Some Cool & Interesting Things About Chess

The Queen's Gambit Craze

By now most people have seen Queen's Gambit on Netflix. The overwhelming success of the show spurred a huge demand for all things chess. Anya Taylow-Joy plays an entirely compelling and captivating young chess prodigy, who plays an orphan and is discovered by a janitor at the girls' dormitory where she was placed as a young girl. That Christmas, after the show came out, there wasn't a single chess board to be had within 100 miles of Coombs, BC. In fact, it is still difficult to buy a chess board anywhere. I've always got my eyes peeled for old chess sets – especially stone or crystal pieces and boards, old wood chess boards and the like.

A Few Interesting Facts About Chess

The original folding Chess board that most of us are familiar with today, was originally created in 1125 by a Chess-playing priest, who was vexed by the Church, which forbade priests to play the game. This precarious arrangement inspired him to create a collapsible board that he could hide in plain sight, by making it look as though it were simply two books lying together... The history of the game, as gentle a pasttime as it may seem, is fraught and adorned with many interesting facts, which could themselves also be made into popular Netflix production if someone were of a mind.

One of the earliest authentic European chess pieces are the Isle of Lewis chess pieces, which are now in the British Museum and the National Museum of Antiquites in Edinburgh.

  • One of the earliest authentic European chess pieces are the Isle of Lewis chess pieces, which are now in the British Museum and the National Museum of Antiquites in Edinburgh.

  • The ominous battle cry “Checkmate” in Chess actually originates from a Persian phrase - “Shah Mat,” aka, “the King is dead.”

  • During the 1973 Anglo-Dutch chess match involving one Jan Donner (1927-1988), Donner was chain smoking through the entire match and eventually filled a large Bakelite ashtray with discarded cigarette butts. The large pile of ash and cigarette butts, after many hours of play and numerous packs of cigarettes, the putrid pile burst into flame and the Bakelite ashtray split in half. The players remained entranced and transfixed upon the intense game which also still lay before them. Eventually his opponent, Ray Keene, snatched Donner’s coffee and emptied it upon the offending flagration. With the fire out and the fuss over, the two assessed the situation with admirable congeniality and decided to shake on a draw and left the table there in all its poetic brilliance. Hopefully someone got a photograph.

  • Police once raided a Chess Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1973, and confiscated all the Chess sets. The director was arrested on charges of allowing gambling (cash prizes to winners) and possession of gambling devices (the Chess sets). Go figure.

  • From the starting position, there are eight different ways to Mate in two moves and 355 different ways to Mate in three moves.

  • The first Chessboard with alternating dark and light squares showed up in Europe in the year 1090.

  • During the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match in Rekjavik, the Russians linked Spassky’s erratic play with Fischer’s chair. The Icelandic organization put a 24-hour Police guard around the chair while chemical and x-ray tests were performed on the chair. Nothing unusual was found.

  • The worst performance by a player was Macleod of Canada who lost 31 games in the New York double-round robin of 1889.

  • Rookies or, players in their first year, are named after the Rook in Chess. Rooks generally are the last pieces to be moved into action, and the same goes for Rookies.

  • Blindfold chess is an impressive skill that many stronger chess players possess. IThe record was set in 1960 in Budapest by Hungarian Janos Flesch, who played 52 opponents simultaneously while blindfolded – he won 31 of those games. Epic visualization and recall skills.

  • Some people formerly played chess using a a dice o decide which piece to move. There was an unproven theory that chess started as this dice-chess and that the gambling and dice aspects of the game were removed because of Hindu religious objections.

  • Precursors to chess originated in India. There, its early form in the 7th century CE was known as chaturaṅga, which translates to "four divisions (of the military)":infantry, cavalry, elephantry, and chariotry. These forms are represented by the pieces that would evolve into the modern pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively.

  • In July 2002, an ivory piece less than 2 inches in size was discovered in Butrint, an ancient Mediterranean city in southern Albania. The piece is dated to 465 AD. If this is really a chess piece, then it is the oldest chess piece found anywhere in the world. It even pushes back the date of chess. The piece has a cross on top of it and was found in an old Byzantine or Roman palace.

  • One of the earliest authentic European chess pieces are the Isle of Lewis chess pieces, which are now in the British Museum and the National Museum of Antiquites in Edinburgh. Sixty-seven Isle of Lewis chess pieces are in the British Musueum, the other 11 in the National Musueum. The pieces come from four different chess sets. The Isle of Lewis chess sets contains the oldest known ecclesiastical bishop.

  • The Isle of Lewis chess pieces were found in March, 1831 in an underground chamber on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis (Uig Bay) in the Outer Hebrides islands of Scotland. A local peasant, Calum nan Sprot, who was looking for his cow found a small chamber 15 feet below the top of a sandbank that had been partly washed away. The chess pieces, perhaps made in 1150 by the Norse, were made of walrus tusk and believed to be of Icelandic in origin. The shepherd was terrified by the expressions on the pieces and fled from the spot. He told his minister, Alexander MacLeod, who returned to the sight and exorcised the site, then sold the pieces (67 chessment and 14 plain draughtsmen) to the British Museum for 84 British pounds.

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