"The Oxford Companion to Chess" David Hooper & Kenneth Whyld (1984, 1993).
The Noble Game of Chess
(2018-08-07) Origins of Chess. Ancient and modern rules.
The old games of Chaturanga and Shatranj.
Apart from Go,
all ancien board games can all be classified as single-track race games.
is purely strategic (if you're allowed to count the stones in each pit)
but all the others involve an element of pure luck.
Here are the three most notable examples:
The Mesopotamian Royal Game of Ur.
One of the best designs of all time.
It's played with two
sets of seven pieces (at most) racing on a special board of 20 squares
(two symmetrical 14-square tracks sharing an 8-square middle lane).
The game traditionally uses 4 tetrahedral
dice with two marked corners.
The outcome of a throw is the total number of marked corners landing at the top;
(respectively with 1,4,6,4,1 chances in 16).
The exact rules were found on a late-period
clay tablet from the British Museum
The Egyptian game of
senet (the game of passing).
Two sets of 5 pieces, racing mostly forward on a single 30-square track
(laid out on a 3 by 10 board).
This simple game has been resurrected using the rules reconstructed by the two
game historians Timothy Kendall and
R.C. Bell (1917-2002).
By contrast, the early forms of chess didn't involve chance at all and
made full use of the two dimensions of the game board.
The earliest recognizable form of chess was called
chaturanga (or catur for short).
It appeared in India, in the seventh century AD and is first mentioned in
(biography of Harsha,
Shortly thereafter, the game appeared in Persia under a new name
(shatranj or chatang) and slightly revised rules.
It was possible to win in shatranj by capturing all pieces
besides the King (but it was a draw if the opponent could do the same on the next move).
The strongest shatranj player on record was
Al-Suli (AD 880-946)
the author of a famous shatranj problem known as
Al-suli's Diamond, which was solved in
by Yuri Averbakh (1922-).
White wins by capturing the black ferz which can only move diagonally one square at
a time) without losing his own on the next ply... in 19 moves!
The starting positions in those games were similar to that of chess
(up to a switch of the king and the minister/general/queen).
However, the pieces had different names, shapes and properties
(somewhat shrouded in uncertainty) as tabulated below.
Pawns capture diagonally. All other pieces capture the same way they move.
Elephants, horses and/or knights jump directly from origin to destination.
For other pieces, a lateral or diagonal move
is only allowed if intermediate squares are unoccupied.
At first, the games were played on an uncheckered board
of 64 squares
The familiar alternating light and dark colors
of modern chessboards first appeared in Europe around 1090.
Some of the boards used were originally intended for an older race game
called ashtapada (eight-legged)
whose exact rules seem lost.
16 special squares called castles were marked with crosses
(at the intersections of ranks 1, 4, 5 and 8 with files a, d,e and h).
Such marks are still found on some chessboards of Indian origin,
although their purpose is all but forgotten.
Legend has it that Chaturanga was invented for Iadava, King of
who was mourning the loss of his son Adjamir.
The Prince had died heroically to secure victory in a decisive
battle at Decsina against the conqueror Varangul.
A young brahmin, called
walked 30 days from the village of Manir to the
Andhra royal palace
and presented Iadava with the new game he had designed. The king was so pleased
that he asked the young man to name any reward he wished.
The lad made a simple request related to the 64 squares on the board:
He asked for one grain of wheat on the first square, two on the second,
four on the third and twice as many grains on every square as on its
predecessor. The King thought that this was a modest price to
pay, until he was advised that the number of grains so named was humongous:
By convention, the chessboard must be oriented so that the closest corner to the
right of either player is a light square
(light rhymes with right). This was first specified in print by
Pedro Damiano (1480-1544) in 1512.
The practice of shading dark squares in printed chess diagrams was introduced by
the scientist Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576).
Three modern moves have no equivalent in ancient chess:
On its first move, a pawn may travel two squares forward
(if both the destination and the passed-over square are free).
En passant capture
by a pawn is allowed immediately after
one such move (it takes place at the passed-over square).
Castling (French roque;
14th or 15th century, in Europe)
If all squares between the king and a rook are free, then
a legal move consists in moving the rook next to the king and having the
king jump over it, provided the following conditions are met:
The king and the rook have never moved before.
No square in the path of the king is under attack.
In 1972, the journalist
Tim Krabbé (1943-)
composed, as a joke, a
problem whose solution involves a vertical castling
on the "e" file using a rook created by pawn promotion which had never moved!
Krabbé even put forth the notation O-O-O-O
for this hitherto unused third type of castling.
Shortly thereafter, a new wording of the laws of chess was enacted to disallow that.
Chess used to be played until the king was actually captured.
This meant that a player who didn't move out of check
(or even moved into check) would lose by having the king captured
on the next turn, unless the opponent blundered the game away.
To avoid such endings,
it's now illegal to move into check or not to move out of check.
To better enforce that law, whoever puts a king in check must announce it.
In several languages, the plural form of such announcements morphed into the name
of the game itself (chess is a corrupted form of
checks in English; the game is called
échecs in French).
One interesting consequence of that modern rule is the possibility of
stalemate (French: pat) which
is a situation when a player is not in check but has no legal move available.
This is now declared a draw.
In some endgames, the goal of the dominating player
thus becomes to force checkmate while avoiding a stalemate situation.
Some obsolete rules considered a stalemate
a win for whoever was called to play from such a situation.
This was the case in England until 1800.
The German term Zugzwang
(capitalized if German spelling is to be respected) denotes a configuration which
is less favorable if you have to move first than if you don't, especially in endgame
situations very near to a checkmate or stalemate.
(In combinatorial games theory
the term is sometimes used to denote a losing situation for whoever has to move first.)
The oldest extant
game of modern chess was played in 1475 in
Don Franci de Castellvi (White) and
Narciso Vinyoles (Black).
The game illustrates a famous poem entitled
(Chess Game of Love) written in Catalan (more precisely
by Castellvi (Venus), Vinyoles (Mars) and
Mossèn Bernat de Fenollar (Mercury).
Caissa (pronounced ky-eé-sah) is
a nymph of Greek mythology
who became known as the patron godess of chess after a celebrated
in 1763 by the young
(1746-1794) and entitled
CAISSA or The Game at Chess; a Poem.
The poem of Jones was itself inspired by a
in Latin called
Scacchia Ludus (The Game of Chess) due to
Marco Girolamo Vida
(c.1485-1566) who wrote it around 1513,
as Chess in its modern form was gaining popularity in Europe.
It was first published anonymously in 1525 before appearing officially
under Vida's name in 1527.
(2018-09-11) Chess Tables, Boards and Mats.
Various ways the actual chess playing surface is provided.
The generic term of chessboard (or just board)
is used for all of these, but it need not be an actual rigid board.
It can also be inlaid into a dedicated table or, for best portability,
a mat can be used which can be rolled up (or folded, if made out of silicone).
In the US, the most common size for tournaments features 2.25''
squares (57 mm). In metric countries, it's nominally 55 mm.
The playing surface itself is thus 18'' (46 cm).
Typically about 20'' with the borders which often
feature two sets of rank numbers and file letters (to accomodate both players).
Smaller boards are 2'' (51 mm) or 50 mm.
Larger ones are 60 mm. (about 2 3/8 )
rarely 2.5'' (63.5 mm).
Anything outside that range is unsuitable for competition
(especially for quick
Among many others Wholesale Chess offers 60 mm mahogany-and-maple boards for
(with notation). The playing surface on those boards is exactly 19''.
They measure 21½'' with the borders.
I love the look and feel of a borderless regulation board
(2¼'' = 57 mm) which spans only 18½''.
(If borders with notation are ever needed, such a board can be placed
on top of an ordinary tournament mat.)
The best-bang-for-the-buck I found is the inlaid mahogany and maple
which comes double-boxed for shipping
(Amazon even puts that double box in an oversized shipping box of their own.)
Such high-quality borderless chessboards can also be used in a customized table
or a one-of-a-kind frame (the playing surface can be mounted recessed, flush
or raised, according to taste).
That's a cost-effective way to bypass the time-consuming process of
finishing a good playing surface by hand.
If you make your own frame, consider
providing some substantial rounding or overhang on the outside edges to make
the assembly easy to pick up (most commercial products don't).
Arguably, the board need not match the colors of the pieces.
Playability is hindered when ebonized pieces are
camouflaged on black squares.
Husaria #6 Chessboard (57mm = 2¼'')
maple and padauk
Polish #5 Chessboard (50mm = 1.97'')
mahogany and sycamore
When the game of chess is discussed abstractly,
we talked about pawns and pieces.
The word chessmen is normally used only for
the physical objects made from wood, metal, stone, clay or plastic.
In modern tournament play, only minor variants of the
Staunton chessmen are used.
The official tournament guideline states that the base diameter of the king should be no more than 75%
of the side of a squares on the chessboard.
Four pawns should barely fit into a square (base diameter being 50% the side of a square).
My own plastic tournament set, for use with a standard 2¼'' mat,
is the common 3.75'' Staunton design
With the slim Zagreb '59 design, a tall king (3.9'')
can fit nicely on a standard 2¼'' board.
I bought the new weighted boxwood set shown below off of eBay directly from India
including expedited shipping from Amritsar to
It arrived in less than 4 days.
The above picture shows 2'' squares, which are a bit too small for
the Zagreb pieces whose precise measurements are listed below:
Zagreb '59 Measurements (3.9 '' nominal)
Matching Square Size
This stylish East-European design is a major variant of the Staunton style.
The Zagreb design is characterized by counterchanged
square-fronted Russian knights.
The bishops have unslotted tops in the shapes of the
worn by bishops of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
They differ from the splitted pointed Western miters of the
Roman Catholic Church, which inspired the slots
of the bishops in the original Staunton pattern.
The Zagreb design was launched on the occasion of the
Candidates Tournament held in
Zagreb (capital of Croatia)
Belgrade (Capital of Serbia)
and the touristic town of Beld.
Eight leading contenders
(including Bobby Fisher, then 15 years old)
were competing for the right to challenge
the reigning World ChampionMikhail Botvinik (1911-1995)
for the crown he had been holding continuously since 1948,
with a single interruption in 1957-1958.
The legendary Mikhail Tal (1936-1992)
won and went on to fetch the World title the following year, in Moscow,
but lost the rematch in 1961.
Tal remained popular well after that. So did the Zagreb pieces.
I got this chess set in spite of the blocky aspect of its knights,
which turns out to be an acquired taste. It's now my favorite set to play with.
The ideal square size for a given set of pieces depends only on the bases,
not the heights. Two good rules of thumb are floating around.
The first one is simple but the second one is more robust and
more general (it applies to all round designs, even outside the Staunton family):
The king base should be about 75% of the side of the field square.
If a king and a queen are diagonally adjacent,
the distance between them should be greater than the bishop's base.
The latter rule allows play by sliding the pieces even in the worst possible
case (when a bishop moves between the two largest pieces which can
legally be adjacent to each other). If that's your preferred style,
this should be the primary consideration and
the ensuing inequality must be satisfied with some room to spare
(to allow for misalignments during actual play).
Usually, even people who like sliding the pieces will lift them
when the squeeze seems tight.
Two unreliable criteria are used by some salespeople:
The square should be twice the base of the pawn
(i.e. 4 pawns can fit in a square) or half the
height of the king (i.e., a fallen king spans two squares).
The first rule corresponds to the rough formula K = 0.75 S.
The second one says that the diagonal of the square must be
greater than the bishop's base plus half the sum of the king and queen bases.
This does indicate that a regulation chessboard
(55 or 57 mm) is nearly ideal for the above zagreb pieces
(while a 2'' board is definitely too tight).
Let's do the same computation for the tournament plastic set I use:
Classical Staunton Measurements (3.75 '' nominal)
American Regulation Square
The aforementioned guideline formulas would give:
S = 2.39 '' or 60.6 mm
S > 2.25 '' or 57.2 mm
Thus, those pieces can be played on regulation US mats (57.2 mm).
An oversized 60 mm board would be fine too.
Our next example involves the French style which was dominant throughout Europe before
the Staunton pattern displaced it for serious play.
It's best called Régence.
Drop the accent if you must, but avoid the Regency misnomer,
since this chess style was actually named after what was the undisputed nevralgic center of
Chess in the eighteenth century:
Le café de la Régence in Paris, France
(best left untranslated).
Incidentally, Howard Staunton (1810-1874) crowned himself
World champion in 1843,
when he won his return match against the most prominent Régence
player of the time, Pierre Saint-Amant (1800-1872).
Boxwood was used for white pieces and ebony
for black pieces.
Both kinds of wood are denser than water with very fine grain which makes
them exceptionally well suited for turning and fine carving.
Because of recent restrictions on the harvest of ebony,
boxwood is increasingly used for black pieces as well using
what's call ebonization, which
can be done several different ways.
Black color is obtained when ferric acetate
reacts with wood tannin. This reaction uses the same basic principle
as iron-gall ink
(upon which Western civilization was arguably founded).
To make a good ebonizing solution at home,
first clean some steel wool thoroughly with soap and water
(to remove any trace of oil which would hinder the rest of the process).
Rinse it well.
Let it soak for several days at room temperature in a mixture of cleaning vinegar
(6% or 8% acetic acid) and hydrogen peroxide
(heating can speed up the process, if needed).
Ferric acetate will form:
(2018-08-07) Chess Clock
Some controversial aspects of timed games.
Time limitations on chess games are of relatively recent origins.
Chess clocks have been used in competition since the London International Tournament of April 1883.
Time controls were born out of necessity to make the organization of tournaments possible.
The possibility of losing on time was originally just
a way to enforce those time limits without altering the nature of the game.
Bonus and Delay :
Those are the two simplest ways to force fast play on low time without
making it humanly impossible to execute decent moves.
In practice, these two methods are never
used together (although they're not incompatible).
Bronstein delay is also called simple delay
or US delay.
The player's alloted time doesn't start to be debited until a certain
preset delay has ellapsed.
A player who plays every move faster than this
preset delay will never run out of time.
Fischer increment is a preset bonus time
which is added at the beginning of every turn.
The unused portion of those bonuses can accumulate so that
a future move which requires more consideration can be played less recklessly.
Currently, almost all classical chess tournaments endorsed
by the Worldwide Chess Federation are played in
90 minutes (per player) for the first 40 moves and 20 minutes
for each side for the rest of the game,
with a 30-second Fischer increment per move
(starting with the very first move).
That gives each player 110 minutes to complete the first 40 moves.
(That's code 04 on the Wholesale Chess Advanced Digital Game Timer.)
For the World Championship (and the qualifying Candidate Tournament)
the time limits are 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, 50 minutes
for the next 20 moves and 15 minutes for the rest of the game.
Again with a 30-second Fischer increment starting at the first move.
(That's code 05 on the Wholesale Chess Advanced Digital Game Timer.)
This is a more complicated time-control used for mostly for
digital chess clocks often allow it.
It's a monstrosity to grant a win in chess to a player who doesn't even have enough
pieces to mate (although it's sometimes done in automated online play).
In that case, a player is awarded a draw if the other runs out of time.
The game is an instant draw if neither player has enough to mate.
Furthermore, a good Gentleman's Agreement
in a timed game is to resign with a bare king if the other side has at least:
A bishop and a knight.
It would be nice if chess-playing software enforced this automatically.
In over-the-board play, someone who grabs a piece which has at least one legal move
must play that piece (the old-school touch-move rule).
A legal move is final when the player lets go of the piece.
I argue that no penalty should be incurred when an illegal move is corrected
before the clock is punched
(but punching the clock after an illegal move forfeits the game).
The bag I recommend to carry full-sized pieces,
a rolled-up mat, a clock,
scoresheets and pens is from the USCF
(2018-08-13) Standard algebraic Notation
(Philipp Stamma, 1737)
Only one notation survives to record chess games, with minor variants.
Each square is identified by a lowercase letter from "a" to "h" according to
its file and a numeral from "1" to "8" according to its rank.
Squares are either light or dark.
The corner squares to the right of either player (h1 and a8) are light.
In the starting position,
the white queen is on d1 (a light square) and
the black queen is on d8 (a dark square).
You may want to remember that queens start on their own colors.
Each type of piece (besides the pawns) is identified by a single capital
letter: K, Q, B, N, R
(at each move, White moves first and Black second).
When a piece is not specified, a pawn move is understood
(the abbreviation P is deprecated).
In case of ambiguity (when the landing square is accessible to two like pieces)
give the lowercase letter identifying the file (column)
where the piece is moving from after the name of the piece.
If that doesn't lift the ambiguity, give the number of the rank instead.
Conceivably, you might need to name the starting square fully, by file and rank,
in the extremely rare case where the destination square is accessible to three
like pieces at the corners of a rectangle. Prerequisites for such a situation include
a promotion to knight, two queenings or two promotions to bishops!
Yet, if you're a programmer, you must anticipate such a weird thing.
Long and short castling
are respectively denoted O-O-O and O-O.
When a pawn is promoted, the piece it becomes is indicated after an
equal sign (formerly, a slash was used).
For example: 67. c8=Q
No special notation is used (or needed)
for en passant capture.
A move which puts the king in check is followed by a plus sign (+).
Checkmate is indicated by a pound sign # (++ is deprecated).
In the computer era, it's important to always record moves in the tersest way
(so plain text searches can fetch them). However, in handwritten or printed
scores, it's nice to name the captured piece for the sake of readability.
For example, the key move in Legal;'s mate
could be written :
5. Nxe5 BxQd1
Likewise, one of five abbreviated
of one or two characters, can be given after any move, except a checkmate
or a forced move.
Dubious or inaccurate (?!).
Unfortunatey, the names of the pieces and their abbreviations are different
in different languages (in addition, the French sometimes replace
"c" and "e" by "ç" and "é"). For better international
communication, graphical hieroglyphs for the pieces are often used in print.
German, Dutch, Swedish
Other Notations :
Formerly, both the origin and destination were always recorded.
This convention is now fairly rare. It's known as long
or reversible because it makes it easy to move back from a position
given in a diagram (especially since the names of captured pieces are always
given with the destination square). For example:
(2018-08-13) The most common chess openings:
An advanced player's repertoire consists in familiarity with many lines.
White has 20 possible first moves (2 per pawn and 2 for each knight)
corresponding to the 20 headings below, listed in order of popularity.
Because the Sicilian Defense (1. 1. e4 c4) is so strong,
the second-most-popular opening move for White (1. d4) can be considered stronger
than the most popular one (1. e4) whose continuations take up more space in this
list than all the other variations combined.
This structured list introduces the names
of some notorious openings discussed among players.
The Oxford Companion to Chess goes well beyond this, with
1327 named opening lines.
A given situation can often be obtained by executing the same moves in different orders.
In that case, the resulting variations are said to be transposed from each other.
For example, the Nf3 variation of the Scandinavian defense transposes to a Zukertort opening:
A chess diagram merely describes the positions of the various pieces on the chessboard.
whereas a chess position also includes information about
castling and en passant priviledges.
(The terms configuration or situation are used here to cover
either concept indifferently.)
The two enumerations start to differ after two full moves (four plies) when
a white pawn is on rank 5 with a black pawn to its immediate right or left
(and any other black move played elsewhere).
In this case, White has en passant priviledges for the third move
only when that side pawn arrived there on the second black move.
A complete position consists of a chess position
and a ply number (odd only when it's White's turn to play).
Transposition tables in chess-playing software typically
contain only positions with ply-parity (indicating whose term it is to play)
although complete ply information would be needed to properly deal
with draws by repetition and apply the
(and/or the new automatic 75-move rule,
officially introduced in 2014).
In the case of the above enumeration, the ply number is given a priori,
so the mere position fully determines the complete position.
(2018-08-15) Maxims and Aphorisms
A tiny collection of chess proverbs and famous quotes.
If you see a good move, try to find a better one.
The threat is more powerful than the execution.
Knight on the rim is grim.
A pawn on the seventh is worth two on the fifth.
Brilliancy can only occur if the opponent makes a mistake. (Rubinstein)
(2007-07-01) Endgames and Nalimov Tables
Tabulating all positions is an efficient way to solve an endgame perfectly.
If the total number of game positions is small enough,
then each of them can be allotted a small computer record in an explicit table.
The entire game can then be solved efficiently by analyzing that
(first completing the records corresponding to final positions, like checkmates).
For the game of chess, this is practical only in endgame situations,
when only very few pieces remain on the board.
A database is a set of stored key/value pairs, where only
a small portions of the possible keys exist (for example, not all possible
surnames exist in a database of people whose names are used as "keys").
By contrast, a tablebase includes (almost) all
keys. The key itself need not be stored in a tablebase; it's merely used
to compute the unique numerical address where the information corresponding to
that key is located.
In game tablebases, the game position is the "key" used to access the
value recorded in the tablebase.
By contrast, in a data base, only a tentative address can be computed,
based on a so-called hash-code which a key
may share with many other possible keys.
The location computed from
the key's hash-code is merely a starting point where a whole list of keys can be
found (with their associated recorded values). When a database is queried
for a key, the query key must be compared with the stored keys.
The size of a database containing n different keys is thus more than
n lg n bits. (A tablebase which associates a single bit
to each of n possible keys has a size of only n bits.)
Perfect play is defined as achieving victory as fast as
possible, or delaying defeat as much as possible. A full analysis of the
game is normally possible only by recording the length of a perfect game for
each tabulated position (the position is a first-player win when that length
is odd, it's a first-player loss otherwise
(the issue of ties is discussed below).
A computer database which gives the number of half-moves to the end of a
perfectly played game is called a Nalimov table.
It's easy to play perfectly by looking up such a table:
Play into the smallest even position if you can, otherwise play into the largest
odd position. A special label must be assigned to ties which is
adequately defined as an odd number larger than any other...
(for example 255, if Nalimov records consist of a single byte).
There is no notion of "perfect play" for a game which ends in a tie.
Such a game is merely considered equivalent to a game which goes on forever
because neither player can force a victory.
Yet, it's possible to refine Nalimov values to distinguish between
a tie "by the book" (which tells that an undecided game is over)
having the highest odd value and other ties which have odd values just below
that (but above any other odd values corresponding to true
Error-free play (as opposed to perfect play)
can be defined as what happens when neither player gives up victory
when it's available to them.
It is not required of the winner to force a quick conclusion.
A practical "tie" may even result if victory is postponed indefinitely
(a win may thus be transformed into a tie by the actual rules of
chess which limit the number of capture-free moves).
Compact bit-wide tablebases, known as bitbases, are sometimes used
in actual chess-playing programs as "oracles" which help make error-free decisions
in the endgame.
A single bit is assigned to each position whose value is
zero (0) if and only if it is a first-player loss.
The value "1" corresponds to a first player win if and
only if it has at least one option labeled "0" (otherwise,
the "1" indicates a tie).
A bitbase (for mere error-free play) is normally obtained by
extracting the relevant information from a complete Nalimov table.
was born in Novosibirsk in 1965. He joined Microsoft as a programmer in 1997,
he later joined the Seattle-based Context Relevant startup
(called Versive since 2017).
Nalimov started writing tablebases generators for chess endgames in 1998.
He was honored for that work by
at their 2002 convention, in Maastricht.
Example: The Knight and Bishop Endgame
The basic table base (TB) only needs to consider the positions where the bishop
is on one of the 16 topmost white squares. Ignoring obvious illegal
positions (e.g., several pieces on the same square or adjacent kings) the other
pieces can be on one of 64 squares and it can be the turn of either
Black or White. All told, the size of the TB,
at one byte per position, is fairly small:
2 . 16 . 64 . 64 . 64 = 8 MB
Each of those bytes contains the number of moves to mate.
There are 8 variations which result in a position similar to
the one depicted at right, where White is checkmated.
They differ by the order White moves his two pawns and also by two
possible choices for moving the central pawns of each player
(one square or two squares).
The locution fool's mate is sometimes used as a generic term
to denote any very early checkmate, especially the following one:
This mate is often attempted among newcomers.
The French call it le coup du berger which translates
literally as Shepherd's mate, as do the names of that checkmate
in several other languages, including
The fool's mate and scholar's mate
may well be as old as chess itself but they were apparently not mentioned in print before
the seventeenth century,
as they found their rightful place in the early classification
proposed by one Arthur Saul
in "Famous Games of Chesse-play" (1614).
Counting the number of 4-move games ending in a scholar's mate
can be an interesting exercise: The game may end with Qf3xf7#
(e.g., after the infamous
opening) or Qh5xf7# (as above).
In either case, White can play in 4 different ways
(opening with either e3 or e4, then moving either the bishop or the queen).
Each sequence makes different "compatible" moves available to Black.
If the black queen moves, she must move back. To allow the mating move,
the white queen's path must be clear and f7 must be unprotected...
the following analyzed game illustrates a bold counterattack which is
far from elementary
(to avoid it, White could play 5. Bxf7+ gaining a pawn).
If White ever loses a tempo with Nxh8 then the game is
hopelessly lost when Black plays perfectly!
I'm using this as an example of how a written analysis can be presented:
We show the strongest move of the winning side (Black here)
for every possible reply of the opponent,
except when the move to be refuted (Nxh8) is played.
The paradoxical consequence of the following refutation of Nxh8
is that the threat on the rook is only apparent.
At least for extremely sharp play...
Conveniently, the quoted 1967 game doesn't last very long because
of the mistakes of White (starting with 6. Kxf2).
The opponent of Traxler in 1890 didn't take the bait, which opens
up an interesting 17-move game.
Both actual games are shown in bold,
within the combined decision tree.
The term Traxler counterattack is normally used to describe this opening
(especially when the Bishop's sacrifice is accepted,
as in Traxler's original game 6. Kxf2).
However, in the United States, it's also called the Wilkes-Barre Variation
(especially when 6. Ke2 or 6. Kf1 is played)
because it was analyzed by
John Menovsky (1873-1947)
and other members of the
Wilkes-Barre Chess Club
(first established in 1887 and restarted in 1907).
Menovsky published the work in 1934 and 1935 and subsequently
discussed the problem with Kenneth F. Williams (1907-1993)
who would eventually publish a 58-page pamphlet on the topic in 1979,
with only few flaws.
Ken Williams (1907-1993) was once President of the
Correspondence Chess League of America (which was created in 1909).
His business commitments did not allow him to pursue an over-the-board tournament career which
essentially ended with a tie in a competition for the North-American Championship.
He went almost twenty years without playing a single over-the-board game.
Even with the best reply 6. Kf1 White lost all the games on record:
(2018-08-21) Miniature Games
Checkmate in 24 moves or less.
All miniature games last less than 30 moves.
Some will only consider shorter games.
I define a miniature as a game of two dozen moves or less,
which accomodates nicely the fabulous game discussed first.
Arguably, the most famost miniatures of all time
was played informally on 21 June 1851, during a recess of the
international chess ournament, between
Adolf Anderssen (1818-1879) and
Lionel Kieseritzky (1806-1853).
Anderssen, playing White, sacrificed his queen, two rooks and a bishop to deliver
a brilliant mate with the three remaining minor pieces (without capturing a single black piece).
Short Chess Games by
Serguei Vorojtsov: |
(2010-01-29) Sam Loyd's Chess Puzzles
Toying with chess positions which can't arise in actual games.
The American columnist Sam Loyd
(1841-1911) devised many clever puzzles based on the rules of chess
which have no relevance to actual play.
Lone black king on h4
(against 16 white pieces). Mate in 3 moves.
The same problem for other positions for the black king is less easy to analyze.
Tabulated below are the number of moves needed to mate, according to
In this context, e4 is almost always the strongest move;
often the only strongest move,
as indicated by the exclamation mark (!)... d4 is second best.
Full White Starting Lineup against Lone Black King
(2018-08-09) Elo Rating System
Rating player skills in a zero-sum game.
Comparing ratings from different eras :
Actual Elo evaluations allow the average of top players to drift substantially
over time and the individual ratings are subject to considerable uncertainty.
The skills of individual players throughout history is best estimated by
analyzing a significant sample of the individual moves they actually played
in the midgame without significant time constraints.
The opening moves should not be examined, as those depend greatly on current
fashion and/or collective encyclopedic knowledge which evolves over time.
Bobby Fisher tried to eliminate that by introducing what's now called
where the starting position is randomized among 960 possibilities.
One weakness of this approach is that the current chess engines
outplay the best human players using an artificial style which is
a poor predictor of typical human opposition on a move-by-move basis.
Yet, the results so obtained are equally flawed throughout
history and give an objective evaluation of actual skills which
strongly correlates with performance in actual matches between humans.
Computerization also allows private estimates of the Elo rating of players
who don't participate in regular chess tournaments with FIDE-rated players.
(2018-08-09) Chess Titles
FIDE titles for over-the-board regular chess play.
Historically, the title of Chess Grandmaster was first formally conferred by
Tsar Nicolas II
upon the five finalists of the
Saint-Petersburg tournament of 1914.
José Raúl Capablanca,
and Frank James Marshall.
When the title was instated by FIDE in 1950, it was bestowed upon an initial list of
outstanding players still alive.
Complex rules are now in place, using
tournament norms and a minimum Elo rating for the award of this
top chess distinction and a few lesser titles,
as summarized in the following table:
Elo rating can be achieved anytime before tournament requirements, if any.
Between 1977 and 2003, FIDE awarded 31
Honorary Grandmaster titles to chess players with
outstanding records, including Jonathan Penrose (brother of
Roger Penrose) in 1993.
The courtesy couldn't be extended to
Rashid Nezhmetdinov (1912-1974)
who was already dead by then.
Since 2007, no formal distinction is made between these and other Grandmasters.
The Grandmaster distinction was awarded shortly after his death to
Karoly Honfi (1930-1996)
by the FIDE Congress of September 1996, in Yerevan.
For a whole century after the death of Greco,
The Calabrese (Le Calabrais)
the historical record doesn't single out any dominant player. Meanwhile, The nevralgic center
of World-class chess migrated from Naples to Paris...
Rousseaureported that the
the undisputed World center of chess in the mid-eighteenth century was the
de la Régence in Paris.
Around 1730, François Antoine de Légal, sire de Kermeur
emerged as the most respected player there. (He spelled his own name Legall.)
Legall's only extant recorded game is the fabulous 7-move checkmate below,
known far and wide as Legall's mate.
Legall played this against Saint-Brié (Black) in 1750:
Légal mentored the young Philidor who dethroned him in 1755 and famously
held on to the crown for 40 years, till his own death in 1795.
Philidor left Paris during the French Revolution and took on residence
at Parsloe's Coffee House on St. James Street
(that chess club was active from 1772 to 1825).
He was soon joined there by Verdoni, the strongest player in Europe
after Philidor (according to Philidor himself).
Arguably, Verdoni was the strongest chess player in the World
between Philidor's death (1795) and his own (1804).
Verdoni had learned chess at a mature age but was clearly superior to the other three leading
players he left behind in Paris (Bernard, Carlier, Léger).
Verdoni died in London on 25 January 1804
(in his Panton Street apartment). His first name and date-of-birth are unknown.
He left his position as Professor of Chess in Parsloe's club to
his star student
Jacob Henry Sarratt (1772-1819).
The London Chess Club was organized on the 6th of April 1807.
Chronologically, it was the third club created in London
(after Slaughter's in 1715 and Parsloe's in 1772).
None of those had yet gained enough momentum to compete with the
Café de la Régence.
So, after the passing of Philidor and Verdoni,
the crown went back to France.
The three leading players between 1804 and the arrival of Deschapelles (1815)
were Bernard, Carlier and Léger (in no particular order).
Tabulated below are the successive purported modern World champions rooted
in that era, with a few challengers of note (shaded rows).
Last column indicates main residence during championship years.
In the above table, yellow highlighting
is for the 16 people who have been undisputed World champions at some
point after the Steinitz era.
Two of them (Kasparov and Kramnik) held the
PCA/Braingames title at the dates indicated in red during the period (1993-2006)
when that title what distinct from the FIDE title.
Dates in black correspond to the World title recognized by FIDE.
The two titles were reunited in 2006 when Kramnik held them both. He was then heralded as the
14th modern World Chess Champion.