Chess Quotes

"Chess is a sea in which a gnat may drink and an elephant may bathe"

(Everyone's favourite chess quote - Chernev, Knight, Reinfeld, me...)

I've just had a spring-clean, roughly grouping the quotes on: coaching and studying chess, chess and life (is there a difference?) the play of the game of chess, chess players, chess openings and just chess in general (mostly shorter quotes).

  Mostly longer quotes giving advice on playing the game are kept in a separate page of Cool Tips, and I have started another index of Chess Stories. You can find more chess quotes collected by Steve Rowles. [There are even some quotes about me and my chess elsewhere...]

  There is also separate page for Tactics Quotes, and another for the Best Excuses.

"If 'even a bad plan is better than no plan', does that mean that even a poor excuse is better than none? ;)"

Contributions always welcome!

Quotes on: | Chess | Coaching | Life | Play | Players | Openings
Chess in general
  \\\ skaak = dacke = escachs = sachy = skak = sakoj = shakki //
  \\\\ echecs = catur = chess = scacchi = sachmatai  = sjakk /// 
  \\\\ schaakspel = szachy = xadrez = sah = ajedrez = schack ///
 \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ schachspiel = satranc = sakk //////////////////
"Of chess it has been said that life is not long enough for it, but that is the fault of life, not chess."
-- Irving Chernev

  from Stanton Nesbit

"The essence of chess is thinking about what chess is."
-- (David Bronstein, quoted in NIC's ad for J. H. Donner's book: _The King, Chess Pieces_).

  via Bill Magdalene

One quote that I have heard attributed to Pascal (but don't know this for sure) is:
"Chess is the gymnasium of the mind."
from Shawn Decker
"There are more adventures on a chessboard than on all the seas of the world"
-- Pierre Mac ORLAN, via Jose Spaleniec, Paris

And a splendid collection courtesy of

  • "Chess is mental torture." -- KASPAROV
  • "When in doubt -- play chess." -- TEVIS
  • "Life is too short for chess." -- BYRON
  • "The loser is always at fault." -- PANOV
  • "Chess is a curse upon a man." -- H.G.WELLS
  • "Chess is the art of analysis." -- BOTVINNIK
  • "I hate anyone who beats me." -- LISA LANE
  • "Chess was Capablanca's mother tongue." -- RETI
  • "Let the perfectionist play postal." -- SEIRAWAN
  • "A good player is always lucky." -- CAPABLANCA
  • "There are no heroes in chess." -- CORY EVANS
  • "One bad move nullifies forty good ones." -- HOROWITZ
  • "The older I grow, the more I value Pawns." -- KERES

"If drink is the curse of the working classes and work is the curse of the drinking classes then chess is the curse of the thinking classes "
-- J. Ross

There is, of course, a very famous saying from Rueben Fine:
"I'd rather have a pawn than a finger."

  It's often quoted during analysis.

  One of my favorite sayings, though, came as a response to this.

  About 40 players were watching an online broadcast of a major match.

  One of the players was a pawn down, and there was some argument as to how much compensation the other had.

  One of the masters present quoted Fine, "As Reuben Fine said, "I'd rather have a pawn than a finger."

  To which Grandmaster Roman Dzindzichashvili replied:
"It all depends: which pawn and which finger?" -- Duif

jcl continues:
  • "A wood-pusher overlooks the ranks." -- RUSSIAN SAYING
  • "The hardest game to win is a won game." -- Em. LASKER
    " Actually, the hardest game to win is a lost game." -- Dr.Dave
  • "There just isn't enough televised chess." -- LETTERMAN
  • "Some part of a mistake is always correct." -- TARTAKOVER
  • "Pawn endings are to chess what putting is to golf." -- PURDY
  • "There is no remorse like the remorse of chess." -- H.G.WELLS
  • "You can't play chess if you're groggy from pills." -- KARPOV
  • "All chess masters can play one game blindfolded." -- KOLTANOWSKI
  • "When the going gets tactical, the computers get going." -- HYATT
  • "Morphy was probably the greatest genius of them all." -- FISCHER
  • "No price is too great for the scalp of the enemy King." -- KOBLENTZ
  • "There are two types of sacrifices: correct ones and mine." -- TAL
  • "You cannot play at chess if you are kind-hearted." -- FRENCH PROVERB
  • "The life of the American chess master is a `vale of tears'." -- FRIAS
  • "Fame, I have already. Now I need the money." -- an elderly STEINITZ
  • "It's always better to sacrifice your opponent's men." -- TARTAKOVER
  • "An isolated Pawn spreads gloom all over the chessboard." -- TARTAKOVER
  • "The first principle of attack--Don't let the opponent develop!" -- FINE
  • "When you see a good move--wait--look for a better one." -- Em. LASKER
  • "Chess is played with the mind and not with the hands!" -- RENAUD and KAHN
  • "Creating an undesired stalemate is the height of stupidity." -- ANONYMOUS
  • "To avoid losing a piece, many a person has lost the game." -- TARTAKOVER
  • "The blunders are all there on the board, waiting to be made." -- TARTAKOVER
  • "On the chess-board lies and hypocrisy do not survive long." -- Em. LASKER
  • "I think it's almost definite that the game is a draw theoretically." -- FISCHER

In article <473jk9$> writes:
>An excerpt from Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan POE:
" Yet to calculate is not in itself to analyze. A chess-player, for example, does the one without effort at the other. It follows that the game of chess, in its effects upon mental character, is greatly misunderstood. I am not now writing a treatise, but simply prefacing a somewhat peculiar narrative by observations very much at random; I will, therefore, take occasion to assert that the higher powers of the reflective intellect are more decidedly and more usefully tasked by the unostentatious game of draughts than by all the elaborate frivolity of chess. In this latter, where the pieces have different and bizarre motions, with various and variable values, what is only complex is mistaken (a not unusual error) for what is profound. The attention is here called powerfully into play. If it flag for an instant, an oversight is committed, resulting in injury or defeat. The possible moves being not only manifold but involute, the chances of such oversights are multiplied; and in nine cases out of ten it is the more concentrative rather than the more acute player who conquers."
Comment by DR
Quotes on: | Coaching | Life | Play | Players | Openings
Learning to play chess
"Chess rules and exercises - 5 hours
Elementary endings - 5 hours
Some openings - 10 hours
Combination - 20 hours
Positional play - 40 hours
Practical play with analysis - 120 hours

  "Having spent 200 hours on the above, the young player, even if he possesses no special talent for chess, is likely to be among those two or three thousand chessplayers [who play on a par with a master]. There are, however, a quarter of a million chessplayers who annually spend no fewer than 200 hours on chess without making any progress. Without going into any further calculations, I can assert with a high degree of certainty that nowadays we achieve only a fraction of what we are capable of achieving."

-- Em. Lasker, Manual of Chess
(fortissimo) "Have you ever seen a monkey examining a watch?"
-- STEINITZ, impatient with an enquirer.
"We perceive after a careful consideration of the evolution of the chess mind that such evolution has gone on, in general, in a way quite similar to that in which it goes on with the individual chess player, only with the latter more rapidly."
-- Richard RETI
"The delight in gambits is a sign of chess youth... In very much the same way as the young man, on reaching his manhood years, lays aside the Indian stories and stories of adventure, and turns to the psychological novel, we with maturing experience leave off gambit playing and become interested in the less vivacious but withal more forceful manoeuvres of the position player."
-- Emanuel LASKER
"A knowledge of tactics is the foundation of positional play. This is a rule which has stood its test in chess history and one which we cannot impress forcibly enough upon the young chess player. A beginner should avoid Queen's Gambit and French Defence and play open games instead! While he may not win as many games at first, he will in the long run be amply compensated by acquiring a thorough knowledge of the game"
"Mikhail Gromov, the outstanding Soviet pilot, wrote that if one wants to become a good pilot one must learn the art of self-control. These words may apply equally to chess and to every chessplayer."
-- VB Malkin


"Nimzovitch became then for me more or less the author of the only book which could help me get away from these Euwe books, which, I admit, are very good for the ordinary club player. But once you've reached a certain strength you get the impression that everything that Euwe writes is a lie."
-- Bent LARSEN, in KEENE, Nimzowitsch: a reappraisal.

  I still like them! - DrD

"Play your best chess by post..."


"...In some places words have been replaced by symbols which, like amulets from a witch's bag, have the power to consume the living spirit of chess. The notorious "!!" can never approximate the human emotions which accompany an "excellent move" or a "great idea".

 ...Oh, those exclamation points! How they erode the innocent soul of the amateur, removing all hope of allowing him to examine another player's ideas critically!"

"Most commentaries in chess magazines and books are superficial and sometimes just awful. Once a certain experienced master explained to me how he worked. You put two fingers to the page with text on it and see that there are only moves under them - in other words, it is time to make a comment. You write something like "The Ruy Lopez always leads to a tense, complicated struggle" - and your fee goes up by a rouble.

  "The ability to distinguish between real feelings and thoughts and this kind of verbal facade will be of use to you, and not just in chess.

  "Often you will find the opposite situation. The author seems to have interesting ideas, but he is not able to illustrate them with decent examples. If a grandmaster is commenting on one of his own games, then there is usually not any problem: his general thoughts are closely tied up with what is happening on the board. But as soon as he starts writing an article or book on a different theme the difficulties begin, as he may not have suitable material to hand."

-- Dvoretsky
"The word "combination" means different things to different people."
"... I bid farewell to my readers in the hope that they have formed their own opinion as to the meaning of the word "combination"."
-- Ray KEENE, The Chess Combination from Philidor to Karpov
"(3) 'IS IT A SYSTEM...?'
... Ultimately, I suspect, this is a question about which the reader should form his own judgement by study of the original text.
-- Ray KEENE, Aron Nimzowitsch: A reappraisal
On advanced ideas:
"After giving a student the basic mating patterns and strategies you must begin giving them advanced concepts. At first these ideas will not make sense, many players will have a vague idea of what you are talking about but nothing more. Even a fragmented understanding of these concepts will prove useful though, and eventually they will improve as these lessons are assimilated by repetition and example."
-- Jeremy SILMAN, The Amateur's Mind, 1995


"We begin with the hypothesis that any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development. ... (The "spiral curriculum") ... Is it not possible ... to introduce them to some of the major ... ideas earlier, in a spirit perhaps less exact and more intuitive?"
-- Jerome BRUNER, The Process of Education, 1960

  For a contrasting view:

"the spread of secondary and latterly of tertiary education has created a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytic thought".
-- Peter MEDAWAR, The Art of the Soluble
"What distinguishes a Grandmaster from a master? Chess-lovers often ask questions like that. To many people it seems that Grandmasters simply calculate variations a little deeper. Or that they know their opening theory slightly better. But in fact the real difference is something else. You can pick out two essential qualities in which those with higher titles are superior to others: the ability to sense the critical moment in a game, and a finer understanding of various positional problems."
-- Yusupov, in Opening Preparation
" It is often supposed that, apart from their 'extraordinary powers of memory', expert players have phenomenal powers of calculation. The beginner believes that experts can calculate dozens of moves ahead and he will lose to them only because he cannot calculate ahead so far. Yet this is utter nonsense. From my own experience I can say that grandmasters do not do an inordinate amount of calculating. Tests (notably de Groot's experiments) supports me in this claim. If anything, grandmasters often consider fewer alternatives; they tend not to look at as many possible moves as weaker players do. And so, perversely, chess skill often seems to reflect the ability to avoid calculations. It is, in truth, not clear that chess is a game of calculation. Of course there are times when intense calculation is called for, and often the master is better at dealing with these situations than the amateur. No wonder, he has had more practise than the amateur, but all the same his innate calculating ability need not be any greater. Most of the time it is something quite different that is required in chess, something more akin to 'understanding' or 'insight'. "
-- David NORWOOD, Chess and Education
"A lot of the difference between an IM and GM is a seriousness to the game. The GM is willing to go through all this. He's willing to put up with anything. This shows his dedication. One other thing is the GMs superiority in tactics. For example Christiansen can find tactics in any position. If you're a GM you should be able to overpower the IM tactically. The GM will often blow out the IM in this area. "
-- Nick de FIRMIAN, in How To Get Better at Chess : Chess Masters on Their Art by GM Larry Evans, IM Jeremy B Silman and Betty Roberts

EDITORIAL NOTE: This of course contradicts David Norwood's view. While David's opinion is based on research, I think Nick's is the correct one. I have a wonderful proof of this theorem, but unfortunately this page is too small to hold it. - Dr.Dave.

"Games like this [Penrose-Botvinnik] (and there were plenty in this tournament) impressed on me that 'wanting to win' was perhaps more important than 'playing good moves'."
-- KEENE, 'Becoming a Grandmaster'.
"At that age (ten), the odd piece here or there often makes little difference. Rather, ingenuity and the will to win may prove decisive."
-- ZAK, Improve your chess results.
"Combinative vision manifests itself at an early age, and children are quick to notice and execute combinations which chance to turn up. Preparing combinations, however, is more difficult for them."
-- ZAK, Improve your chess results.
"Many players, even of a high calibre, will assert, half jokingly and half seriously, that a difficult labour of analysis can be replaced by intuition. 'I played this move in a flash - it was obvious it couldn't be bad' is the sort of thing we often hear in a post-mortem.
"Criticising such a policy is not simple - not after it has just been successful! [...] Instead of appraising the state of struggle on the basis of precise calculation, Black makes a move, which on general considerations, is wholly in the spirit of the position - a flank attack is countered by a break in the centre. Yet in chess there are no axioms.
-- ZAK, Improve your chess results.
"One of the main aims has been to highlight the differences in appraoch between a Grandmaster and a weaker player, and to try and narrow the gap. To some extent this comes down to technical matters - more accurate analysis, superior opening knowledge, better endgame technique and so forth; but in other respects the difference goes deeper and many readers will find that they need to rethink much of their basic attitude to the game. One example of this would be the tremendous emphasis which is placed on the dynamic use of the pieces, if necessary at the expense of the pawn structure, or even of material. This is no mere question of style; it is a characteristic of the games of all the great players."
-- Peter Griffiths, Introduction to Secrets of Grandmaster Chess.
"Openings teach you openings. Endgames teach you chess!"
-- Stephan Gerzadowicz, US Postal Chess Master
"In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else, for whereas the the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middle game and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame."
-- Jose Raul Capablanca, World Champion 1921-1927

  [More endgame quotes?]

Quotes on: | Chess | Life | Play | Players | Openings
Playing a game of chess
"Chess is 99% tactics"
-- Richard TEICHMANN

  [More Tactics Quotes?]

"Those who say they understand chess, understand nothing"
-- Robert HUBNER
"The most important feature of the chess position is the activity of the pieces. This is absolutely fundamental in all phases of the game (opening, middlegame and especially endgame). The primary constraint on a piece's activity is the Pawn structure."
-- Michael STEAN, in Simple Chess.
"...only the player with the initiative has the right to attack"
-- Wilhelm STEINITZ
"no one ever won a game by resigning"
(Unfortunately origin unknown)
"A good sacrifice is one that is not necessarily sound but leaves your opponent dazed and confused"
-- Rudolph SPIELMANN
Remember Soltis' immortal words:
"Pawns are born free, yet are everywhere in chains..."
-- (Rick Kennedy)
"Modern chess is too much concerned with things like pawn structure. Forget it - checkmate ends the game"
-- Nigel SHORT
"Only a good bishop can be sacrificed, a bad bishop can only be lost."
-- Yuri RAZUVAYEV. Source: Gennady Nesis, Tactical Chess Exchanges, foreword. [via Ari Makela]
"The great master places a Knight at e5; mate follows by itself."

  "Some Knights don't leap - they limp."

  "A chess game is divided into three stages: the first, when you hope you have the advantage, the second when you believe you have an advantage, and the third... when you know you're going to lose!"

-- Savielly Tartakower
"Black is now in desparate need of a good idea. Or, to put it standard chess notation, +-"
-- DVORETSKY and YUSUPOV, Opening Preparation
"Whereas the tactician knows what to do when there is something to do, it requires the strategian to know what to do when there is nothing to do"
-- Gerald ABRAHAMS (this seems to be fairly free translation of one of TARTAKOVER's aphorisms).
"It is not a move, even the best move, that you must seek, but a realisable plan"
I have formulated a rule for myself which I call the principle of the worst piece:
"In positions of strategic manoeuvring (where time is not of decisive importance) seek the worst-placed piece. Activating that piece is often the most reliable way of improving your position as a whole."
-- Mark DVORETSKY & Artur Yusupov, Positional Play [and see below!]
"In the eighteenth century they announced their first rule: "Sortez les pieces" - "Get the pieces out". "It took a hundred years before a new rule was announced. Anderssen, the winner of the first International Tournament, that of London, 1851, said:

  "Move that one of your pieces, which is in the worst plight, unless you can satisfy yourself that you can derive immediate advantage by an attack"

 "A few decades went by [...] the masters evolved a "public opinion":

  Avoid the moves of Pawns in the Opening as far as possible.

  "I have added to these principles the law: Get the Knights into action before both Bishops are developed."

-- LASKER, Manual of Chess (second book)
"A draw can be obtained normally by repeating three moves, but also by one bad move."

"The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake"

" "There are no hopeless positions;
there are only inferior positions that can be saved.

  There are no drawn positions;
there are only equal ones in which you can play for a win.

  But at the same time, don't forget that there is no such thing as a won position
in which it is impossible to lose.

-- Grigory SANAKOEV (via Peter Lane)
36. Ne1?
"Well, well. IM (and correspondence GM) Douglas Bryson once told me that he almost never plays a game that flows smoothly from start to finish; there is always a "moment" of sorts where someone misses a big defensive opportunity or the nature of the position changes more than one might reasonably expect. This was such a "moment"."
-- Jonathan Rowson British Chess Magazine October 1999 p.553
"I wasn't sure what square to take the rook to. Because there were three alternatives (e8, d8 and c8), I decided to go for the middle one."
-- Timman, NIC 1998 No 2. (via Mark Brodie)
" I have also heard that GM Oscar Panno said that -whenever you have to make a rook move and both rooks are available for said move- you should evaluate which rook to move and, once you have made up your mind... MOVE THE OTHER ONE!!! "
"Those chess lovers who ask me how many moves I usually calculate in advance, when making a combination, are always astonished when I reply, quite truthfully, 'as a rule not a single one' "
-- Richard RETI.

[cool blue cat says:]

COOL TIP: What does Reti mean? He was one of the strongest players of his day, but surely grandmasters are superb calculators! Yes, they are, but often they do not need to calculate something from scratch, because they recognise the type of position they are in, and they know what to play in that sort of position. All the calculating has been done before by someone else, and once you are shown how it works, you can use it and apply it in your own games. It's all about recognising and making judgements about patterns, so as you read the notes and ideas elsewhere on these pages, what you should be doing is seeing and remembering patterns. -- Dr. Dave.

"The idea comes before the logical argument."
-- Gerald ABRAHAMS
Good positions don't win games, good moves do.

I've wasted a Black.
[ABRAHAMS, after drawing a game with the Black pieces]

You can retreat pieces... but not pawns. So always think twice about pawn moves.
[Michael STEAN, in Simple Chess]

Open files can be used by both players. The chess player, not being an unselfish advocate of equal opportunity, naturally prefers a one-way system.
[Michael STEAN, in Simple Chess, on half-open files]

all from Peter BALLARD
"The technician, whose vocabulary has been doubled by Dr. Euwe, will find that White could have saved his soul by a desperado combination. Had this failure anything to do with the fact that Dr. Euwe's terminology was not yet existent at that time!?"
-- Reinfeld, to Thomas-Euwe, Carlsbad 1929.

  [The terminology is: Combinations

  • Mating
    • direct mate
    • break-up
    • penetrative
    • lateral
  • open-field
    • for material gain
    • focal-point
    • pinning
    • unmasking
    • overload
    • obstructive
    • desperado
    • cumulative
  • compound
  • endgame
    • forcing
    • advancing
    • promotion
To compare with Reinfeld's observation:
" Muscular dystrophy ... was never seen until Duchenne described it in the 1850s. By 1860, after his original description, many hundreds of cases had been recognised and described, so much so that Charcot said:
'How is it that a disease so common, so widespread, and so recognisable at a glance - a disease which has doubtless always existed - how is it that it is recognised only now? Why did we need M. Duchenne to open our eyes?'
-- Oliver Sachs, in The man who mistook his wife for a hat.
"The scheme of a game is played on positional lines, the decision of it is, as a rule, effected by combinations. This is how Lasker's pronouncement that positional play is the preparation for combinations is to be understood."
-- Richard RETI
"It is the aim of the modern school, not to treat every position according to one general law, but according to the principle inherent in the position."
-- Richard RETI
"On a motif such as was indicated by Reti one cannot build the plan of a whole well contested game; it is too meagre, too thin, too puny for such an end. Reti's explanations, wherever they are concerned with an analysis which covers a few moves, are correct and praiseworthy. But when he abandons the foundations of analysis in order to draw too bold, too general a conclusion, his arguments prove to be mistaken."
-- LASKER, Manual of Chess
(after 1 d4, Nf6; 2 c4, g6; 3 Nf3, Bg7; 4 g3, O-O; 5 Bg2, d6; 6 O-O, c5; 7 Nc3, Nc6; 8 d5, Na5)
"Many are of the opinion that the Knight on QR4(a5) does not participate fully in the struggle, while others hold that, on the contrary, in view of Black's coming Q-side pawn advance and pressure against White's QB4(c4), his position is quite satisfactory. These debates are futile. The important thing is to see clearly what is positive and what is negative in the position of the Knight, and act accordingly when choosing a strategic plan."
"Chess is above all a fight"
-- Emanuel LASKER.
"During a chess competition a chessmaster should be a combination of a beast of prey and a monk."
-- Alexander Alekhin
From: Dan Scoones

Moments when you should sense DANGER in chess:

  1. There has been a change in the pawn structure. Your opponent has 8 and you don't have any.
  2. Your opponent begins to throw pawns at your eyes.
  3. You have a postion won but your opponent has a gun.
  4. The Director tells you not to bother turning in your scoresheet after the game.
  5. Before game begins you notice your opponents 1st initials are 'GM'.
  6. After completing your development you sense your opponent playing the endgame.
  7. Just as you make your opening move your opponent announces mate in 11.
  8. You don't control any squares at all.
  9. Your draw offer sends all the people watching your game into uncontrollable laughter.
  10. Your opponent has 3 bishops.
I don't know the composer of this - anyone?
"Before the endgame, the Gods have placed the middle game. "
-- Siegbert TARRASCH
"Well, hmmm, endgames, yes, they are important, Yaaaaawwwwnnnnn!"
-- Norbert FRIEDRICH
"If you have any doubt what to study, study endgames. Openings teach you openings. Endings teach you chess."
-- Stephan GERZADOWICZ, Thinker's Chess.
"To play with correctness and skill the ends of games, is an important but a very rare accomplishment, expect among the magnates of the game."
-- Howard STAUNTON, The Chess-Players' Handbook 1847 (Plus ca change...)
Quotes on: | Chess | Coaching | Life | Players | Openings
Chess players
"Who is your opponent tonight?"
"Tonight I am playing against the Black pieces"
-- A. RUBINSTEIN (via ilias kastanas)
About the Deeper Blue-Kasparov match (1997):
" I just think we should look at this as a chess match," he said, "between the world's greatest chess player and Garry Kasparov. "
-- Louis GERSTNER, IBM Chairman (via Peter Lane)
" Reti studies mathematics although he is not a dry mathematician; represents Vienna without being Viennese; was born in old Hungary yet he does not know Hungarian; speaks uncommonly rapidly only in order to act all the more maturely and deliberately; and will become the best chessplayer without, however, becoming world champion. "
-- TARTAKOVER, Hypermodern Chess
"When Garri Kasparov wrestles with his conscience, he always wins. It's what he's best at."
-- Dominic LAWSON
"Excellence at chess is one mark of a scheming mind."
-- A. Conan Doyle (in the mouth of Sherlock Holmes)

  from Stanton Nesbit

"Chess, like the tomb, levels all grades of conventional rank and distinction and reserves its high places for the best players."
"It has been said -- and is probably not true -- that every great man has been a chess player. But was there ever a chess player who was also a great man? Of course not and never will be. It is impossible. Great skill at chess is not a mark of greatness of intellect but of a great intellect gone wrong."
"As one by one I mowed them down, my superiority soon became apparent."
-- CAPABLANCA, My Chess Career

  (You could look at that statement as astounding egotism or the simple truth, and either way I guess you'd probably be right. - Timothy Hanke)

"Have you ever seen a chess article without a brilliant example of the author's own play? 'Silly question,' you will say. Quite."
-- Razuvayev, introducing Razuvayev-Bagirov 1982
"As Olafsson showed me, White can win... It's hard to believe. I stayed up all night analysing, finally convicing myself, and, incidentally, learning a lot about Rook and Pawn endings in the process."
When asked, "How many moves do you see ahead?", CAPABLANCA replied:
"One move - the best one." (*)
Similarly, when asked, "How is that you pick better moves than you opponents?", Alekhin responded:
"I'm very glad you asked me that, because, as it happens, there is a very simple answer. I think up my own moves, and I make my opponent think up his."
(*) According to Horowitz + Reinfield's "How to think ahead in Chess" (published in the 1940's I believe), it is attributed to someone who BEAT Capa. - Peter Ballard

  I have also seen it attributed to Tarrasch! - DrD

"Deux fous gagnent toujours, mais trois fous, non!"
-- Alexander Alekhin, on the advantage of the Two Bishops at amateur level
"Style, I've got no style."
-- Anatoly KARPOV.
"Tal doesn't move the pieces by hand; he uses a magic wand."
-- RAGOZIN. Source: J. Hajtun: Selected Chess Games of Mikhail Tal, p. 9.
"Do you realize, Fischer almost never has any bad pieces. He exchanges them, and the bad pieces remain with his opponents. "
-- Yuri BALASHOV. Source: Gennady Nesis, Tactical Chess Exchanges, foreword.

  all via Ari K. Makela,

"My style is somewhere between that of Tal and Petrosian"
[made in all seriousness by RESHEVSKY in Great Chess Upsets]

"Why must I lose to this idiot?"
['Alekhin', says Peter, but I heard it was NIMZOVITCH - DR]

"Winning isn't everything... but losing is nothing"
[MEDNIS, on the importance of fighting for a draw]

In chess, at least, the brave inherit the earth.
[Edmar MEDNIS, commenting on Tal]

Normally we'd draw the curtain here, but I just wanted to see what he'd play next.
[FISCHER, on delaying resignation]

No game was ever won by resigning.

If your opponent offers you a draw, try to work out why he thinks he's worse off.
[Nigel SHORT]

all from Peter BALLARD - Thanks, Peter!
"Later, ... I began to succeed in decisive games. Perhaps because I realised a very simple truth: not only was I worried, but also my opponent."
-- Mikhail TAL
Here are some of the questions and answers to an examination paper in chess that was given some time ago by Dr. TARRASCH. (...)
"Q: What is the object of playing a gambit opening?
A: To acquire a reputation of being a dashing player at the cost of losing a game.

  Q: Account briefly for the popularity of the Queen Pawn Opening in matches of a serious nature.
A: Laziness.

  Q: What is the duty of an umpire where a player wilfully upsets the board?
A: Remove the bottle.

  Q: What exceptional circumstances will justify the stopping of clocks during a tournament game?
A: Strangling a photographer.

-- Chess Review, 1935.
"When it is so freely asserted that Morphy's style was all genius and inspiration ... Morphy possessed that most profound book knowledge of any master of his time, and never introduced a single novelty, whereas since his day the books have had to study the players...

 We may all learn from Morphy and Anderssen how to conduct a King's side attack, and perhaps I myself may not have learnt enough. But if you want to learn how to avoid such an attack, how to keep the balance of the position on the whole board and how to expose the King and invite a complicated attack that cannot be sustained in the long run, then you must go to the modern school for information...

 The progress of age can no more be disputed than Morphy's extraordinary genius."

-- Wilhelm STEINITZ
"The captain was a good chess player, and the games with him were always interesting. Yossarian had stopped playing chess with him because the games were so interesting that they were foolish."
-- Joseph HELLER, Catch-22
"No fool can play chess, and only fools do."
"You may knock your opponent down with the chessboard, but that does not prove that you are the better player."

  (from Marc Lowrance)

From: (John McMenamin)

  Here's my entry to this mess:

"Skeletons of mice are often to be found in coconuts, for it is easier to get in, slim and greedy, than to get out, appeased but fat."
-- Viktor KORCHNOI

I have a quote I would like to share by an average tournament player.

  After 3 dismal rounds, losing to three lower-rated players, he withdraws from the January Swiss. He appears an hour later, I asked him what brings you back. He states:

"I not only lost my shirt at this tournament, but I left my coat as well."
-- David LENHART:
"Henry won fo much at Cheffe of Louis the King's eldest fon, as hee growing into Choller, called him the fonne of a Baftard, and threw the cheffe in his face. Henry takes vp the Cheffe-board, and ftrake Louis with that force as drew bloud."
-- DANIEL's The Collection of the History of England, 1621 (Dan Scoones)

from: The Psychology of the Chess Player -- Reuben FINE (the man who put the 'anal' into analysis)
"Chess is a contest between two men in which there is considerable ego-involvement. In some way it certainly touches upon the conflicts surrounding aggression, homosexuality, masturbation and narcissism which become particularly prominent in the anal-phallic phases of development. From the standpoint of id psychology, Jones' observations can therefore be confirmed, even enlarged upon. Genetically, chess is more often than not taught to the boy by his father, or a father-substitute, and thus becomes a means of working out the son-father rivalry."

So now you know... It's easy to be dismissive of this, but if you don't think there's anything in it, and are not easily offended, then I invite you to look at a few statements quoted in Dominic Lawson's The Inner Game. The most obvious caution against a psychodynamic interpretation of chess is that Short's anal rape fantasies here seem anything but "unconscious" or "repressed"!

> Does anybody know the etymology of skittles?
"Once in a Moscow chess club I saw how two first-category players knocked pieces off the board as they were exchanged, so that the pieces fell onto the floor.
It was as if they were playing skittles and not chess!
-- Think Like A Grandmaster by Alexander KOTOV

Michael Trent,

Quotes on: | Chess | Coaching | Life | Play | Openings
Chess openings
"Nothing excites jaded grandmasters more than a theoretical novelty"
-- Dominic LAWSON
"Never go in against a Sicilian when *death* is on the line!"
-- from The Princess Bride (via Christine Malcom)
"...the initial position is decisive Zugzwang."
-- Jon Speelman, The Observer Sunday 9 June 1996
"After black's reply to 1.e4 with 1..e5 leaves him always trying to get into the game"
-- Howard STAUNTON
"After white's reply to 1.e4 e5 with 2.f4 the game is in its last throes"
-- Howard STAUNTON

  From: (Michuk)
Subject: Re: Best Chess Sayings of them all

...which of course was superceded by the more famous:
"After 1.e2-e4 White's game is in its last throes!"
-- Julius BREYER
All openings are sound below master level.

Choose an opening... which is sound, regardless of fluctuations in current theory.
[HOROWITZ and REINFIELD, in recommending the Sicilian Dragon(!)]

when I'm white I win because I am white, when I'm black I win because I am Bogulyubov"

all from Peter BALLARD
A quote from Richard RETI's Masters of the Chessboard(p 395):
"In general, it can be established that there are two defenses against 1. e4, which make it absolutely impossible for the first player to take any initiative, and which give Black such an even game, without any difficulties at all, that it has now become useless in practice, since these defenses are generally known. They are the Caro-Kann Defense and the variation of the French Game: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4."
Glad that's settled! :-) -- Randy Pals
"I have never in my life played the French Defence, which is the dullest of all openings"
From: arimakel@cc.Helsinki.FI (Ari Kalevi Makela)
"Like us as Black", beg the chess pieces," and you will anyway like us as White"
"Always deploy," says Franklin K. Young, "so that the right oblique can be readily established in case the objective plane remains open or becomes permanently located on the centre or on the King's wing, or that the crochet aligned may readily be established if the objective plane becomes permanently located otherwise than at the extremity of the strategic front."

  If this is somewhat obscure (and I see no reason to believe otherwise), the conclusion it reaches is stated in limpid prose by the same writer:

  "The best initial move for white is 1. P-K4."

-- from Logical Chess by Irving CHERNEV
"I don't know what I am going to play, so how can she know what I am going to play!"
-- GM Arthur Bisguier, commenting on the virtues of opening preparation. (via Rachel Landry)
Quotes on: | Chess | Coaching | Life | Play | Players
Chess and life
"Luzhin, preparing an attack for which it was first necessary to explore a maze of variations, where his every step aroused a perilous echo, begain a long meditation: he needed, it seemed, to make one last prodigious effort and whe would find the secret move leading to victory. Suddenly, something occurred outside his being, a scorching pain - and he let out a loud cry, shaking his hand stung by the flame of a match, which he had lit and forgotten to apply to his cigarette. The pain immediately passed, but in the fiery gap he had seen something unbearably awesome, the full horror of the abysmal depths of chess. He glanced at the chessboard and his brain wilted from hitherto unprecedented weariness. But the chessmen were pitiless, they held and absorbed him. There was horror in this, but in this also was the sole harmony, for what else exists in the world besides chess?"
-- Vladimir NABOKOV, The Defence.
"I find that chess is very useful when travelling alone in Turkey. ...Take yourself to the nearest teahouse. Order a glass of tea, and another or Raki, and set up a chess problem. Within seconds Turks will appear. they won't play chess with you, but it starts a conversation.

 "I did this once and someone asked, "Can I practise my English with you?" His first question was: "How many princesses have you slept with?" So now you see the point of chess."

-- Bryan SEWELL
"At that time two opposing concepts of the Game called forth commentary and discussion. The foremost players distinguished two principal types of Game, the formal and the psychological."
-- Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game
"If chess is a science, it's a most inexact one. If chess is an art, it's too exacting to be seen as one. If chess is a sport, it's too aesoteric. If chess is a game, it's too demanding to be *just* a game. If chess is a mistress, she's a demanding one. If chess is a passion, it's a rewarding one. If chess is life, it's a sad one. "
-- pinched from http://freedom.NMSU.Edu/~jdenman/
(another personal favourite)
" A combination composed of a sacrifice has more immediate effect upon the person playing over the game in which it occurs than another combination, because the apparent senselessness of the sacrifice is convincing proof of the design of the player offering it. Hence it comes that the risk of material, and the victory of the weaker material over the stronger material, gives the impression of a symbol of the mastery of mind over matter.

  Now we see wherein lies the pleasure to be derived from a chess combination. It lies in the feeling that a human mind is behind the game dominating the inanimate pieces with which the game is carried on, and giving them the breath of life. We may regard it as an intellectual delight, equal to that afforded us by the knowledge that behind so many apparently disconnected and seemingly chance happenings in the physical world lies the one great ruling spirit - the law of Nature. "

-- Richard RETI, Modern Ideas in Chess.
"The chess-board is the world,
the pieces are the phenomena of the Universe,
the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature,
The player on the other side is hidden from us.
-- Thomas HUXLEY (1825-1895).

This issue's Colemanballs selection:

"Football today, it's like a game of chess. It's all about money."
(R. Webb)
"A discussion between the top management of the firm Audi and grandmasters Darga, Schmid and Pfleger dealt with the similarities and differences between chess-oriented thinking and the thinking processes required in business, and in particular whether one can benefit from the other. The question arose as to how a chess master actually discovers his moves. Dr. Pfleger was of the opinion that in the last analysis nobody fully knows the reasoning by which he arrives at a certain move. Schmid disagreed emphatically, stating that he knew very well why he played his moves!"
-- PFLEGER and TREPPNER, Chess: the mechanics of the mind
The King himself is haughtie care,
Which ouerlooketh all his men,
And when he seeth how they fare,
He steps among them now and then,
Whom when his foe presumes to checke,
His seruants stand, to giue the necke.

The Queene is queint, and quicke conceit,
Which makes her walke which way she list,
Ans rootes them up, that lie in wait,
To worke hir treason ere she wist:
Hir force is such against her foes,
That whom she meets, she ouerthrowes...

The Rookes poore Pawnes, are sillie swaines,
Which seldom serue, except by hap,
and yet those Pawns, can lay their traines,
To catch a great man, in a trap:
So that I see, sometime a groome
May not be spared from his roome.

The Knight is knowledge how to fight
against his Princes enimies,
He neuer makes his walke outright,
But leaps and skips, in wilie wise,
To take by sleight a traitrous foe,
Might slilie seek their ouerthrowe.

The Bishop he is wittie braine,
That chooseth crossest pathes to pace,
And euermore he pries with paine,
To see who seekes him most disgrace:
Such straglers when he findes astaie,
He takes them up, and throws awaie.

The Rookes are reason on both sides,
Which keepe the corner houses still,
And warily stand to watch their tides,
By secret art to worke thier will,
To take sometime a theefe unseen,
Might mischiefe mean to King or Queene.

-- Nicholas BRETON (1542-1626), The Chesse Play.
"O life, what art thou? Life seldom answers this question. But her silence is of little consequence, for schoolmasters and other men of good will are well-qualified to answer for her. She is, they inform us, a game. Which game? Bagatelle? No, life is serious, so not bagatelle, but any game that -- er -- is not a game of chance; not Baccarat, but Chess; or, in moderation, Bridge; yes, or better still Football with its goals and healthy open-air atmosphere and its esprit de corps;...

 "Let is therefore turn to games of skill, and in the first place to Chess."

 "I play the Evans.

 "The invention of a naval officer, the Evans Gambit is noted for its liquidity. A heavy current rapidly sets in from the South-West and laps agains the foundations of Black's King's Bishop's Pawn. The whole surface of the board breaks into whirlpools. But sooner or later out of this marine display there rises a familiar corpse. It is mine. Oh, what have I been doing, what have I been doing? The usual thing. Premature attack, followed by timidity. Oh, why didn't I move out my Rook's Pawn? Because as always I was misled by superficial emotion. No, not as always. It must be that the Evans doesn't suit my style. Hence-forward I play Old Stodge.

 "I do so. There is nothing liquid about Old Stodge. He smacks of the soil. On either side runs a dreary ridge of Knights and Bishops. Between them is a plain (whence the term of Giuoco Piano) where the Pawns butt one another like rams. The powers of earth move slowly to the shock, then topple over with alternate and uninspiring thuds. It's supposed to be an exchange. But when the lines of the new landscape emerge from the dust, what familiar corpse is disclosed? Mine. Oh, what have I been doing? The usual thing. My character has come out. If I go down to the depths of the sea it is there, if I seek the heart of the hills it is there also. Chess, which severely eliminates accident, is a forcing house where the fruits of character can ripen more fully than in life. In Life we can always blame the unknowable for our failures, wave the hand to some horizon, shake the fist at some star. But surely when we make the same mistakes in the Evans, Old Stodge, the choice of a tie, a row in the office and a love affair, the same defect must be to blame -- character; for which, the men of goodwill hasten to remind us, we are entirely and eternally responsible.

"Since there are two elements, in life, the uncontrollable and that which we are supposed to control; and since games of chance exaggerate the former and chess the latter -- what game reflects their actual proportion?"

-- E.M.FORSTER, Abinger Harvest, a collection of essays.
"There are two classes of men; those who are content to yield to circumstances and who play whist; those who aim to control circumstances, and who play chess."
-- Mortimer COLLINS.
"'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
Rendered into English Verse by Edward Fitzgerald, First Edition
"Impotent Pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days;
Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
-- Fifth edition,

 There are other editions, and other translations, but none, I think, on the Web.

"She hung up and I set out the chess board. I filled a pipe, paraded the chessmen and inspected them for French shaves and loose buttons, and played a championship tournament game between Gortchakoff and Meninkin, seventy-two moves to a draw, a prize specimen of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, a battle without armour, a war without blood, and as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you could find anywhere outside an advertising agency."
-- Raymond CHANDLER, The Long Goodbye, Chapter 24, final sentences.
"It was night. I went home and put my old house clothes on and set the chessmen out and mixed a drink and played over another Capablanca. It went fifty-nine moves. Beautiful, cold, remorseless chess, almost creepy in its silent implacability.

When it was done I listened at the open window for a while and smelled the night. Then I carried my glass out to the sink sipping it and looking at my face in the mirror.

'You and Capablanca,' I said."

-- Raymond CHANDLER, The High Window, final sentences.
Quotes on: | Chess in general | Coaching | Play | Players | Openings
XXX Note: By the way, I.M. George is distinguished local player! Ian isn't actually an IM but he won the West of England Championship last year (1995).

Chess Quotes

Chess and life
"Luzhin, preparing an attack for which it was first necessary to explore a maze of variations, where his every step aroused a perilous echo, begain a long meditation: he needed, it seemed, to make one last prodigious effort and whe would find the secret move leading to victory. Suddenly, something occurred outside his being, a scorching pain - and he let out a loud cry, shaking his hand stung by the flame of a match, which he had lit and forgotten to apply to his cigarette.
— Vladimir NABOKOV, The Defence.