25 Mind-Blowing Facts About Chess! (with Pictures)

chess on old map
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The game of Chess is synonymous with mental stamina, strategy, and patience. It is played by millions of people worldwide; and transcends language, culture, and even time! Right now, you may be wondering to yourself, ‘what about chess makes the game so mind-blowing?’

There are many interesting and entertaining facts about the game of Chess that you probably didn’t know. Many of these are based on how the game is played, who plays it and how it has evolved throughout history.

Today, we’ll share with you 25 of them! We’ll take a look at each of these individually and in more detail below. So, if you’re ready to learn some fascinating facts about the game of Chess, then please continue reading…

These are 25 mind-blowing facts about Chess.  

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. Wow, incredible to say the least!

Milky way galaxy with stars and space chess
Sripfoto / Shutterstock.com

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! 

3. 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 grandmaster have achieve impressive results while playing about 50 games simultaneously.

4. The Longest Game Ever

The longest chess game in recorded history lasted 269 moves (but ended in a draw). As mentioned above, the longest game theoretically possible is 5,949 moves. This would take forever to complete as the average game lasts 38 moves and takes anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes to play!

5. Russia: The Chess Nation

Moscow, Russia Men play chess in the park
Aleks49 / Shutterstock.com

Russia dominates the game and has more grandmasters than all other countries! The nation has more than 250 grandmasters!

6. 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.

7. ‘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’.

Chess game. Chess king is checkmated
Zimneva Natalia / Shutterstock.com

8. 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’.

9. 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!

10. Police Raid

In Cleveland back in 1973, police raided a chess tournament, arrested the director and confiscated the chess boards on charges of gambling (cash prizes for winners) and possession of gambling devices (the boards and sets).

NYPD emergency services chess
A katz / Shutterstock.com

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. Mechanical Clock

The first mechanical clock to be used as a timer (instead of a sand glass) was invented by Thomas Wilson in England back in 1883. It was known as the ‘tumbling’ chess clock. It consisted of two balanced clocks on a seesaw beam. When one was tilted downward, it stopped while the other clock started. 

chess pieces with clock
Katsan Aleksey / Shutterstock.com

14. The First Folding Chess Board

In the 12th century, a cleric designed the first folding chess board out of necessity. Since playing Chess was forbidden by the church at the time, the priest hid his board by making it look like two books placed side-by-side. Bishop Guy of Paris threatened to excommunicate any priest caught playing Chess at the time! Chess was forbidden (at one point or another) by Muslims, Catholics, Anglicans, Jews, and Puritans. 

15. Rookies

First-year chess players are called ‘rookies’, which is what we call now 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’.

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. The 2nd Book In English was on Chess

Chess composition with book
Guy Shapira / Shutterstock.com

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.

19. The First Space Game

The first game to ever be played in space was Chess in June of 1970. The Soyez-9 crew (astronauts Vitaly Sevastyanov and Andrian Nikolayev) played against their ground control and made headlines worldwide. The game ultimately ended in a draw.

20. 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.

21. 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 move 2 with the queen and is the fewest number of moves possible from start to finish in a single game. 

22. Knight’s Tour

The number of possibilities for achieving ‘Knight’s Tour’ is about than 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.

23. Youngest Champion

Garry Kasparov, former World Chess Champion
Karolis Kavolelis / Shutterstock.com

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!

24. 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.

25. 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.

In closing

International Chess Tournament in Zurich
Lena Lir / Shutterstock.com

Chess is a fantastic game of skill and strategy that takes years to perfect. Like Marcel Duchamp (a well-known French painter, sculptor and chess player) once said. 

‘I have come to the conclusion that while all artists are no chess players, all chess players are artists.’ 

Marcel Duchamp

Good luck, fellow gamers, and future chess grandmasters!