The nature of chess

Chess is a sea in which a gnat may drink and an elephant may bathe.
-- Indian Proverb

Chess is a game of quiet intensity.
-- Ralph Hall

Chess is war over the board. The object is to crush the opponent’s mind.
-- Bobby Fischer

Chess is a beautiful mistress.
-- Bent Larsen

Chess is a good mistress but a bad master.
-- Gerald Abrahams

Chess is as much a mystery as women.
-- C.J.S. Purdy

Chess is beautiful enough to waste your life for.
-- Hans Ree

Chess is life.
-- Bobby Fischer

Chess is like life.
-- Boris Spassky

Chess is the art of human reason.
-- Gustavus Selenius

Chess is the art of analysis.
-- Mikhail Botvinnik

Chess is the art which expresses the beauty of logic.
-- Mikhail Botvinnik

Chess is in its essence a game, in its form an art, and in its execution a science.
-- Baron Tassilo

Chess is eminently and emphatically the philosopher's game.
-- Paul Morphy

Chess is the touchstone of intellect.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Chess is everything - art, science, and sport.
-- Anatoly Karpov

Chess is too difficult to be a game and not serious enough to be a science or an art.
-- Napoleon Bonaparte

Chess is 99% tactics.
-- Richard Teichmann

Chess is really 99% calculation.
-- Andrew Soltis

The chessboard 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

‘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

Life is a kind of chess.
-- Benjamin Franklin

If Chess is a science, it's a most inexact one. If Chess is an art, it is too exacting to be seen as one. If Chess is a sport, it's too esoteric. 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.
-- Unknown

There are two classes of men; those who are content to yield to circumstances and who play whist (bridge); those who aim to control circumstances, and who play chess.
-- Mortimer Collins

When the chess game is over, the pawn and the king go back to the same box.
-- Irish or Italian proverb

Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy.
-- Siegbert Tarrasch

What it takes to play chess well

Chess is ludicrously difficult.
-- Stephen Fry

Chess is the struggle against error.
-- Johannes Zukertort

The blunders are all there on the board, waiting to be made.
-- Savielly Tartakover

Chess is a fairy tale of 1001 blunders.
-- Savielly Tartakover

One bad move nullifies forty good ones.
-- I.A. Horowitz

All I want to do, ever, is to play chess.
-- Bobby Fischer

The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake.
-- Savielly Tartakover

A good player is always lucky.
-- Jose Raul Capablanca

Chess is a game for strong people with strong character.
-- Mikhail Botvinnik

Chess is not for timid souls.
-- Wilhelm Steinitz

Chess is above all a fight.
-- Emanuel Lasker

No one ever won a game by resigning.
-- Unknown

You cannot play chess if you are kind-hearted.
-- French Proverb

On the chess board, lies and hypocrisy do not survive long.
-- Emanuel Lasker

Thou shalt not shilly-shally!
-- Aron Nimzovich

Chess is to the mind what physical exercise is to the body.
-- Kelly Atkins

Methodical thinking is of more use in chess than inspiration.
-- C.J.S.Purdy

Chess mastery essentially consists of analysing chess positions accurately.
-- Mikhail Botvinnik

The combination player thinks forward; he starts from the given position, and tries the forceful moves in his mind.
-- Emanuel Lasker

If the student forces himself to examine all moves that smite, however absurd they may look at first glance, he is well on the way to becoming a master of tactics.
-- C.J.S.Purdy

Examine moves that smite! A good eye for smites is far more important than a knowledge of strategical principles.
-- C.J.S.Purdy

The scheme of a game is played on positional lines; the decision of it, as a rule, is effected by combinations.
-- Richard Reti

Strategy requires thought; tactics require observation.
-- Max Euwe

Those who say they understand chess, understand nothing.
-- Robert Heubner

Half the variations which are calculated in a tournament game turn out to be completely superfluous. Unfortunately, no one knows in advance which half.
-- Jan Timman

Excellence at chess is one mark of a scheming mind.
-- Arthur Conan Doyle

During a chess competition a chess master should be a combination of a beast of prey and a monk.
-- Alexander Alekhine


When I’m white, I win because I’m white. When I’m black, I win because I am Bogolyubov.
-- Efim Bogolyubov

I just think we should look at this as a chess match between the world’s greatest chess player and Garry Kasparov.
-- Louis Gerstner, chairman of IBM and the team that produced Deeper Blue

Only sissies castle.
-- Rob Sillars

Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!
-- Vizzini in The Princess Bride

Room for improvement

Every chess master was once a beginner.
-- Irving Chernev

You need not play well, just help your opponent to play badly.
-- Genrikh Chepukaitis

One doesn’t have to play well. It’s enough to play better than your opponent.
-- Siegbert Tarrasch

There are two types of sacrifices: correct ones and mine.
-- Mikhail Tal

Why must I lose to this idiot?
-- Aron Nimzowitsch

Moments when you should sense danger in chess:

There has been a change in the pawn structure. Your opponent has 8 and you don’t have any.
Your opponent begins to throw pawns at your eyes.
You have a won position, but your opponent has a gun.
The Director tells you not to bother turning in your scoresheet after the game.
Before the game begins you notice your opponent’s initials are ‘GM’.
After completing your development you sense your opponent is playing the endgame.
Just as you make your opening move your opponent announces mate in 11.
You don’t control any squares at all.
Your draw offer sends all the people watching your game into uncontrollable laughter.
Your opponent has 3 bishops.

I hate chess

Chess is a sad waste of brains.
-- Sir Walter Scott

Chess is a foolish expedient for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever, when they are only wasting their time.
-- George Bernard Shaw

Chess is as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you could find anywhere outside an advertising agency.
-- Raymond Chandler

Chess is not a game but a disease.
-- Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman

There is no remorse like the remorse of chess. It is a curse upon man.
-- H.G. Wells

When I was a heavy smoker I would get upset when I lost a game. Now that I no longer smoke, I get very upset when I lose a game
-- Anatoly Lein

Great skill at chess is not a mark of greatness of intellect but of a great intellect gone wrong.
-- New York Morning Telegraph

Chess is one long regret.
-- Stephen Leacock

Life is too short for chess.
-- Henry Byron

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

Chess is mental torture.
-- Garry Kasparov

ANDY: Chess, now there’s a game of kings. Civilized, strategic…
RED: …and a total f***in’ mystery. I hate it.
-- The Shawshank Redemption


The pawn is the soul of chess.
-- Francois-Andre Danican Philidor

The passed pawn has a lust to expand.
-- Aron Nimzowitsch

Passed pawns must be pushed.
-- Edmar Mednis or Irving Chernev

A far advanced pawn can throw the enemy game into disorder.
-- Siegbert Tarrasch

An isolated pawn spreads gloom all over the chessboard.
-- Savielly Tartakover

He who fears an isolated queen’s pawn should give up chess.
-- Siegbert Tarrasch

An outside passed pawn spreads fear in the enemy camp.
-- John W. Collins

Pure pawn endings are the easiest endings to win.
-- Reuben Fine

Pawn endings are to chess what putting is to golf.
-- C.J.S. Purdy

It is well known that two pawns on the sixth rank are stronger than a Rook.
-- J. Du Mont

COMMENTATOR: As Reuben Fine said, “I’d rather have a pawn than a finger.”
ROMAN DZINDZICHASHVILI: It all depends: which pawn and which finger.

You can retreat pieces…but not pawns. So always think twice about pawn moves.
-- Michael Stean

Pawns are born free, yet are everywhere in chains.
-- Andrew Soltis perverting a Rousseau quote


Bishops move diagonally. That's why they often turn up where the kings don't expect them to be.
-- Small Gods arc of Discworld by Terry Pratchett

The superiority of the Bishop over the Knight is most evident when there are pawns on both sides of the board.
-- John W. Collins

Only a good bishop can be sacrificed, a bad bishop can only be lost.
-- Yuri Razuvayev

A knight on the rim is dim.
-- Unknown

It's the horsey-shape piece that moves in an L shape. It's what makes chess complicated, and why stupid people can't play chess. Go play checkers! Knights are the first piece you look at. They elevate the game. No chess master wants to lose her knights.
-- Courtney Love

Whenever you have to make a rook move and both rooks are available, you should evaluate which rook to move and, once you have made up your mind…move the other one!
-- Oscar Panno

The most important feature of the chess position is the activity of the pieces. The primary constraint upon a piece’s activity is the pawn structure.
-- Michael Stean

The defensive power of a pinned piece is only imaginary.
-- Aron Nimzovich

Bad players like to play with their 'pretty' pieces. It is the mark of good players that they won't go on an adventure before they solve the problem of their bad pieces.
-- GM Jesse Kraai

Openings, Middlegames, Endgames

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 Tartakover

All openings are sound below master level.
-- William Lombardy

Good offense and good defense both begin with good development.
-- Bruce Moon

Before the endgame, the Gods have placed the middle game.
-- Siegbert Tarrasch

Play the opening like a book, the middlegame like a magician, and the endgame like a machine.
-- Rudolph Spielmann

The hardest part of chess is winning a won game.
-- Frank Marshall

No price is too great for the scalp of the enemy king.
-- Koblentz

To avoid losing a piece, many a person has lost the game.
-- Savielly Tartakover

The middlegame I repeat is chess itself; chess with all its possibilities, its attacks, defences, sacrifices, etc.
-- Eugene Znosko-Borovsky

The first principle of attack: Don’t let the opponent develop!
-- Reuben Fine

Creating an undesired stalemate is the height of stupidity.
-- Anonymous

Only the player with the initiative has the right to attack.
-- Wilhelm Steinitz

Tactics flow from a superior position.
-- Bobby Fischer

It’s always better to sacrifice your opponent’s men.
-- Savielly Tartakover

Castle early and often.
-- Rob Sillars


I became confused of all the bad moves my opponent made, and that’s the reason I lost the game.
-- Nils Schjelderup

I have never had the satisfaction of beating a completely healthy opponent.
-- Amos Burn or Henry Bird

Analysis: irrefutable proof that you could have won a game that you lost.
-- Samuel Boden

The player who plays best in a tournament never wins first. He finishes second behind the guy with the most luck.
-- Savielly Tartakover

There just isn’t enough televised chess.
-- David Letterman

Good Moves

The beauty of a chess move lies not in its appearance, but in the thought behind it.
-- Siegbert Tarrasch

All that matters on the chessboard is good moves.
-- Bobby Fischer

When you see a good move, sit on your hands and see if you can find a better one.
-- Siegbert Tarrasch

When you see a good move—wait—look for a better one.
-- Emanuel Lasker

I don’t believe in psychology. I believe in good moves.
-- Bobby Fischer

How many moves do you look ahead?

One move – the best one.
-- Jose Raul Capablanca

I look one move ahead…the best.
-- Siegbert Tarrasch

How is it that you pick better moves than your opponents?

Alexander Alekhine replied, “I think up my own moves, and I make my opponent think up his.”

When in doubt in what to move, improve your worst pieces.
-- NM Corey Russell

A sacrifice is best refuted by accepting it.
-- Wilhelm Steinitz

The threat is stronger than the execution.
-- Aron Nimzowitsch

Aron Nimzowitsch complained that his opponent had an unlit cigar next to the chessboard. When the director pointed out that he was not in fact smoking, Nimzowitsch replied, “Yes, but he is threatening to smoke and any fool knows that the threat is stronger than the execution!

Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do; strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.
-- Savielly Tartakover

There are only two main principles in chess: safety and activity.
-- Dan Heisman

Discovered check is the dive-bomber of the chessboard.
-- Reuben Fine

The great master places a knight at K5(e5); checkmate follows by itself.
-- Savielly Tartakover

First restrain, next blockade, lastly destroy.
-- Aron Nimzowitsch

A bad plan is better than none at all.
-- Frank Marshall

Even a poor plan is better than no plan at all.
-- Mikhail Chigorin

It is not a move, even the best move, that you must seek, but a realisable plan.
-- Eugene Znosko-Borovsky

The seeds of defeat lie in a cramped position.
-- Siegbert Tarrasch

The pin is mightier than the sword.
-- Fred Reinfeld

In the perfect chess combination as in a first-rate short story, the whole plot and counter-plot should lead up to a striking finale, the interest not being allayed until the very last moment.
-- Yates and Winter