to proceed and reach the same position as is later reached in the game.
4... Ng8 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. d4 cxd4 7. Nxd4  )
4... Nc6 5. e5?! I'm pretty sure White can only play this move without White having played Nf3 and Black having played Nc6.
5... Ng8
5... Ng4! Black would have an edge in this position. In a rapid game, it's possible both players forgot the most precise move order.  )
6. d4 cxd4 7. Nxd4 Nxe5 8. Ndb5 White is down a pawn but has a lead in development and good play on the dark squares.
8... f6
8... a6 I remembered thinking this is the best move and that Hess once beat Hikaru Nakamura with Black from this position.  )
9. Bf4 a6 10. Qa4?!
10. Nd6+ This is more consistent. After
10... Bxd6 11. Qxd6 Nf7 12. Qb4 White is down a pawn but has some compensation, though probably not enough for more than equality.  )
10... Nh6
10... Rb8! This move would highlight the weakness of White's last move. The knight on b5 would have to retreat instead of being able to get it to d6.  )
11. Bxh6 gxh6 12. Ne4? Asking for trouble.
12. O-O-O! When in doubt, develop more pieces! Black would then be under some pressure.  )
12... axb5! 13. Qxa8 Bb4+ 14. Nc3 O-O?!
14... bxc4 There was nothing wrong with going pawn grabbing. Black would clearly be better.  )
15. cxb5 Qc7 16. Rc1 Ng4! Black is not messing around. If White has time to develop fully, he will have an overwhelming advantage. Black must play energetically.
17. g3
17. Be2 Qf4! And White loses material because c1 and f2 are both attacked.
18. O-O Fails to
18... Qxh2#  )
17... Bc5?
17... Qc5! This would have ended the game.
18. Rc2 Qf5! A deadly move. White cannot meet all the threats: Qxc2, Qe4, Qb1, etc.
19. Qa4 Qe4+  )
18. Qa4 Qe5+ 19. Be2 Nxf2 Black has a very dangerous initiative.
20. O-O Nd3+ 21. Kg2 Nxc1 22. Rxc1 b6 The dust has settled and Black is up a pawn, has the bishop pair and a big center. In a fair world, he would win, but time pressure is looming and a player is only as good as his worst move.
23. Qe4 d5 24. Qxe5 fxe5 25. Bg4 Rf2+ 26. Kh3 Rxb2 27. a4 h5 28. Bxh5 e4?! The first step in the wrong direction. White now has some counterplay.
28... Be3! This was the simplest way to preserve Blacks advantage. White would have no counterplay and no hope and could safely resign.  )
29. a5! The position is now very unclear; the a-pawn is very strong.
29... e5+?
29... bxa5 30. Na4! And Black loses material. But after:
30... Rxb5 31. Nxc5 e5+ Black's pawns are strong and he has counterplay.  )
29... Be3! This was the only way. White cannot prevent his a-pawn from being traded.
30. Ra1 Rc2!  )
30. Bg4! Bxg4+ 31. Kxg4 All of a sudden, Black has to be careful - the a-pawn is very fast!
31... e3? And just like that, the fortunes of the two players have changed. I really feel for Hess, as he played such a beautiful game up until he allowed a5. But fast time controls lead to strange mistakes.
32. a6 Rb3 33. Ra1! There is no stopping the passed pawn.
33... e2 34. a7 Ra3 35. Rxa3


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter, has his own site, and is also on Facebook.