The Spite Check in Chess

Edward Winter

Which game has seen the most blatant example of a spite check? The following one offers a good start:

Alan Phillips – Stefan Fazekas
Ilford, May 1955
Sicilian Defence

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 d4 cxd4 5 Nxd4 Nc6 6 Be3 Qa5 7 Be2 Nf6 8 O-O O-O 9 Nb3 Qc7 10 f4 d6 11 g4 Be6 12 g5 Nd7 13 f5 Bxb3 14 axb3 Nb4 15 Ra4 a5 16 Rxb4 axb4 17 Nd5 Qd8 18 f6 exf6 19 gxf6 Bxf6 20 Rxf6 Nxf6 21 Bb6 Nxd5 22 Bxd8 Nf4 23 Bf6 Rfe8 24 Bf3 Re6 25 Bd4 g5 26 Kf2 Rh6 27 Kg1 Nh3+ 28 Kh1 Rh4 29 Bg4 Nf4 30 Bf5 d5 31 Qg1 h6 32 Bf2 Rh5 33 Bg4 Nh3 34 Bxh3 Rxh3 35 Qg4


35…Ra1+ (‘The spite check in its purest form.’ – Harry Golombek.) 36 Kg2 Resigns.

Source: BCM, July 1955, pages 219-220.

We have been reminded of the above tart comment of Golombek’s by its appearance on page 59 of a new book by Alan Phillips, Chess: Sixty Years On with Caissa and Friends (Yorklyn, 2003), but are there even worse/better examples of the spite check?

Although not all reference books agree, we would reserve the term for moves which offer no realistic prospect of success. Thus we would not use it to describe Burn’s 36 Ne7+ in his game against Důras at Breslau, 1912:


On page 48 of Lessons in Chess Strategy (London, 1968) W.H. Cozens wrote:

‘Crafty to the end, Burn makes this check before resigning. It is not only a spite check, for Black, flushed with the triumph of his pawn, might have quickly replied 36…Kh8, whereupon comes 37 Nxf7 mate.’


Lawrence Humphrey (Torrelles, Spain) mentions the conclusion of Capablanca v Blackburne, St Petersburg, 1914 (30...Rxh3+).

Here is a simple position of our own invention:


Black to move

Instead of resigning, moving his king or making some (other) bishop move (allowing White to mate in one), Black plays the spite check 1...Bb2+.

In our view, candidates for the title of ‘purest’ spite check in actual play need to be of comparable shamelessness.


On page 153 of 500 Master Games of Chess by S. Tartakower and J. du Mont (London, 1952) Blackburne’s 30...Rxh3+ was called ‘a rancorous check’.

For a discussion of the earliest known occurrences of the term ‘spite check’ (as well as ‘spite sacrifice’) see C.N.s 6966 and 6967.

See too The Chesswriting Practices of Christian Hesse.

Latest update: 12 September 2022.

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