The game of chess has a vast and fascinating history dating all the way back to the 6th century somewhere in India. Throughout the years, it has evolved from various ‘highway’ games to a highly strategic (and typically misunderstood) game that is very popular the world over.
There are several chess myths that have been debunked or proven false over the years. It is important to recognize and understand these myths in order to become a better, more versatile player at the game.
Now that you know there are false beliefs associated with the game of chess, let’s take a look at these below. We will explore each myth individually and in detail so you can better understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to becoming a chess master.
These 16 common misconceptions or myths about the game of chess:
1. The Game of Chess is Older than the Common Era
Age-old theories would have us believe that Pythagoras was the ‘father’ of chess. The truth, however, is that the earliest evidence of chess is from the 6th century. It didn’t come about all at once but rather progressed slowly over time into the game we all know and love today.
2. Chess is the Best Game Ever
While most serious chess players would agree with this statement, not everyone feels it is the best game ever. That is strictly a matter of opinion, based on your own experiences and preferences.
That being said, chess is still a great game. It unites logic with beauty, rigor, and style. It is a game of psychological warfare and combines strategy with wit, courage, and philosophy. What could be better than that!
3. Computers Have Solved the Game of Chess
While computers do indeed make strong chess opponents, there are over 300 million different ways to play the first four moves alone!
For a computer to solve the game, it would have to assess every single position correctly, not just for the first four moves but for the entire game! That would be trillions of possible moves, which (at the current level of technology) is just not achievable.
4. Luck is Important in Chess
Most people believe chess is like other games, including dominoes or monopoly, and that it depends a lot on luck. Generally speaking, this is not the case. Although games with novice chess players may rely somewhat on luck, for more experienced players, winning is a matter of skill and strategy and has very little to do with luck.
5. Chess is the Hardest Game in the World
Contrary to popular belief, chess is not the most difficult game to play. In fact, it’s considered to be one of the easier to learn, but one of the hardest to master. It is estimated that it would take the average player 10,000 hours or more to become a chess master. However, millions of people all over the world continue to play chess, just for the fun of it. Even kids as young as 5 can be taught the game!
6. Older Chess Players Are Better
Most people believe that the older you are, the better you are. This goes for chess as well. While this may have been true for the majority of chess players many years ago, chess is quickly becoming a young person’s game.
In the current digital age, where the highest chess title (grandmaster) can be achieved by kids, this is further proof that wisdom in chess goes far beyond age.
7. Men Are Better Chess Players than Women
While it is true that men often have higher ratings in chess, women are just as good as men at playing the game. Though there may be more men participating professionally, women are taking their place among men as some of the greatest grandmasters in history.
8. Chess Champions Can Beat Chess Computers
Many people believe the strongest chess players can beat any computer game out there. That was true up until 1997, when a program known as Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov.
9. People Who Play Chess Are Smart
While I’m sure the people who play chess are smart, intelligence is not directly related to chess levels or ratings. Playing chess isn’t so much about intellect as it is about training the brain to recognize patterns and think strategically. And, like Richard Teichmann once said, ‘chess is 99% tactics.’
10. Chess Masters Can Calculate About 30 Moves Ahead
Many people (both those who play and those that don’t) think that chess masters can calculate positions as deep as 30 moves ahead. While that may be the case with a limited number of pieces on the board (the endgame), generally speaking, even the very best players can’t predict that many moves ahead and usually calculate anywhere from 15 to 20 moves at the most.
11. Analyzing Your Games Using Computers Will Not Help You Win at Chess
We are currently living in the age of computers, and having access to millions of games is essential for study and preparation. Players can use technology to assess new developments in their favorite opening moves and review recent games in order to better prepare for future competitions. It is a useful tool for both beginner and professional players.
12. Dress like a Grandmaster, and You Will Play like One
Nigel Short once said (before his amazing comeback in 2008), ‘I obviously couldn’t play like a grandmaster, so I decided I should at least dress like one. I put on a suit and tie, and it apparently put me in the right frame of mind. I managed to dig myself out of the hole.’ And while this may have worked for Short, there is no direct correlation between dressing in a suit and winning at chess!
13. Chess is a Mental Game Only
Most people feel that chess is purely a game of intellect and mental stamina and has nothing to do with physical fitness. However, the majority of chess masters often engage in physical activities as well, including weight training, swimming, jogging, and other active sports.
They believe that the mind functions better if the body is in tip-top shape. As Bobby Fisher so eloquently put it, ‘you can’t separate the body from the mind.’
14. It is Always Better to Play Defensively
Allowing your opponent to make mistakes in order to exploit their inaccurate moves is definitely one way of gaining an advantage in chess, but don’t count only on it solely to win. Your best chances of winning are by playing offensively rather than defensively. Take your time, learn your patterns and practice strategic moves.
15. You Don’t Need to Know Your Teammates Well in Order to Win
The key to winning at team chess is chemistry. Knowing each other’s style of play while encouraging one another is very important.
When asked ‘what is the secret to success for the US women’s Olympiad team’, Susan Polgar replied, ‘for one, chemistry – spending a lot of time together, working hard and getting to know each other well.’
16. Drinking Coffee Before Playing Chess Will Make You Play Better
Some players argue that drinking coffee makes them more alert during a chess game. While that might be true, there’s no evidence that drinking coffee will make you play better. With that in mind, you can go ahead and enjoy a cup of coffee (or two) before your next match but don’t count on it to make you win.
Being aware of these myths will help you better understand and learn the game. It is just as important to recognize the misconceptions surrounding the game as it is to learn the ‘tip and tricks.’
Good luck, fellow gamers!