Nigel Short
Nigel Short

Breaking Down the Masterful Endgame: Short vs. Timman, Tilburg 1991


The mesmerising world of chess unfurls a tapestry of strategy, tactics, and sudden, striking brilliance. A classic case of such mastery is the 1991 showdown between British Grandmaster Nigel Short and Dutch Grandmaster Jan Timman at Tilburg. The game, forever remembered for Short’s audacious king manoeuvre, offers invaluable lessons for those eager to sharpen their endgame skills.

In this analysis, we’ll delve into this iconic encounter and discover how Short’s daring and insightful decisions illuminated the chessboard.

A Sneak Peek into the Game:

Short and Timman played a Queen’s Gambit Declined, Tartakower (Makagonov-Bondarevsky) System (D58). It was a well-contested game that gradually progressed towards an endgame showdown. If you’re interested in a move-by-move walkthrough, you can follow the game here:

Lessons Learnt:

  1. Importance of Piece Activity: Right from the start, Short’s deployment of knights (Nc3 and Nf3) exemplifies the classic opening principles of controlling the centre and developing minor pieces. Throughout the game, this theme of optimising piece positioning continues to reverberate, culminating in Short’s daring king march in the endgame.

  2. Pawn Structure: A keen observer will notice how Short’s pawn structure, specifically his queenside pawn majority, shapes the game’s strategy. His pawns, methodically advanced with b4 followed by a4, constrict Black’s piece activity and hint at a future passed pawn.

  3. Tactical Endgame: The game profoundly underscores the king’s active role in the endgame. Short’s moves 49.Rf8, 50.Raa8, and 51.Rf6 are particularly pivotal, enabling his king to start its audacious trek across the board.

Annotated Endgame:

Let’s delve into the most fascinating segment of the endgame:

44…Bc8: Timman’s bishop moves to c8 to guard the c6 pawn, a crucial defensive manoeuvre.

45. Ra8: Short responds by placing his rook opposite Timman’s bishop, inviting a challenge.

45…Kg7: Timman decides not to move his threatened bishop, instead opting to shift his king to g7.

46. Rb8: Short, persisting with his pressure on the bishop, places his other rook on b8.

46…Kg6: Once again, Timman decides to move his king, ignoring the threat on his bishop.

47. Nd3: Short makes a seemingly inconspicuous knight move. However, it clears the path for his king to journey across the board.

47…Kh5: Seeing Short’s strategy unfold, Timman begins to advance his king.

48. Ne5 Bf5: Short leaps his knight forward to e5, attacking the c6 pawn and forcing the black bishop to fall back to f5.

49. Rf8: By moving his rook to f8, Short opens a pathway for his king and adds a new threat to the black bishop.

49…Be4: The bishop seeks a safer square at e4, avoiding the aggressive white rook.

50. Raa8: Short doubles his rooks on the eighth rank. This powerful move shields his own king from back-rank checkmate threats and prepares the stage for the king’s courageous march.

In the following moves, Short successfully navigates his king towards the h6 square, creating a mating net for Timman’s king. His strategy unfolds seamlessly, leading to a stunning endgame victory.


The 1991 Tilburg face-off between Short and Timman is a chess gem that offers rich learning for anyone eager to improve their game. It brilliantly underscores the significance of piece activity, pawn structure, and innovative endgame play. The extraordinary journey of Short’s king to ‘h6’ is a powerful reminder of the king’s might in endgames. More than anything, this game emphasises that chess isn’t just about memorising sequences; it’s about interpreting the position’s dynamics and crafting creative solutions. Let’s remember, each game of chess is an opportunity to rewrite the rulebook, just like Short did in Tilburg 1991

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