Checkered Tales: 50 Intriguing Facts and Events from Chess History

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1 Illusionary Chess Machine

Illusionary Chess Machine

The Mechanical Turk, an illusionary chess-playing machine, deceived observers across Europe and the Americas for 84 years, from its inception in 1770 until its destruction by fire in 1854. Operated by a hidden human chess master within the machine, the Turk gave the impression of autonomous chess play.


2. A unique occurrence in chess history transpired in 1975 when Tony Miles and Stewart Reuben mutually agreed to a draw without making any moves, resulting in a rare 0-0 outcome instead of the typical 1-0, 0-1, or ½-½. The arbiter, faced with this unprecedented scenario, opted to award 0 points to each player rather than declare a draw.


3. One of the greatest chess players of all time, Bobby Fischer, faced an arrest warrant from the United States in 1992 for breaking international sanctions by taking part in a match in Yugoslavia. This event marked his final competitive match, as he never returned to the US thereafter.


4. International chess master Robert Wade sought to advance his career in 1951 by engaging in simultaneous chess matches against 30 Russian schoolchildren. Ultimately, he managed to draw with 10 of them but succumbed to defeat against the remaining 20, earning him the dubious distinction of the worst simultaneous chess performance on record.


5. In 1997, the supercomputer Deep Blue made a move against chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov that defied conventional wisdom, potentially unsettling him and contributing to his loss in the match. Subsequently, it was revealed that a bug had caused the computer to make the move randomly.


6 Polgár’s Chess Prodigy Experiment

Polgár's Chess Prodigy Experiment

Psychologist László Polgár theorized that early training could mold any child into a genius in their chosen field. As an experiment, he commenced training his daughters in chess from the age of 4. All three daughters blossomed into chess prodigies, with the youngest, Judit, widely considered the best female player in chess history.


7. The chess piece known as the “queen” was originally the “advisor,” limited to moving one square diagonally. The transformation of this piece into the powerful queen we recognize today occurred during the 15th century in Europe, coinciding with the rise of female monarchs.


8. Prior to the advent of the Internet, chess enthusiasts engaged in long-distance matches by exchanging moves via postcards. Players from around the globe took turns describing their moves on postcards, thereby participating in matches spanning vast distances.


9. Hollywood icon Humphrey Bogart indulged his passion for chess by engaging in correspondence games with soldiers stationed overseas during World War II. However, in 1943, the FBI intervened, instructing him to cease this activity after intercepting his mail and mistaking the chess notations for coded messages.


10. In 2022, a chess robot in Moscow caused controversy when it injured the finger of its 7-year-old human opponent. The incident occurred after the boy made a rapid move without waiting for the robot to complete its turn.


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11 Kasparov vs. Polgár’s Chess Match

Kasparov vs. Polgár's Chess Match

Former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov infamously belittled Hungarian female chess player Judit Polgár, referring to her as a “circus puppet” and suggesting that women in chess should focus on motherhood. Later, Polgár went on to defeat Kasparov in the Russia versus the Rest of the World Match in September 2002.


12. The origins of modern chess can be traced back to ancient India, where a precursor to the game was first invented.


13. In the Indian village of Marottichal, villagers turned to chess as a substitute for alcohol following a ban on drinking. This shift led to the village’s transformation into the renowned “Chess Village,” boasting nearly 100% chess literacy among its residents.


14. Singularity Chess is a variant of the traditional game played on a board with a distorted center. This distortion allows for unique gameplay mechanics, such as pieces making U-turns, attacking the same square multiple ways, and bishops changing square colors.


15. As of January 2021, no human player has defeated a computer opponent in a chess tournament for over 15 years.


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16 Go vs. Chess Computers

Go vs. Chess Computers

In contrast to chess, professional Go players consistently outperform the best computer programs in the game.


17. En Passant is a rule in chess that permits a player to capture an opponent’s pawn that has moved two squares from its starting position as if it had only advanced one square.


18. Church’s Fried Chicken played a significant role in supporting chess during the 1970s. The San Antonio Church’s Fried Chicken Inc. 1st International Chess Tournament, held in 1972, is regarded as one of the most significant chess events in American history.


19. In 1973, law enforcement officers raided a chess tournament in Cleveland, arresting the tournament director and confiscating chess sets. The charges included allegations of gambling, as cash prizes were awarded to winners, and possession of gambling devices (the chess sets).


20. Supercomputers possess the capability to solve every chess ending involving seven pieces or fewer, irrespective of position, composition of remaining pieces, or potential moves. This vast database of information, known as the endgame tablebase, currently amounts to 18.4 terabytes in size.


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21 Kasparov vs. “The World” Chess Game

Kasparov vs.

In 1999, chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov engaged in an extraordinary match against “The World,” lasting over four months. More than 50,000 participants from over 75 countries made moves through a majority vote. Kasparov emerged victorious on the 62nd turn when 51% of “The World” opted to resign.


22. Chess Grandmaster Ossip Bernstein faced a life-threatening situation when he was arrested by the Bolshevik secret police and ordered to be executed. However, upon discovering his identity as a renowned chess master, an officer challenged Bernstein to a game for his life. Bernstein won easily and secured his release.


23. In 1993, a schism rocked the chess community as a response to perceived corruption within the International Chess Federation. This led to the formation of the Professional Chess Association, resulting in a period with two disputed world champions in chess.


24. The late actor Heath Ledger showcased his intellect beyond the screen, winning Western Australia’s junior chess championship at the tender age of 10.


25. It is indeed possible to achieve checkmate in chess within just two moves, known as “Fool’s Mate” or “Two-Move Checkmate.”


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