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Last revised May 27th, 2014


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Two chess players are playing a correspondence game. White lives at the South Pole and Black lives at the North Pole. The postal service is rather slow and play proceeds at the rate of one move per year. After 15 years of play, white makes a daring queen sacrifice, the consequences of which are by no means clear. A year later, he sees the postman returning and is very excited. White's thoughts are rushing, "Will black take my queen?", "Is the sacrifice sound?", "Is there enough compensation?". He tears open the reply and sees "J'adoube (I adjust)".

Q: Why did nobody play the kid who opened with his "b" pawn?

A: Because he had....1. b4 ("he had won before!")

 Chess can often take over your life. Here is a story told by Vishy Anand, the recent World Champion, and one of life's perfect gentlemen.

" I remember once I was in Switzerland and my wife told me, 'I put some of your stuff in the safe – the code is very easy to remember, it’s 2706, so you can take whatever you need.' And I told her, 'Well, 2706 is not really a good Elo rating. Normally it’s rounded off to the nearest 5 or 10'. So I told her I couldn’t see how I could remember that. She looked a bit shocked and then she explained to me that the 27th June is our wedding anniversary. "

In response to the question: "Which of the great dead players would you like to play?"  -  the great Grand Master Judit Polgar replied "I like to play against people who are alive!"

A couple of things to remember during junior games

"I keep on fighting as long as my opponent can make a mistake." said Emanuel Lasker (a former world chess champion)

"I never make a mistake.......on the first move!" said Ernst Grunfeld (a Grand Master who invented a very popular opening

Interesting facts about how the moves of chess have been altered during history

The game of chess as we know it has changed in many ways over the centuries - here is an example of how the various moves of the pieces has evolved (taken from Mark Dolan's excellent articles in The Skittles Room on www.chesscafe.com)

Pawn Promotion

    If a pawn is advanced to the last rank (the eighth rank for White and the first rank for Black), it is promoted to either a queen, rook, bishop, or knight. A new king cannot be chosen; there can never be more than one king of each colour on the board. However, theoretically at least, it is possible to have as many as nine queens, or ten bishops, or ten knights, or ten rooks. Promoting to any piece other than a queen is referred to as underpromotion. No other piece can be changed into anything else no matter what square it reaches.

    Typically, a new queen is chosen after promotion because this is the strongest piece. However, as Davidson indicates in A Short History of Chess, the convention of choosing a queen was a result of the queen once being the weakest piece on the board, and a battlefield promotion is made to the lowest grade of officer's rank. There were also other conventions that once existed with regard to pawn promotion. For instance, the pawn could only promote to the type of piece on which file it stood or started from. It was circa 1600 that a pawn could be promoted to any piece that had been removed from the board. Indeed, it is said that Philidor subscribed to this practice in his written works.

    Murray, in A History of Chess, in referring to Four-Handed Chess notes that "when a player lost all his superior men save his Boat and one Pawn he may promote this Pawn on any square of the opposite edge to the rank of any piece, King included." In Hindustani chess, a pawn on its seventh rank was barred from advancing unless promotion to "the master-piece of the file" was legally possible; meaning a pawn reaching a8 could only become a rook and only if a rook had already been removed from the board. In Parsi chess, a pawn that promoted to a knight could immediately make an extra move on that turn! In Malay chess a pawn could only promote on the corner squares; if any other pawn reached the last rank, it would need to make additional moves in accordance with a complicated process. In Siamese chess the pawns began the game on the third rank and reached promotion on the sixth, where they immediately became a queen (Met).

When the queen was considered as a counsellor (vizier) there were no objections to having more than one counsellor available to the king. However, when the queen began to be considered as the consort to the king moral objections were raised about having multiple queens on the board. In England, France, and Italy a new queen would be referred to by a different name than the original queen, apparently in a bid to preserve the uniqueness of the original queen. In some quarters there was debate as to whether it was allowable for an ostensibly male pawn to change to a female piece.

    It was not until the mid-nineteenth century that promotion to any piece became universally accepted. Davidson gives the following dates and authors:

1765, Lambe: Promoted only to a lost piece.

1790, Philidor: Promoted only to a lost piece.

1814, Saul: Promoted  to any piece.

1828, Sarratt: Promoted to any piece.

The Queen

The queen is the most powerful piece on the chessboard. In other languages the queen goes by the following names: according to Davidson, in Arabic the word for the queen is "vizier," which means counselor; in Czech it is "dama," which means lady; in Dutch it is "dam"; in French it is "dame"; in German it is "dame"; in Greek it is "basilissa," which means queen; in Italian it is "donna," which means lady; in Russian it is "kralа," which means queen; in Spanish it is "reina," which means queen; and in Turkish it is "vesir," which means counselor.

In the Indian game of Chaturanga, the queen was called the mantri, which means "counselor" and from which the English word mentor is derived. At that time the queen (as we now call it) was among the weakest of the chessmen. Its movements were limited to one square diagonally in each direction. As Europeans began to be introduced to the game, the queen was transformed into a feminine companion for the king. Along with its new designation came new powers.

In 1300 a two square diagonal leap was permitted. At one point the queen could even jump like a knight! Around 1475, it was given the combined powers of both the rook and bishop, making the queen the most powerful piece on the modern chessboard. This new form of chess was called scacchi alla rabiosa (mad chess) by the Italians and echecs de la dame enragee (chess of the maddened queen) by the French. However, it took some time before this new rule was universally adopted and recognized. In his History of Chess in 1765, Richard Lambe wrote, "Perhaps they who introduced the queen into the game imagined it to be a representation of a royal court … but they transform a man (the counsellor) into a woman; and then they turn a common soldier (i.e. promoting a pawn) into a queen, which is a ridiculous absurdity."

The first written reference to the piece as a queen (“regina”) can be found in a poem titled "Verses on Chess" (Versus de scachis) written by a German speaking Benedictine monk written in the late tenth century. In Birth of the Chess Queen, author Marilyn Yalom posits that the queen rose to its present stature because of the appearance of powerful female rulers such as Queen Isabella of Castile, and Adelaide of Burgundy, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire.

Beginning players so enjoy the power of their queen that they often bring it into play as soon as they are able. This, however, can be a mistake. The queen often should only be played after the majority of the other forces have taken up their positions on the chessboard. If the queen is brought out too early, it can be attacked by enemy units of lesser value. The resulting loss of time to safeguard the queen can then give the opponent further opportunity to bring out more units to build an attack.

The Rook

The origin of the word "rook" has been a topic of debate amongst chess historians as some sources suggest it represented the chariot in the Indian army and others say it represented a boat. According to Duncan Forbes (History of Chess, 1860) it is the latter because in Sanskrit "roka" means ship. He states the plains of the Punjab and Ganges would be flooded for about a third of the year, which would make boats an important component of the army. However, as the game spread to Persia, where ships had no major role, "roka" was adapted to "rukh." He points out that the Italian word for rook is "rocco," which means tower, and the rest of the world followed the example set by the Italians, adapting words that sounded similar to "rukh" and "rocco." Thus, we get the English term "rook," which also resembles a tower. Nevertheless, the Russians refer to the rook as "lodya," which means boat.The Bengalese, Javanese, and Siamese languages each also refer to it as a boat.

Conversely, H.J.R. Murray, in A History of Chess, contends that ships could never have been a major component of the Indian army, and that there was no piece in chaturanga called a "roka." The corner piece was "ratha," Sanskrit for chariot, which was translated into the Old Persian word for chariot, "rukh." While Davidson, in A Short History of Chess, claims "rukh" means "soldier" or "hero," and suggests that it could even refer to the mythical two-headed bird, as in a definition given by the Encyclopedia of Islam (London 1934).

According to Davidson, in other languages the rook goes by the following names: in Czech it is "hroch," which means hippopotamus, or "vez," which means tower; in Dutch it is "tooren," which means tower; in French it is "roc" or "tour," which means tower; in German it is "turm," which means tower; in Greek it is "pergos"; in Italian it is "rocco" or "torre," which means tower; in Spanish it is "roque" or "torre," which means tower; and in Turkish it is "kale" or "rukh."

Given its resemblance to a tower, the rook is sometimes incorrectly referred to by beginners as a castle. Yet, whatever the nomenclature, the way the rook moves has remained unchanged throughout the history of the game. The rook moves and captures in a straight line. It can move forward, backward, or sideways along the ranks and files as long as it is not blocked by another unit. From any square on an empty chessboard a rook can attack fourteen other squares; thus, its mobility is not affected by its location on the chessboard. At one time the rooks were the most powerful piece in play; it was only about the fifteenth century that the queen took on new powers of movement to surpass the rook. The rook was so respected that players would often declare "check to the rook," alerting opponents that their rook was being attacked. Now, check is only announced when the king is attacked.

Since rooks need a long stretch of road to race along, they are often well-placed on open lines where their full powers can be utilized. A rank or file is said to be open when there are few chessmen standing upon it. It is said to be closed when there are many chessmen cluttering the paths of travel. A rook standing behind many units from its own army will be restricted in its movements by friendly forces. Having two powerful rooks standing on the enemy seventh rank is sometimes called "pigs on the seventh," because of their ability to gobble up the enemy pawns along that rank.

The Bishop

In the starting position, the white bishops stand on the c1- and f1-squares, and the black bishops stand of the c8- and f8-squares. In algebraic notation the bishop is designated by the letter "B." Each bishop has a numeric value of three points. The bishops, along with the knights, are referred to as "minor pieces." The white light-squared bishop on f1 is often called the king's bishop, and the white dark-squared bishop on c1 is called the queen's bishop. For black, the colours are reversed and the dark-squared bishop is the king's bishop, and the light-squared bishop is the queen's bishop.

The bishops represented the elephants in the Indian army. The cut of the bishop is symbolic of the tusks of an elephant. However, as chess adapted to different cultures the piece was thought to resemble a cleric's mitre (a tall cap); hence the name bishop. This conformed with the European notion of chess as a replica of the king's court, rather than a battlefield association.

According to Davidson in A Short History of Chess the bishop goes by the following names in other languages: in Arabic it is "fil," which means elephant; in Czech it is "behoun," which means runner or courier; in Dutch it is "looper," which means runner or courier; in French it is "fou," which means jester or fool; in German it is "laufer," which means runner or courier; in Greek it is "trellos," which means "worthy one"; in Italian it is "alfiere," which means ensign; in Russian it is "slon," which means elephant; in Spanish it is "alfil," which means "worthy one"; and in Turkish it is "fil," which means elephant.

Yet according to Purdy in Chess Bits and Obits, the Spanish "alfil" is a meaningless word that is an amalgam of the Arabic "Al Fil" (the elephant). He writes that the French changed this to "Aufin"; the Welsh into "Elphyn"; the Italians into "Alfino"; and the English into "Aufin." All of which meant nothing, but "there was a natural tendency to change them still further into words with meanings." Thus, the bishop likely has a greater variety of names than any other chess piece.

Both sides have two bishops, each of which stands on a different colour square: one on a light square and one on a dark square. It is along these colour squares that each bishop is able to move. The modern move of the bishop was introduced in the sixteenth century. In an earlier incarnation the bishop could move either one square forward or one square diagonally; this fivefold move was said to represent the four feet and trunk of the elephant. In Persian chess the bishop lost its forward movement and leapt one square diagonally, similar to how a checker piece makes a jump. An odd consequence of this is that none of the bishops could then move onto a corner square or even combat its counterpart from the opposing side.

The Knight

According to Davidson in A Short History of Chess the knight goes by the following names in other languages: in Arabic it is "faras," which means horse; in Czech it is "kun," which means horse; in Dutch it is "paard," which means horse; in French it is "cavalier," which means knight; in German it is "springer," which means jumper; in Greek it is "ippos," which means horse; in Italian it is "cavallo," which means horse; in Russian it is "kon," which means horse; in Spanish it is "caballo," which means horse; and in Turkish it is "suvari," which means horse.

The knights represented the cavalry in the Indian army, and its movement reflects the leaping abilities of a horse. According to Murray in A History of Chess, the name of the piece as knight, rather than horse, is likely derived from the feudal knight who rode on horseback. The move of the chess knight has remained unchanged since the game was invented. The knight moves and captures in an "L"-shaped pattern. Thus, the knight moves two squares sideways (along a rank), then one square up or down (on a file); or, two squares up or down (on a file), then one square sideways (along a rank).

The knight is the only chess piece that can jump over other pieces, but it does not capture a piece that it jumps. The knight only captures enemy units that are standing on the square that the knight wishes to occupy. If a square is occupied by a friendly unit, then the knight cannot move there. A knight changes the color of its square every time it moves. A knight on a dark square moves to a light square; and a knight on a light square moves to a dark square. A knight in the center of the board can move to eight different squares (almost in the shape of a circle).

It is easy to see that a knight in the centre of the board has more mobility (squares to which it can move) than a knight at the edge of the board. This often makes a knight in the centre stronger than a knight at the edge. A knight in the corner has only two potential moves. There is even an adage that "a knight on the rim is grim." For this reason players often try to place their knights in the centre of the chessboard where they have more freedom of movement and will attack more enemy squares.

So I was having dinner with Magnus Carlsen – Problem was, we had a chequered tablecloth and it took him two hours to pass the salt!”

Chess can become rather obsessive as shown by the following joke:

2 friends see themselves by the street and one of them says:

"My wife says that if tomorrow I go to the chess match, she will take my children and will leave me."

The other friend asks to him:

"And what you will do?"

And the other answers to him:

"play E4, like always!"

People in a park notice a man playing

chess against a dog.

They are astonished and say:

"What a clever dog!" 

But the man protests: 

"He isn't that clever. I'm leading by three games to one!"  

Chess records

General Chess records

Longest game

Nikolic - Arsovic, Belgrade 1989. It lasted for 269 moves and finished draw. Later on was introduced the fifty move rule and this record is unlikely to be broken. The longest chess game with a winner is 193 moves when Yedael Stepak beat Yaakov Mashian in the Israel Championship seminfinals in 1980. It is also the longest game in time, lasting 24 hours and 30 minutes.

Shortest game

There are many games which finished before they started with the result agreed beforehand. Considering a non short draws rule (as the Sofia rule) the shortest game ever played is the two moves Fool's mate. (1.g4 e5 2.f3?? Qh4#)

Latest first capture

Filipowicz and Smederevac (Polanica Zdroj 1966), lasted 70 moves without a single capture.

Longest series of checks

In 1995 in the Czech Republic, a game between Rebickova and Voracova ended with 74 checks by the black Queen.

Most moves in a chess game

The longest chess game is 269 moves between Ivan Nikolic vs. Goran Arsovic, Belgrade, 1989. The game ended in a draw. The game lasted over 20 hours.

Greatest number of checks

In Wegner - Johnson, Gausdal 1991, there were 141 checks in the game. White had 100 checks and Black had 41 checks. The game lasted 200 moves.