Chess is a strategic board game designed for two participants, known as White and Black, who each command their own set of chess pieces. The primary goal is to achieve checkmate against the adversary’s king. Occasionally referred to as international chess or Western chess, it is differentiated from similar games like xiangqi (Chinese chess) and shogi (Japanese chess).
The game is played on a 8×8 grid board. Each player starts with 16 pieces, including a king, queen, bishops, knights, rooks, and pawns. The objective is to checkmate the opponent’s king, meaning the king is in a position to be captured with no legal moves to escape.
Pieces move in specific ways: pawns advance forward but capture diagonally, rooks move horizontally or vertically, knights have an L-shaped move, bishops diagonally, queens can move in any direction, and kings move one square in any direction.
Castling is a special move involving the king and rook to enhance the king’s safety. En passant allows a pawn to capture another pawn that has moved two squares forward. Pawn promotion occurs when a pawn reaches the eighth rank, and it can be replaced by any other piece. Players take turns making one move at a time, and the game concludes with a checkmate, stalemate, draw by agreement, or specific draw conditions.
There’s probably a lot that you didn’t know about this popular board game, but today my aim is to change that…
Here are 30 Interesting Facts You Might Not Know about Chess
1. Chess is a required school subject in Armenia.
2. The longest chess match spanned 269 moves and took place in Belgrade in 1989. The match was between Ivan Nikolic and Goran Arsovic. Despite lasting for more than 20 hours, the match actually ended in a draw.
3. After every move in a game, there are a total of 400 potential subsequent moves.
4. From the starting position, there are eight different ways to Mate in two moves and 355 different ways to Mate in three moves.
5. It’s a proven way to improve memory function.
6. In the 1992 match between Walker and Thornton, a noteworthy world record in move statistics was set when, after 100 moves, neither player managed to capture an opponent’s piece.
7. Approximately 70% of adults in the world have played this board game at some juncture in their lives.
8. A staggering 605 million adults participating in the game on a regular basis.
9. The game is thought to have its origins in India, where it was known as Chaturange before the 6th century AD. The game gained popularity in India and subsequently spread to Persia and the Arab world.
10. The term “Shah Mat,” meaning “the King is dead,” was coined by the Arabs, and this is the origin of the word “checkmate.”
11. The game reached Western Europe around 1000 AD.
12. Around 1475, modifications were introduced to the game, leading to its evolution into a more contemporary form. Formal rules for the game started to emerge during this period.
13. In 1749 the first standard manual was written by Francois-Andre Danican Philidor. This French composer is widely regarded as the best chess player of his age.
14. The period spanning the 18th century until the 1880s is referred to as the Romantic Era of chess. This era witnessed significant developments such as recognizing the strategic importance of pawns, the establishment of stalemate rules, and the convention of white pieces moving first.
15. Emanuel Lasker was a German chess player, mathematician, and philosopher. He held the title of World Champion for an unprecedented 27 years, from 1894 to 1921. The was the longest reign in the history of any officially recognized World Champion.
16. In 1951, Alan Turing developed the first computer program for playing chess. Despite the lack of a sufficiently powerful computer to process it, Turing tested the program by manually performing the calculations and playing based on the results, a process that took several minutes per move.
17. Thomas Wilson invented the initial mechanical Chess Clock in 1883, replacing the prior use of sandglasses. The adoption of sandglasses for timing in games began in London in 1862. The contemporary push-button clock we use today was first refined by Veenhoff in 1900.
18. In 1125, a priest invented the folding chess board. Due to the Church’s prohibition against priests playing the game, he concealed his board by creating one that outwardly resembled two books placed together.
19. Frank Marshall was the first American to defeat a Soviet player in an international tournament held in New York in 1924. Holding the US Champion title for an impressive 30 years, he defended it only once by defeating Ed Lasker (5-4) in 1923. Marshall was also the first chess master to play more than 100 games simultaneously.
20. There were 72 consecutive Queen moves in the Mason-Mackenzie game at London in 1882.
21. Novice players in their first year are referred to as “Rookies,” drawing inspiration from the Rook in chess. Rooks typically enter the game later on, and similarly, Rookies are often among the last to be actively involved.
22. Mastering blindfold chess is a remarkable skill possessed by many proficient chess players. It demands a sharp ability to visualize the board clearly, especially as the game progresses. The record for this feat was established in 1960 in Budapest by the Hungarian Janos Flesch. He astonishingly played 52 opponents simultaneously while blindfolded, emerging victorious in 31 of those games.
23. Chess is often praised by psychologists for its positive effects on memory function and problem-solving abilities. Advocates suggest that it can contribute to the fight against Alzheimer’s and even enhance intelligence, although the latter is a more complex topic. The introduction of chess into school districts and countries has shown positive outcomes, improving children’s grades and providing various benefits.
24. Discovered on the Isle of Lewis in Northern Scotland, the oldest surviving complete chess sets date back to the 12th century. Likely crafted in Iceland or Norway, their distinctive design was featured in the wizard chess pieces in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
25. The traditional pieces, which do not closely resemble actual soldiers, bishops, and kings, are a result of the game’s passage through the Islamic world before reaching Europe. In Islam, the creation of statues depicting animals or people is prohibited, leading to the development of more abstract and vague-looking pieces. When the game expanded to Christian Europe, the appearance of the pieces underwent minimal changes.
26. Originally, the Queen had the ability to move only one square at a time diagonally. Subsequently, this movement expanded to two squares diagonally. It wasn’t until Reconquista Spain, under the influence of the formidable Queen Isabella, that the Queen evolved into the most powerful piece on the chessboard.
27. Bobby Fischer, the eleventh World Chess Champion and an American Grandmaster, exhibited prodigious talent by securing his first of a record eight US Championships at the age of 14. In 1964, he achieved an unprecedented perfect score of 11–0, marking the only instance of such a feat in the tournament’s history.
28. In the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match in Reykjavik (in Iceland), the Russians attributed Spassky’s inconsistent performance to Fischer’s chair. The Icelandic organizers placed a 24-hour police guard around the chair and conducted chemical and x-ray tests, finding nothing unusual.
29. Garry Kimovich Kasparov, a Russian chess grandmaster, former World Chess Champion, political activist, and writer, attained a peak FIDE rating of 2851 in 1999. This record remained the highest recorded rating until Magnus Carlsen surpassed it in 2013.
30. Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) is an international organization based in Switzerland that connects the various national federations and acts as the governing body of international competition.
Well, there you have it, 30 Interesting Facts You Might Not Have Known about Chess. If I’ve left out something important, feel free to comment below.
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