Chess “Facts” You May Not Know



Chess is infinite: there are 400 different positions after each player makes one move apiece. 72,084 positions after each player makes two moves apiece. More than 9 million unique positions from the third move. After the 4th move, more than 288+ billion different positions are possible. Many 40-move games on Level-1 can be achieved than the number of electrons in our universe. There are more game-trees of Chess than the number of galaxies (100+ billion), and more openings, defences, gambits, etc. than the number of quarks in our universe!    –Chesmayne


The longest Chess game theoretically possible is 5,949 moves.


Judit Polgar (1976- ), at the age of 9 in 1986, won the unrated section of the NY Open, winning 7 games and 1 game drawn.  At 11 she was rated 2350 and earned an International Master title, younger than Fischer or Kasparov. At age 12 she was rated 2555 and was awarded the Woman GM title.  At 13 she was the FIDE’s highest rated woman. Grandmaster at age 15 years, 4 months, and 27 days.


In the match between Britton and Crouch in 1984, the Black player did Check his opponent forty three consecutive times!


The record of moves without capture is of 100 moves during the Match between Thorton and M. Walker in 1992.


After each side has played three moves, the pieces could form any one of over nine million possible positions on the board.


The 12th and last Inca Emperor of Peru, Atahualpa (1500-1533), who was imprisoned by Francisco Pizarro and the Spanish Conquistadors in 1533 in  Cajamarca Peru, learned Chess by watching his guards play and before long, he was beating them all.


In 1985, the Soviet player Garry Kasparov became the youngest World Chess Champion ever at the age of 22 years and 210 days.


The longest time for a Castling move to take place was the match game between Bobotsor vs. Irkov in 1966: 46. 0-0


The Chinese Emperor Wen-ti executed two foreign Chess Players after learning that one of the pieces was called ‘Emperor.’ He was upset that his title of Emperor could be associated with a mere game and forbade the game.


The longest time recorded for a Chess player to make a move, goes to the International Grand Master Trois from Brazil with 2 hours and 20 minutes on the 7th move.


The first Chessboard with alternating light and dark squares appears in Europe in 1090.


A boy gave General Rahl of the British Army a note from a spy that George Washington was about to cross the Delaware and attack. The general was so immersed in a Chess game that he put the note in his pocket unopened. There it was found when he was mortally wounded in the subsequent battle.


During World War II, some of the top Chess players were also code breakers. British masters Harry Golombek, Stuart Milner-Barry and H. O’D. Alexander were on the team which broke the Nazi Enigma code.


The number of possible ways of playing the first four moves per side in a game of Chess is 318,979,564,000.


The first mention of Chess in America occurred in the year of 1641 in Esther Singleton’s history of Dutch settlers. The first American Chess tournament was held in New York in 1843.


As late as 1561, Castling was two moves. You had to play R-KB1 on one move and K-KN1 on the next move.


During the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match in Rekjavik, the Russians linked Spassky’s erratic play with Fischer’s chair. The Icelandic organization put a 24-hour Police guard around the chair while chemical and x-ray tests were performed on the chair. Nothing unusual was found.


Ray Charles, the legendary Genius of Soul, learned Chess in 1965 after being busted and hospitalized for heroin addiction. He learned Chess in the hospital where he went cold turkey.


Rookies or, players in their first year, are named after the Rook in Chess.  Rooks generally are the last pieces to be moved into action, and the same goes for Rookies.


According to the America’s Foundation for Chess, there are 169, 518, 829, 100, 544, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 ways to play the first 10 moves of a game of Chess.


The word “Checkmate” in Chess comes from the Persian phrase “Shah Mat,” which means “the King is dead.”


The first mechanical Chess clock was invented by Thomas Wilson in 1883. Prior to that, Sandglasses were used. Sandglasses were first used in London in 1862. The present day push-button clock was first perfected by Veenhoff in 1900.


The first Computer program that played proper Chess was written at MIT by Alex Bernstein in 1959.  The first Chess tournament in which the only players were Computer programs was held in New York in 1970.


There were 72 consecutive Queen moves in the Mason-Mackenzie game at London in 1882.


John Lennon and Ringo Starr played Chess. Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow, is an avid Chess player and supporter.


BELLE, the first Computer awarded the title of U.S. Chess Master, in 1983.  BELLE won the 1980 World Computer Championship in Linz, running on a PDP 11/23. BELLE was created by Ken Thompson and Joe Condon.


Blathy, Otto (1860-1939), credited for creating the longest Chess problem, mate in 290 moves.


Albert Einstein was a good friend of World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker. In an interview with the New York Times in 1936 Albert said, “I do not play any games. There is no time for it.  When I get through work I don’t want anything which requires the working of the mind.” He did take up Chess in his later life.


The shortest game ending in mate after two moves: 1. g4 e6 or e5,  2. f3 or f4 Qh4 mate.


Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), wrote the first Chess article published in America: “The Morals of Chess.”


The Police raided a Chess Tournament in Cleveland in 1973, arrested the Tournament director and confiscated the Chess sets on charges of allowing gambling (cash prizes to winners) and possession of gambling devices (the Chess sets).


The folding Chess board was originally invented in 1125 by a Chess-playing priest. Since the Church forbid priests to play Chess, he hid his Chess board by making one that looked simply like two books lying together.


Anatoly Karpov, the first world champion to win the title without playing a Chess match. He got the title in 1975 when Fischer refused to defend his title. Anatoly became a Candidate Master at the age of 11, a Master at 15, an International Grandmaster at 19, and World Champion at 24.


The number of possibilities of a Knight’s tour is over 122 million.


Labourdonnais and MacDonnell played 85 games, the largest number of games ever played successively in match conditions. Neither knew a word of the other’s language. Labourdonnais spent his time spitting, cursing, singing, and laughing. MacDonnell spent up to an hour and a half to make a single move.


In 1985, Eric Knoppert played 500 games of 10-minute Chess in 68 hours.


Lewis Chessmen is the oldest known Chess pieces in existence, carved from walrus ivory. Seventy-eight pieces were found in a stone chamber in a sand bank on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis in 1831. They date back to 1150-1170. The pieces were discovered by a peasant who found a mysterious stone building buried under several feet of sand. The pieces reside in the British Museum and the National Museum in Edinburgh. The most striking piece is the Rook, which is the form of a captain afoot, rather than a castle.


The longest Chess game is 269 moves (I. Nikolic – Arsovic, Belgrade 1989) which ended in a draw.


Frank Marshall (1877-1944) was the first American to defeat a Soviet player in an international tournament in New York, 1924. He reigned as U.S. Champion for 30 years, but only defended his title once when he defeated Ed Lasker (5-4) in 1923. He was the first master to play more than 100 games simultaneously.


The worst loss by a player was Macleod of Canada who lost 31 games in the New York double-round robin of 1889.


The youngest Master was Jordy Mont-Reynaud at 10 years, 7 months (1994).  The oldest player to become a Chess Master was Oscar Shapiro, at age 74.


From the starting position, there are eight different ways to Mate in two moves and 355 different ways to Mate in three moves.


Mephisto Portorose, is one of the strongest commercially available Chess microcomputers. In 1990 defeated Karpov, Huebner, and Bronstein in simultaneous exhibitions, won the West German blitz championship, and earned an International Master (IM) norm by scoring 7-4 in the Dortmond Open.


The United States is the only country to defeat the USSR twice in the Chess Olympiad.


There are 400 different possible positions after one move each. There are 72,084 different possible positions after two moves each. There are over 9 million different possible positions after three moves each. There are over 288 billion different possible positions after four moves each. The number of distinct 40-move games is far greater than the number of electrons in the observable universe.


The new Pawn move, advancing two squares on its first move instead of one, was first introduced in Spain in 1280.


In the 15th century, promotion to allow more than one Queen was considered improper because it symbolized adultery. In Spain and Italy in the 17th century, the Pawn could only be promoted to the rank of Queen. In France and Germany, promotion was limited to any piece which had been lost. In some countries a player could promote a Pawn to an enemy piece so as to force stalemate. The current law in Pawn promotion was established at the first International Tournament in 1851.


The most popular PBS TV show aired was the 1972 Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky Chess match.


The very first postage stamp depicting a Chess motif was issued in Bulgaria in 1947.


The first child prodigy of Chess was Paul Morphy. He learned the moves at the age of 8 and beat the strongest players in New Orleans at 11.


Yasser Seirawan (1960- ), first American to beat a reigning World Champion. He defeated Anatoly Karpov in 1982.


The first Chess game between space and earth was played on June 9, 1970 by the Soyuz-9 crew. The game ended in a draw.


Kirk and Spock have played Chess three times on STAR TREK. Kirk won every game.


David Strauss (1946- ), first International Master to lose to a Computer. In 1986, an experimental Fidelity machine defeated Strauss at the 1986 U.S. Open.


The Anderssen-Kolisch match in 1861 was the first time a time-limit was used.  An hour-glass gave each player 2 hours to make 24 moves.


Dr. Emanuel Lasker from Germany retained the World Chess Champion title for more time than any other player ever: 26 years and 337 days.


A Computer Program named Deep Thought  beat an International Grand Master for the first time in November 1988 in Long Beach, California.

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