20 Mind-Blowing Facts About Chess

Chess, the "game of kings", regained its popularity thanks to the popular Netflix series "Queen of Gambit". It is one of the oldest intelligence games in world history. There are many interesting and entertaining facts about the game of Chess that you probably didn’t know. Today, we’ll share 20 of them with you!

20. Checkmate: The word ‘checkmate’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘shah mat’, which means ‘the king is dead (helpless)’ in English. True chess players will not say ‘checkmate’ to an opponent but rather simply extend their hand, shake and say ‘good game’.

19. The 2nd Book printed in the English language: The second book in history to be printed in English was about Chess. William Caxton translated (and then printed) it from French into English in 1474, 2 years before it was published in French by Jean de Vignay.

18. Record-Setting Defeat: An American man named Frank Marshall was the first ever to defeat a Soviet player in an international chess tournament back in 1924 in New York City. He was the reigning Unites States champion for about 30 years and went on to defend his title when he defeated Ed Lasker in 1923. He was the first chess master to play more than 100 games simultaneously.

17. Knight’s Tour: The number of possibilities for achieving ‘Knight’s Tour’ are about 122 million! Knight’s tour is a sequence of chess moves involving the knight pawn whereby the piece visits every square on the board only once.

16. Most Versatile Chess Master: The only chess master to win the world championship in all three formats, including knockout, tournament, and match, is a man from India named Vishwanathan Anand. Later, Magnus Carlson of Norway would go on to defeat Anand in 2013.

15. Epic Fail: The worst performance record by a competitive chess player is currently held by a Scottish-Canadian named Nicholas McLeod of Quebec, who lost 31 games in the double-round robin in New York in 1889! He was also the only player to beat Emanuel Lasker at the height of his chess career in 1892.

14. Rookies: First-year chess players are called ‘rookies’, which is what we now call the new recruits to the military, police force, sports teams, etc. The name was derived from the last pawns to move in a chess game known as ‘rooks’.

13. Longest Reign as a World Champion: A German doctor by the name of Emanuel Lasker held the title of World Chess Champion for the longest time, about 27 years from 1894 to 1920. This is the longest reign of an officially recognized chess champion in recorded history!

12. New Move: The newest chess move in which the pawn can move two steps instead of one at the start was introduced back in 1280 in Spain. This move is known as ‘en passant’ in French and means ‘in passing’.

11. Russia, the Chess Nation: Russia dominates the game and has more grandmasters than all other countries! The nation has more than 250 grandmasters!

10. King’s Game: Chess was initially known as the ‘Game of Kings’ in India where it originated, since it was initially played by royalty centuries ago. The game was a common pastime of monarchs and nobles in the 12th century and even named its playing pieces (pawns) after royal or honored positions, including knight, king, queen, and bishop.

9. Fool’s Mate Runs: The minimum amount of moves to accomplish a checkmate is two and is referred to as ‘Fool’s Mate Runs’ or ‘Two-Move Checkmate’. This can only be achieved by Black on the second move 2 with the queen and is the fewest number of moves possible from start to finish in a single game.

8.  Blindfolded Chess: Blindfolded Chess is an impressive skill that most strong players possess. It requires the ability to ‘see’ the board clearly in the mind, which becomes very difficult after many moves. Several grandmasters have achieved impressive results while playing about 50 games simultaneously.

7. Youngest Champion: In 1985, Garry Kasparov (a writer, political activist, and chess player) from the Soviet Union became the youngest world chess champion to date. He was only 22 years old at the time. He is often considered to be the best chess player of all time!

6. The First Board: The first modern chessboard was created in Europe back in 1090. It had alternating light and dark squares, similar to the way it appears on modern game boards today.

5. Deep Thought: A computer known as ‘Deep Thought’ became the first of its kind to beat an international champion at Chess in November of 1988 in Long Beach, California. It was created by Feng-Hsiung Hsu and developed at Carnegie Mellon University. It was later improved upon at IBM.

4. First Computer Chess Program: In 1951, Alan Turing created the very first computer program for playing Chess. No computer at the time was advanced enough to process it so Turing tested it himself, doing calculations by hand and then playing each move according to the results. This took significant time and intense dedication on his part.

3. Billions of Possibilities: The number of different play combinations for the first four moves in the game of Chess is about 319 billion. This is an astounding number, to say the least! There is no game in history that can remotely compare.

2. The Longest Possible Game: The longest game of Chess can last about 5,900 moves based on the various movement combinations. This is the maximum number of moves that a game can continue without a player claiming a draw. There are over 1,000 different opening possibilities alone! 

1. Larger Than Life: The number of potential chess games is vaster than all the estimated atoms in the universe combined! That’s about 10^80 whereas the number of different chess game possibilities is 10^120.