For Pondering

Edward Winter

Since January 2024 the main C.N. page has highlighted a documented quote, changes being made more or less daily. Here we bring together all past citations.


January 2024:

Give the source of a quote if it is known. If it is not known, do not give the quote.

Source: C.N. 8651.

‘Chess – even among masters and near-masters – is a lottery. The only difference between it and a real lottery is that at our game there are as many winners as losers.’

Source: W. Heidenfeld, Chess Springbok (Cape Town, 1955), page 39. See C.N. 10481.

‘Book openings are to a great extent ignored by good players. The stronger the players, the more the book openings are discarded.’

Source: Interview with J.H. Zukertort on page 8 of the St Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, 29 December 1883. See C.N. 9864.

‘The greatest difficulty of the game is to play it as well as one knows how.’

Source: W.E. Napier, item 243 in Napier’s Amenities and Background of Chess-Play.

‘We believe that his strength is his weakness; he plays such bizarre openings and such complicated games that very often he is just as much puzzled as his opponent, if not more so, as to the best course to follow.’

Source: J.R. Capablanca on Nimzowitsch, on page 1 of the New York Times (Sports Section), 16 February 1927.

‘You cannot make a move better than it is by wishful thinking, or by admiration for the spirit in which it is played. Otherwise we could all be Tals.’

Source: G. Botterill, August 1975 BCM, page 347.

‘The player who completes his development first is said to have the initiative, because he is thus able to start making blunders while his opponent is still occupied in bringing out his men.’

Source: page 14 of “Among These Mates” by Chielamangus, the pseudonym of C.J.S. Purdy, (Sydney, 1939). [Modernized option: ‘The player who completes his or her development first is said to have the initiative, because he or she is thus able to start making blunders while his or her opponent is still occupied in bringing out his or her men or women.’]

‘The victor of Hastings, the pathfinder in the thickest of chess theory, gifted with pleasant and lovable traits, a source of pleasure and joy and a teacher for thousands, he should not have been suffered to be without the comforts that make work easy and keep health intact. Instead he was made to work hard, he had to spend the valuable matter of his brain in many “entertainments” lasting six to ten hours in order to earn a barely sufficient livelihood.’

Source: Em. Lasker on H.N. Pillsbury, in an obituary on pages 25-27 of Lasker’s Chess Magazine, May 1906.

An observation by us on how writers should work:

When they know, they explain why they know. When they are uncertain, they explain why they are uncertain. When they do not know, they either say that they do not know or they say nothing. That is honest writing which treats the reader with respect, and there is no other kind worth doing.

Source: C.N. 8222.

‘A game consists essentially of a quest, a con-quest and an in-quest.’

Source: D.J. Morgan, BCM, January 1955, page 32.

‘We regret we find it difficult to work up any interest in scores of games, or bits of scores, which carry no clue of any kind as to source. Please give the who’s who, where’s where, and when’s when.’

Source: D.J. Morgan, BCM, April 1958, page 101.

‘We read again that the King’s Gambit is dead. It never quite recovered from its previous deaths.’

Source: D.J. Morgan, BCM, August 1970, page 226.

‘We read that So-and-so is a young player to be watched. We could name one or two older ones who should be kept under observation.’

Source: D.J. Morgan, BCM, December 1976, page 568.

‘A chess optimist is one who thinks he will never do anything as stupid again.’

Source: D.J. Morgan, BCM, November 1975, page 509.

‘Chess is a game for the salon no less than for the saloon.’

Source: D.J. Morgan, BCM, July 1955, page 210.

‘There is, of course, no such thing as “the best opening”. Beginners, we have always felt, are best started on the Giuoco Piano. With established players it largely becomes a question of temperament. Some day we may have a book where openings will be divided into the phlegmatic, the choleric, the stoic, the mercuric, the ecstatic, the pacific, the philosophic, etc., etc.’

Source: D.J. Morgan, BCM, July 1954, page 223.

‘The quip about Gossip pottering and Potter gossiping at a club is a pretty old one (W.N. Potter, 1840-1895). In chess it seems that longevity is the soul of wit.’

Source: D.J. Morgan, BCM, July 1959, page 185.

‘There can be nothing more satisfying than teaching the game to young players, nothing more delusive than to look deliberately for world champions. For every youngster with a spark of genius there are plenty with ignition trouble.’

Source: D.J. Morgan, BCM, November 1956, page 310.

‘“The squares on a chessboard are all equal”, says a new guide to the game. We shall just go on playing as if the discovery had not been made.’

Source: D.J. Morgan, BCM, June 1974, page 204.

‘Work through all the traps you can. But don’t forget, it is not enough to learn all the tricks of the trade – you must learn the trade.’

Source: D.J. Morgan, BCM, July 1964, page 213.

‘... the art of chess may be called the most tragic of all arts, because the chess artist, in a measure, is dependent on an element outside the scope of his power; that element is the hostile co-workers who through carelessness constantly threaten to wreck a flawless mental edifice.’

Source: A. Alekhine, New York Times, 1 August 1929, pages 21 and 23. See Alekhine on Carlsbad, 1929.

‘Chess reviewers, as a rule, are so indiscriminately laudatory that conscientious criticism is likely to be regarded as the work of a malevolent, splenetic and generally unpleasant individual, yet such ought not to be the case. It is an easy matter to write a gushingly favorable notice ...’

Source: F.M. Teed, International Chess Magazine, May 1886, page 109. See Reviewing Chess Books.

‘It is only a strong player who knows how weakly he plays.’

Source: S. Tartakower, Chess Pie, 1922, page 28.

‘Where openings are concerned, chess masters are like a flock of sheep; everyone follows the first master’s example.’

Source: J.R. Capablanca, in an article in Capablanca-Magazine, 31 July 1914, pages 89-91.

‘Every bad player seems to think himself quite competent to pass judgment on a loser’s game.’

Source: S.S. Boden, A Popular Introduction to the Study and Practice of Chess (London, 1851), page 24. See C.N. 10087.

‘Despite all the strictures against greed, nearly all players succumb to the temptation to grab first and think it over later.’

Source: I. Chernev, 1000 Best Short Games of Chess (New York, 1955), page 22.

‘To the folly of the lay journalist writing about chess there is no end.’

Source: Chess Amateur, October 1925, page 3.

Historians inch forwards. Hacks lurch backwards.

See Chess Thoughts.

‘If, in the magazine, we were to remove every item which some reader dislikes, we may well be left with two staples – and then we’re certain someone has already complained about their quality.’

Source: BCM, December 1973, page 515.

‘We do not approve of dry, completely objective annotations – this move is correct, this superior, this inferior, etc. An annotator should try rather to enter into the mind of the player, and explain his ideas.’

Source: C.J.S. Purdy, Chess World, 1 March 1946, page 33.

To add cultural depth to their output, many chess authors quote the masters of the past, i.e. they say (without specifying a source) what another writer said (without specifying a source) the master said.

See Chess Thoughts.

‘To those who have taken up chess as an intellectual and fascinating pastime, and who are often beaten at odds by players of inferior grammar, it will be cheering to know that many persons are skilful chess players, though in some instances their brains, in a general way, compare unfavourably with the cogitative faculties of a rabbit.’

Source: J. Mortimer, Daily Mail, 6 October 1906, page 9. See C.N. 6122.

It is high time that ‘the story goes’ went.

See Chess: the Need for Sources.

‘It is one of the most enticing riddles of the centuries-old attractiveness of chess that a phenomenon so deeply rooted in the materialistic and rapacious should offer a satisfaction which is so deeply spiritual and so innocent of harm to one’s fellow man.’

Source: I.A. Horowitz and Fred Reinfeld, How to Improve Your Chess: Second Steps (New York, 1952), page 119. See C.N. 8404.

‘Position is everything. To give up a pawn is sometimes a bolder venture than to abandon a queen.’

Source: I.O. Howard Taylor, Chess Brilliants (London, 1869), page v. C.N. 6116.

‘A great chess-player is not a great man, for he leaves the world as he found it. No act terminating in itself constitutes greatness. This will apply to all displays of power or trials of skill, which are confined to the momentary, individual effort, and construct no permanent image or trophy of themselves without them.’

Source: W. Hazlitt, Table-Talk (London, 1821), page 198.

Reporters report. Commentators comment. Historians tidy up.

See Chess Thoughts.

Nor does Chess Notes exist to offer a free scanning service for photographs (some of which we have acquired at considerable expense) to individuals who lack the relevant archive resources of their own.

See C.N. 7743.

February 2024:

Never trust any writer who compiles lists of chess quotations without providing sources.

Source: C.N. 2853. See Chess Thoughts.

Many chessplayers are sticklers for fact only regarding works of fiction.

See Historical Havoc.

‘Masters of the future may differ from the older ones in paying less attention to material advantages. In this connection, Sämisch has made one of the most telling comments I have ever encountered on the subject: he remarks that he finds it easier to sacrifice in a blindfold game than in a regular game – because in a blindfold game he finds it easier to ignore purely material considerations.’

Source: M. Euwe, Chess Review, March 1952, pages 74-75. (C.N. 10276) See Max Euwe (1901-81).

‘X’ is an imaginary prolific chess author (‘book-doer’ may be a better term) who decides to bring out an anthology of miniature games won by the world chess champions. A day or two’s casual clicking in his database suffices for the requisite ‘research material’ to be assembled. The book is quickly completed and, no less quickly, warmly welcomed by the review-doers.

See C.N. 8873.

‘Among the masters, it seems that clock management is the hardest part of the game. Only Lasker and Capablanca have mastered it, the former by his super-normal endowment of common sense, the latter by heaven-born genius.’

Source: Australasian Chess Review, 8 October 1936, page 288. (C.N. 9803).

To set the public record straight, a methodical approach can help: rebut misinformation and speculation, staunch their propagation, piece together the truth. First destroy, next blockade, lastly rebuild.

See Nimzowitsch’s My System.

‘Strategy is concerned with the setting of an aim and the forming of schemes. Tactics are concerned with the execution of the schemes. Strategy is abstract, tactics are concrete. Expressing it in a popular way: Strategy requires thought, tactics require observation.’

Source: M. Euwe, Strategy & Tactics in Chess (London, 1937), page 2. See Chess Strategy and Tactics.

Prime requisites for any journalist are an eye, nose and ear for cant, and an important function of journalism is pest control.

See Cuttings.

‘The chess player is critical and discriminating in his judgment of matters chessic, fastidious in his tastes generally and artistic in his temperament. A chess magazine to please him must therefore be critical and discriminating in the contents of its game, problem and analytical departments, fastidious in its choice of literary contributions and artistic both as to form and substance.’

Source: Em. Lasker, Lasker’s Chess Magazine, November 1904, page 29. See C.N. 7818.

Top-level chess masters may be criticized by bottom-level kibitzers, just as Formula One drivers may be denigrated by people not even good pedestrians.

See Chess Thoughts.

‘Some remarks on correctness in general. It is a great quality in combination with others, but in itself it does not furnish any absolute proof of superiority, any more than the possession of any other single faculty, like knowledge, memory, etc. A man’s vision may be clear, but he may be short-sighted, or he may turn his eyes in the wrong direction. A player may be exact in his combinations and calculations, but that does not necessarily include his having acquired sound strategical principles which often dispense with analysis altogether.’

Source: W. Steinitz, International Chess Magazine, May 1886, pages 114-115. See Steinitz Quotes.

Criticize the worst the most.

See Chess Thoughts.

‘It would not take more than a couple of weeks of careful instruction from a coach or a fan to realize that American football is an open-air chess game disguised as warfare.’

Source: A. Cooke, BBC Radio (Letter from America), 9 January 1971. See Alistair Cooke and Chess.

‘The man who criticizes books which tend to be scientific or literary is paid badly. Consequently no-one is induced to make a serious study of the act of criticism, with the result that much passes for great that is merely mediocre, and that the mediocre is praised beyond merit.’

Source: Em. Lasker, The Community of the Future (New York, 1940), page 181. See Reviewing Chess Books.

‘Capablanca told me that he is not as good a player as he used to be. I asked him why, and he said: “If a man gives all his life to any one game he becomes a crank.”’

Source: Daily Mail, 6 January 1931, page 7. See C.N. 8193.

‘In chess I am also a staunch supporter of classical clarity of thought. The content of a game should be a search for truth, and victory a demonstration of its rightness. No fantasy, however rich, no technique, however masterly, no penetration into the psychology of the opponent, however deep, can make a chess game a work of art if these qualities do not lead to the main goal – the search for truth.’

Source: V. Smyslov, 125 Selected Games (Oxford, 1983), page 5. (C.N. 502). See Vassily Smyslov 1921-2010.

‘The players of 1862 knew something very valuable that the players of today would do well to make note of: 1 P-Q4 leads to nothing!’

Source: R.J. Fischer, Chess Life, April 1964, page 84. (See C.N. 4641.)

‘Chess openings are, like everything else, governed by the tyrannical law of fashion. Tried friends are neglected and superseded by upstarts of doubtful origin, whose only claim to favour is that some chess swell patronized them on a more or less important occasion. All the wisdom and science of analytical writers will fail to dethrone one opening or raise another on the pedestal of public favour.’

Source: J.H. Zukertort, Chess Monthly, October 1879, page 53. (See C.N. 2233.)

‘And well ’twould be if chess alone
Disputes ’twixt nations settle could,
Instead of pawns of flesh and bone,
The men of ivory or wood.’

Source: W.S. Branch, Chess Amateur, October 1914, page 19. See Chess and Poetry.

‘And yet there are people who maintain that Karpov and Korchnoi are stronger than Lasker and Schlechter. They must be joking.’

Source: W. Heidenfeld, Draw! (London, 1982), page 30. See The Lasker v Schlechter Controversy (1910).

‘... the more I play chess the less I care for any other indoor game, and I have found no recreation, not even the reading of some masterpiece of literature, so intensely moving, so enthralling, so completely absorbing as a keen struggle across the chessboard.’

Source: R.P. Michell, BCM, March 1904, page 113.

‘On principle, I accept no gambit as the first player, for if I must defend myself as the second player and should also defend myself as the first player, when should I then really enjoy the pleasure of attack?’

Source: S. Tarrasch, St Petersburg, 1914 tournament book (Yorklyn, 1993), page 177. (C.N. 2018.) See Chess Jottings.

The pen-portrait is a form of chess reporting that has fallen into desuetude (as has the word desuetude).

Source: C.N. 2637. See London, 1899 Pen-portraits.

With some websites a mere ten-second visit suffices to note something awry. Or much less than that in case of references to oneself.

See Chess Thoughts.

‘A chessplayer should have an equal share of confidence and diffidence; those who are over-confident are apt to despise their antagonist, and the too timid see difficulties in that which is easy; it is not a bad plan to undertake difficult things as easy, and easy things as difficult.’

Source: W. Lewis, A Series of Progressive Lessons on the Game of Chess (London, 1831), page 22. (C.N. 2395.)

‘Zukertort has good-naturedly and not unkindly expressed the opinion that if I had been less experimental and less hazardous in my play I might have secured higher positions in tournaments; and Mr Minchin in his great and very successful work [the London, 1883 tournament book] did me more than justice; if, however, I have had less success than some other players, I have derived more amusement and real pleasure from the combinations of the game, besides which if I am not original in chess I am nothing.’

Source: H.E. Bird, Modern Chess and Chess Masterpieces (London, 1887), page 5. (C.N. 3085.)

‘Mistrust is the most necessary characteristic of the chess-player.’

Source: S. Tarrasch, The Game of Chess (London, 1935), page 79. The original edition, Das Schachspiel (Berlin, 1931), stated on page 110: ‘Mißtrauen ist eine der notwendigsten Charaktereigenschaften des Schachspielers.’ See C.N. 5684 and Siegbert Tarrasch.

Chess historians and bibliophiles have to reconnoitre not only the majestic boulevards but also the squalid backstreets.

Source: C.N. 3913.

When chess masters die, good writers go to their bookshelves. Bad writers go to Wikipedia.

See Chess Thoughts.

Praise received should be quoted sparingly, and never when from a disreputable source.

See Chess Thoughts.

‘... even busy people should try to co-operate in the sharing of good things.’

Source: W.H. Cozens, BCM, February 1957, page 40. See C.N. 10815.

‘He has the lamentable distinction of being – throughout the English-speaking world, anyway – the most under-estimated chess writer in the world.’

Source: CHESS, April 1965, page 230, concerning Werner Lauterbach. (C.N.s 3413 and 3416.)

March 2024:

‘It is a curious thing, this business of making problems. The mathematical and the artistic faculties (for want of better adjectives) seem blended together, as they are in scarcely any other pursuit. To the looker-on, this crouching by oneself over a chessboard for hours at a stretch, continually shifting a few units of force, of different functions, along two dimensions, seems an inconceivable waste of time. To the composer, it seems that his brain is working at its highest tension, and producing its finest capabilities. As for the rest of his body, it has hardly a conscious existence, during those hours. When it does wake up and protest, it is time to put away the chessmen.’

Source: B. Harley, Mate in Two Moves (London, 1931), page 170.

‘Of all the openings, perhaps the Vienna is the most prolific in beautiful variations, and in throwing off strong branches quite close to the root of the main stem.’

Source: J. Pierce and W.T. Pierce, Pierce Gambit, Chess Papers and Problems (London, 1888), page 3. (C.N. 3129.)

‘Chess can never, either in England or America, become a profession. It is but a scientific recreation – the highest, indeed, of all – but still only a recreation; and he who would make it more, and propose it as the end and aim of his existence, must inevitably sink into that most contemptible of characters – the man of one idea – the mere Chess player.’

Source: Chess Player’s Chronicle, February 1859, page 38. (C.N. 2271.)

‘Probably there have been two pure geniuses in chess; Morphy and Capablanca. Tal is also a genius as a tactician, but because he makes a lot of unsound sacrifices this is not pure genius; Morphy and Capablanca hardly ever made tactical mistakes. Perhaps Rubinstein was also a genius of positional chess, and his playing style was also very pure; but he was a bad tactician.’

Source: B. Spassky in a 1966 interview with L. Barden, Chess Life & Review, January 1970, pages 7-13.

In the Internet age, the opening choices of the world’s best players are frequently attacked in real time by nameless ten-opinions-an-hour individuals for whom suitable advice would be: kibitz inwardly.

Source: C.N. 11123. See Chess Thoughts.

Tartakower is one of the most difficult chess writers to translate into English (among others are A. Nimzowitsch and F.K. Young).

Source: C.N. 4437.

‘The main thing is not to be afraid of losing. Why should I be afraid? Although chess is my profession and a very important part of my life, if I lose I know two things: first, it is only a game, and second, by taking the risks I do I will win more than I lose. For some masters losing at chess is almost like dying; for me this is absolutely not so.’

Source: B. Larsen in an interview with C.H.O’D. Alexander on pages 86-94 of Alexander’s A Book of Chess (London, 1973). C.N. 6764. See Bent Larsen (1935-2010).

Chess news reports indicate a growing belief that prose is somehow enlivened if the plainest words are avoided. When a player wins first prize in a tournament, the verb ‘wins’ commonly loses out to ‘annexes’, ‘bags’, ‘captures’, ‘carries off’, ‘cashes in’, ‘chalks up’ , ‘claims’, ‘clinches’, ‘collects’, ‘comes away with’, ‘comes back with’, ‘comes back home with’, ‘comes home with’, ‘farms’, ‘garners’, ‘gets his hands on’, ‘goes away with’, ‘goes back home with’, ‘goes back with’, ‘goes home with’, ‘grabs’, ‘lands’, ‘nabs’, ‘nets’, ‘notches up’, ‘picks up’, ‘pockets’, ‘reaps’, ‘runs away with’, ‘runs off with’, ‘seals’, ‘scoops’, ‘scoops up’, ‘secures’, ‘seizes’, ‘snags’, ‘snaps up’, ‘snatches’, ‘takes away’, ‘takes back’, ‘takes back home’, ‘takes home’, ‘walks away with’, ‘walks back home with’, ‘walks back with’, ‘walks home with’, ‘walks off with’, etc. The verb ‘to prevail’ instead of ‘to win’ is also a favourite.

Source: Chess and the English Language.

‘When I was a young player, I read The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played by Irving Chernev which made chess seem extremely easy. However, I then read Alekhine’s Best Games of Chess, which made chess seem impossibly difficult. I eventually discovered that the truth lies somewhere between the two.’

Source: J. Nunn, New in Chess, 3/2002, page 98. C.N. 8196. See John Nunn.

Cheating is an egregious form of copying, an area which the chess world otherwise finds unnewsworthy.

Source: Copying.

‘Thanks to the Internet’s matchless ability to spread myths and rumors, I’ve found myself bombarded with all sorts of misinformation about my own intellect. Spurious lists of “highest IQs in history” might find me between Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, both of whom have probably taken as many proper IQ tests as I have: zero.’

Source: G. Kasparov with M. Greengard, Deep Thinking (New York, 2017), pages 14-15. C.N. 10433. See Garry Kasparov Miscellanea.

‘You must be prepared to lose hundreds of games before you qualify yourself as a first-class player.’

Source: H. Peachey, Everybody’s Guide to Chess and Draughts (London, 1896), page 61. See C.N.s 3150 and 3155.

‘On the whole, I do not like annotating other people’s games. The point is that I consider that it is very difficult to penetrate into a player’s thinking, to guess the direction of the variations thought out by him, and therefore it is better to be indulgent towards one’s own games. I prefer to make my annotations “hot on the heels”, as it were, when the fortunes of battle, the worries, hopes and disappointments are still sufficiently fresh in my mind.’

Source: M. Tal, The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal (New York, 1976), page 25. C.N. 9569. See Mikhail Tal (1936-92).

‘Petrosian sees chess as the organization of available chess space. This, basically, is what chess is. Mate in itself is the denial of space to the opposing king. The idea is as old as chess itself, but the difficulty is to make it work.’

Source: J. Hammond in ‘How Does The World Champion Play Chess?’, Chess World, January 1967, page 2. See C.N. 9693.

‘I am a quiet, simple person. I accept everything: I think that whatever happens is always for the best.’

Source: G. Kasparov in the Sunday Times magazine, 10 August 1986, page 50. See Garry Kasparov Miscellanea.

‘Ordinarily, Fischer is socially evasive rather than hostile, likely to greet even an old friend as if he were expecting a subpoena.’

Source: R. Cantwell, Sports Illustrated, 8 November 1971, page 31. C.N. 9814. See Bobby Fischer Miscellanea.

When nothing is explained, everything and anything can be imagined ... Only with the rewarding discipline of real sourcing can the writer aspire to real clarity and real precision, and that is what readers deserve.

Source: C.N. 11583. See also Chess Thoughts.

Unarithmetically, some writers have no standards and double standards.

Source: Chess Thoughts.

If chess is 99% tactics, chess awards are 99% tack.

Source: Chess Awards.

‘By not winning the title I have put a shadow on my chess career and it is a little sad that I have had to read and hear for more than 40 years that I am not a good player. It seems that all my other achievements in chess have been ignored.’

Source: D. Bronstein, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, co-authored with T. Fürstenberg (London, 1995), page 108.

‘The only advantage of taking the pawn thus, instead of in the way recommended by common sense, is that being likely to involve you in difficulties, it affords a charming opportunity for the display of ingenuity in extricating yourself afterwards.’

Source: H. Staunton, Chess Player’s Chronicle, 1849, page 48. (C.N. 1283.)

‘Strange to say, all the great masters in their older days play against their own theory. They evidently miss the power of conviction which is the characteristic of youth.’

Source: Dawid Janowsky, American Chess Bulletin, April 1921, page 71. (C.N. 1429.)

Hoaxers exploit ignorance, haste, laziness and wishful thinking, which makes the chess world a natural target.

Source: C.N. 10237.

‘I idly reflected that these masters put in some four or six hours’ strenuous thought over one game – and it is strenuous all right, some of them being obviously tired out by the end of the day. But we problemists think nothing of 20, 40, a hundred strenuous hours over one solitary problem. There are two of my retro problems [which] cost me six years of intermittent work – at a guess, a thousand hours – to complete, and I have a score of others over which I have worked ten years, and they are still baffling me.’

Source: T.R. Dawson, Chess Amateur, September 1922, pages 360-361. (C.N. 1597.) See London, 1922.

‘On the whole, I have a hard time remembering someone else’s published analysis, a failing I have no cause to regret. Such analysis is in most cases simply ballast, weighing down the free flight of fantasy!’

Source: A. Nimzowitsch, Carlsbad International Chess Tournament 1929, (New York, 1981), pages 35-36. (C.N. 511.) See Aron Nimzowitsch.

‘Katsenelinboigen outlines two extreme cases of the spectrum of values – fully conditional and fully unconditional – and says that, in actuality, they are ineffectual in evaluating the material and so are sometimes replaced by semiconditional or semiunconditional valuations, which are distinguished by their differing degrees of conditionality. He defines fully conditional values as those based on complete and consistent linkages among all four preconditions. Accordingly, fully unconditional values are free of the preconditions; the introduction of the first preconditions, which is linked to the formation of the scale of positivity/negativity, results in the appearance of unconditional values. Semiconditional values are those based on some conditions, while semiunconditional values are formed by complete and consistent linkages between the rules of interactions, taking no other conditions into consideration.’

Source: V. Ulea, A Concept of Dramatic Genre and the Comedy of a New Type: Chess, Literature, and Film, (Carbondale, 2002), pages 144-145. (C.N. 3637.)

‘Signor C. Salvioli has reclaimed the birthright of chess literature for Italy. Without exception the first volume of his Teoria e Pratice [del giuoco] degli Scacchi as a collection of games alone is the most valuable chess book extant in any language.’

Source: W. Steinitz, International Chess Magazine, March 1885, page 83.

‘When analysing a given position, it is fair to say that one almost always sees more in the first five minutes than in the next five minutes. The five minutes after that is even less productive, and so on. I have observed that if a player spends more than 20 minutes over a move, the result is almost always a mistake. The normal decision-making process should not take longer than this, even in fairly complex situations.’

Source: J. Nunn, Secrets of Practical Chess (London, 1998), page 18.

‘A threat or menace of exchange, or of occupation of some important point, is often far more effective than its actual execution.’

Source: J. Mason, Chess Openings (London, 1897), pages xiv-xv.

‘There are benefits to be obtained in this life beyond and above the mere accumulation of great riches, and I know no art which gives its votary a larger share of these than chess.’

Source: I.A. Gunsberg, Newcastle Courant, 9 March 1895, page 2.

Chess writers and chess players have a common enemy: wishful thinking.

See Chess Thoughts.

‘I know well enough that no amount of argument will make the hardened game enthusiast see anything in problems to interest him. Still it is unfair to sneer at problems simply because you fail to see anything in them. Others do. I have a pet dislike myself – I can’t bear celery, and the fact that ten different people tell me that celery is very nice naturally avails me nothing. But I do not call these ten men names for liking celery.’

Source: P.H. Williams, Chess Chatter & Chaff (Stroud, 1909), page 56.

‘The days when my copies of Chess World arrive are red letter days. I still think it the best of all chess magazines and revel in every word of it.’

Source: H.J.R. Murray, Chess World, May 1955, page 98.

‘To annotate any game conscientiously it is necessary to accord it at least as much objective study as was expended by the players in the actual encounter.’

Source: I. König, Introduction to Nottingham, 1946 (Sutton Coldfield, 1946). See Chess Annotations.

‘In contrast to the wonderful books of previous World Champions, in my opinion the three-volume set of Botvinnik’s games is the first systemized work capable of giving a player a grandmaster understanding of the game. Botvinnik’s commentaries are so instructive, that for anyone wishing to become a grandmaster, I would recommend that in the first place they should study his works.’

Source: A. Belyavsky, Uncompromising Chess, (London, 1998), page 11. C.N. 2254. See Mikhail Botvinnik.

‘A lot of these quotes about me are not correct.’

Source: R.J. Fischer, No Regrets by Y. Seirawan and G. Stefanovic, (Seattle, 1992), page 117. See Instant Fischer.

April 2024:

‘Honesty and openness is always the best policy!’

Source: R. Keene, BCM, May 1986, page 208.

‘We have enjoyed the most friendly relations with Mr Steinitz and found him the very pink of honor, and the most jovial little fellow in the world, ready to fight you at chess, or die sooner than give up on some little etiquetical point that he considers correct and proper. His able management of the chess department of the London Field is gaining him a world-wide reputation as the analyst of the day.’

Source: S. Loyd, Scientific American Supplement, 17 November 1877, page 1556. C.N. 3397. See Chess Jottings.

‘Although his opening repertoire is not extensive [Barcza] has analysed those openings he does favour more thoroughly than any other master I know. He analyses these openings right through to the middlegame and, incredible as it may seem, to the very endgame itself. Barcza knows exactly what types of middlegames arise from his chosen openings and what types of endgames can be expected.’

Source: L. Steiner, Kings of the Chess Board (Roseville, 1948), page 44. C.N. 3098. See Chess Jottings.

‘She is without doubt a phenomenon. Her victory over Yates will be historical.’

Source: A. Alekhine on V. Menchik, The Observer, 3 June 1928, page 11. C.N. 8488. See Interviews with Alekhine.

By the very act of writing an author in effect sets himself up as an authority, yet all too many are content for nearly anything to be printed under their names, especially regarding chess history. It is as though all writers, no matter how unenlightened about the game’s past, feel licensed – compelled, even – to indulge in historical name-dropping, under the delusion that their output will gain prestige from occasional references, however shallow or fallacious, to the old-timers.

See Historical Havoc.

‘It has always been my doctrine that chess is easier to play with many pieces than few; that ending play more strains the mind than a middle-game involvement. Of many options, one may be fit. Resource is likely to be present in a tangled, critical situation.’

Source: W.E. Napier, item 268 in Napier’s Amenities and Background of Chess-Play.

‘It’s frustrating to see the chess public being exposed to book after book written by people who are negligent, or lazy, or prejudiced in their research. An unsound rating system bestows the titles of Master or Grandmaster; knowledge of chess history, and of openings they don’t play, does not automatically accompany those titles. But are the writers any more to blame than the publisher? Or a reviewer in BCM who writes unthinking praise? Or a bookseller like the USCF that hypes the books it sells to its own members?’

Source: H.E. Myers, The Myers Openings Bulletin issue 39 (1988). C.N. 1629.

‘Lasker is the greatest player I ever met, perhaps the greatest that ever lived.’

Source: W. Steinitz, letter dated 17 December 1896, New York Daily Tribune, 3 January 1897, page 7 of part two. C.N. 6117.

‘If you keep yourself in good shape physically, and you keep in love with the game and keep studying, you should be a top player till you’re in your 60s.’

Source: R.J. Fischer in an interview with J. Burke, The Listener, 13 July 1972, pages 51-52. C.N. 9268. See Spassky v Fischer, Reykjavik, 1972.

‘I received more good ideas on opening and mid-game chess play from my old friend Frank Marshall than from all the other chessplayers I have known. If Marshall had had the urge to continue to apply himself to study and analysis he could have been at the top all his life. He was the greatest natural player of them all.’

Source: F.J. Marshall, Chess Openings (Leeds, 1904), page 25.

‘As practical play is the Prose, so is problem composition the Poetry of Chess, and a single problem of the modern school can be made to yield in its solution more of chess truth and beauty than an ordinary player will enjoy in a lifetime.’

Source: A.F. Mackenzie, Chess: Its Poetry and Its Prose (Kingston, 1887), page 3. C.N. 5290.

‘This turned out to be a terrible blunder, the worst of my career.’

Source: G. Kasparov, How Life Imitates Chess (London, 2007), page 115. C.N. 5375. The reference is to his decision to break away from FIDE in 1993.

‘Nearly every one of the world’s leading violinists has been a chessplayer, and indeed, a majority of violinists of any note at all.’

Source: Chess World, May 1958, page 97. C.N. 3912. See Chess and Music.

‘One truth about chess is that memory is more likely to be a handicap than an advantage. There comes a stage in every game when the player has to find not what Botvinnik decided years ago but what he now is called upon to play. Then, if he has been too reliant on memory, he will fail to produce the ideas that constitute bright chess. The windows of his mind are curtained to exclude ideas from floating in. His vision will be limited because he has not sufficiently exercised it.’

Source: G. Abrahams, Encounter, March 1973, pages 84-90. C.N. 10497. See Memory Feats of Chess Masters.

‘Around six o’clock Capablanca came into the Club: he is an utterly irresistible person, lively, handsome, quick-witted, and – this is the point – a genius. You should have seen how quickly he showed up the mistakes of our Petersburg masters: on the spot, the instant their games were finished, and right in front of their very eyes! I was entranced.’

Source: S. Prokofiev, Sergey Prokofiev Diaries 1907-1914 translated and annotated by A. Phillips (London, 2006), page 582. Diary entry dated 8 January 1914. C.N. 4927.

‘Of all the chief modern languages, English is perhaps the worst spoken and the worst written by educated people. It is written too often with an almost total disregard of euphony, elegance, and even grammar; and it is spoken mincingly or mouthingly, with countless horrible disfigurements. Why should not English be written with as much of precision and propriety and classical finish as French? Why should not Englishmen speak as accurately as Frenchmen? We need not, in England, as respects language, be apprehensive of becoming purists; the danger lies in the opposite direction. Pedantry in speech is an evil; barbarism in speech is a greater evil ...’

Source: H. Staunton, The Great Schools of England (London, 1865), pages xxxvi-xxxvii. See also Chess and the English Language.

‘Down with all nationalism in our old, noble, profound game.’

Source: Em. Lasker, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 12 June 1924, page A3. C.N.s 1158 and 8918. See also Patriotism, Nationalism, Jingoism and Racism in Chess.

‘One of the best excuses I ever heard was from a man who had just lost to a female opponent. “She completely disrupted my thought processes”, he complained. “Every time I tried to calculate something, I’d begin: ‘I go here, he goes there’, and then I’d have to correct myself: ‘No, it’s I go here, she goes there’.”’

Source: W. Hartston, Better Chess (London, 2003), page 52. C.N. 5884. See also Chess and Women.

‘That a richly endowed robot will one day be able to play a highly skillful game of chess leaves no room for doubt. On the other hand, in the absence of a fantastic superspeed electronic brain, the chess championship of the world is likely to be retained by humans for centuries to come.’

Source: I.A. Horowitz and P.L. Rothenberg, The Personality of Chess (New York, 1963), page 345. C.N. 4126. See also Chess and Computers.

‘Tempo is the soul of chess.’

Source: S. Tarrasch, Tarrasch’s Schachzeitung, 15 November 1933, page 56. See The Soul of Chess.

‘While these titanic struggles were in progress, a large muster of parents relaxed in the Tea Lounge. One lady, apparently discussing her daughter’s defeat on the previous day, uttered one of the most profound truths ever heard at a Chess Congress. “It seems”, she observed mysteriously, “that there are some positions you can’t get out of”.’

Source: G.H. Diggle, Newsflash, January 1985. C.N. 5016. In a report on a junior tournament held in August 1984.

‘Apart from the fact that, for instance, Nimzowitsch is very hostile to me and lately has not missed any opportunity to harm me, I cannot expect fair treatment at the hands of Alekhine, Spielmann or Vidmar. ... As far as Nimzowitsch is concerned, you know as well as I do that he, notwithstanding his fairly good results, is hardly a real grandmaster, so that I am really surprised that people make such a ridiculous fuss over him of late.’

Source: E. Bogoljubow, letter dated 7 December 1926 to J.R. Capablanca. C.N. 1999.

‘When, for instance, I am asked how many moves I think ahead, I must, if I am truthful, give the same answer as that of the celebrated Czechoslovakian player Richard Réti: “Not even one move.”’

Source: V. Menchik, Daily Mail, 5 August 1927, page 8. C.N. 9074. See How Many Moves Ahead?

‘In these rapid times, ostensibly intricate matters are not liable to much contradiction, even where there is more than a small suspicion of error; few who really examine them caring to openly dissent from the most doubtful conclusions, when these are cast in all the imposing dignity of print. Thus readers (and reviewers too) favour the temerity of authors, and help to mislead the public, including of course themselves – the simple, good-natured, omne-ignotum-pro-mirifico public; the great present and future public, which can never be too well or honestly served.’

Source: BCM, March 1899, page 99. C.N. 1414. See Reviewing Chess Books

‘J.N. Hanks recently made a thought-provoking remark. He said a player can have good luck in chess, but not bad luck.’

Source: Chess World, July 1959, page 167. See Luck in Chess.

‘To my mind the days of a small super class like Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine are gone for ever: these men were inventors. Now masters are merely technicians of varying skill and the question of the world title, which it would seem is causing some heart-burning, is really out of date.’

Source: E. Klein, The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match co-written with W. Winter (London, 1947), page 43. C.N. 2293.

‘I like intricate, acute games, and it seems to me I have a common defect with Alekhine: we both dislike the strategy of waiting, and in tedious defensive positions we feel rather bored, and often play them badly.’

Source: P. Keres, Chess Review, March 1941, pages 51-53.

‘Against a wary chessplayer the possibilities of applied psychology by an opponent are very limited. The real psychological opponent of every player is himself.’

Source: C.J.S. Purdy, Chess World, November 1957, pages 230-232. C.N. 10193. See Chess and Psychology.

A singer unable to sing is pilloried. A writer unable to write is indulged.

See Reviewing Chess Books.

‘The attack and defence emanating from this classical opening produce some of the most beautiful chess it is possible to obtain. The Queen’s Gambit possesses the merit of being the soundest of all the openings.’

Source: F.J. Marshall, Chess Openings (Leeds, 1904), page 25.

Chess computers can take the shine off almost any game, however brilliant.

Source: Chess and Computers.

‘Journalism is the study of the irrelevant. Through that too bright glass, which when focused disturbs the concentrator on essentials as sorely as the television lights disturbed Bobby Fischer, everything trivial is aggrandized, everything insignificant given a value. Over there, at “the battle of Reykjavik”, there was no dearth of trivia. As Browning might have asked, “Who fished up that maroon suit? What breakfast had the Russ?” In that novel context a plethora of irrelevancies scattered itself around for grubmen to devour and regurgitate; just like mistakes on the chess board, waiting there to be made.’

Source: G. Abrahams, Encounter, March 1973, pages 84-90. C.N. 10497. See Spassky v Fischer, Reykjavik, 1972.

‘It is practically impossible nowadays to force a winning position with the black pieces against a player of master strength (even if not absolutely first-class standard) who is content to play for a draw.’

Source: A. Alekhine, CHESS, 14 September 1935, page 7. C.N.s 888 and 7178. See Chess Draws.

‘Although Lasker remained my idol, Capablanca’s games taught me technique and enabled me, at age 17, to become a master.’

Source: P. Benko, Winning with Chess Psychology by P. Benko and B. Hochberg (New York, 1991), page 157. C.N. 11221. See Pal Benko (1928-2019).

‘As I write these lines the newspapers are occupied by the exploits of a child of eight, who has just defeated 20 adult chessplayers in 20 games played simultaneously, and has been able afterwards to reconstruct all the 20 games without any apparent effort of memory. Most people, including myself, play chess (when they play it at all) from hand to mouth, and can hardly recall the last move but one, or foresee the next but two.’

Source: G.B. Shaw, Back to Methuselah. A Metabiological Pentateuch (London, 1921), page xxv. C.N. 5627. See The Chess Prodigy Samuel Reshevsky.

‘Before you stir your pieces, you ought to move your pawns, and afterward bring out your pieces to support them. …You are not, therefore, to play out any of your pieces in the early part of your game …’

Source: C.B. Rogers, How to Play Chess (New York, 1907), page 67. See Advice on Playing Chess.

‘... Weiller introduced a brilliant twist to the Walthier Variation of the Rook’s Gambit Declined and broke his defenses.’

‘The light from the fire reflected in his ruby episcopal ring as he moved his queen’s pawn to knight-five.’

Source: Provenance by F. McDonald (Boston, 1979), pages 3-4. See Chess and Fiction.

‘Mr Harrwitz sees everything without the board as well as most players with one.’

Source: H. Staunton, Chess Player’s Chronicle, 13 February 1847, page 49. See Daniel Harrwitz (1821-84).

May 2024:

‘There can be no doubt that the Grandmaster title is not what it was meant to be: an honor awarded to only the finest players in the world. An examination of the rating list shows that far too many of these “Grandmasters” are in fact remarkably weak: 56 of them are rated below 2450, the minimum rating required to obtain the title. A further dozen or more Grandmasters are inactive altogether. Grandmaster inflation is eroding the title’s value almost by the day. Something should be done about it urgently.’

Source: N. Short, Inside Chess, 9 October 1988, page 43. C.N. 1735. See also Chess Grandmasters.

‘[Chess Notes] benefits from a network of contributors worldwide, happy to do so in exchange for having their books promoted or just “seeing their name up in lights”.’

Source: T.D. Harding, British Chess Literature to 1914 (Jefferson, 2018), page 292.

‘What Mozart, as to innate, natural ability, was to music, Morphy likewise was to chess.’

Source: BCM, August -September 1884, page 305. See ‘The Mozart of Chess’.

‘A fianchetto bishop (at Kt2, behind a pawn at Kt3) owes its great strength to its being unapproachable by a knight.’

Source: One Hundred Chess Maxims by C.D. Locock (Leeds, 1930), page 16. C.N. 8720. See The Chess Fianchetto.

‘In fact, there are a quarter of a million chess friends who devote to chess at least two hundred hours every year, and of these only a thousand, after a lifetime of study, attain the end. Without losing myself in calculations, I believe I am safe in voicing the opinion that our efforts in chess attain only a hundredth of one per cent of their rightful result.’

Source: Em. Lasker, Lasker’s Manual of Chess (New York, 1927), page 369. C.N. 11196. See How Many People Play Chess?

‘Some simultaneous players pace from board to board as if engaged in a matter of life and death importance, and with a very serious – not to say sombre – funeral appearance. Not so Blackburne, for he contrives to make it a merry performance. He bubbles over with humour, he has flashes of fancy and plays off wit. He annotates each move as he goes along, and the annotations are calculated to make even the losing player laugh and be on good terms with himself. The player loses his game but does not lose his self respect; and this is important at chess. Blackburne has a delicate way of dealing with his opponents in simultaneous performances, and is not without a warm corner of estimation even for the despised “wood-shifter”.’

Source: BCM, July 1899, page 286. C.N. 4815. See Joseph Henry Blackburne and Chess and Woodshifting.

‘Great players never castle until the end of the game, and often never at all, as their king, although often in the middle of the board, nevertheless stands secure.’

Source: C.W. v Königstedt, Kort Afhandling om Schack-Spel (Stockholm, 1771), page 23. C.N. 3119. See Castling in Chess.

‘It is my considered opinion that Paul Keres is the greatest annotator who ever lived.’

Source: B. Hochberg, Chess Life, June 1969, pages 236-237. C.N. 11215. See Paul Keres (1916-75).

‘I also think that it is a chessplayer’s duty to update his older analyses and notes from time to time. This is necessary as it should not be permitted in any manner that the text or analyses contain obvious technical anachronisms or mistakes, as a consequence of the rapid development of theory and practice. Moreover, a reprint or a revised edition of a book can and should reflect the changes in the author’s chess ideology caused by his experience over the years. Neglecting these factors in my view reduces the significance of such books and curbs the development of chess.’

Source: G. Kasparov, New in Chess, 3/1987, pages 5-6. C.N. 1391. See also Chess Annotations.

‘Every match is preceded by scandalous situations. Some arise spontaneously, others are planned, but in general a match never comes off without them. Kasparov and I also tried to uphold the ancient tradition and toss the journalists some choice morsels.’

Source: A. Karpov, Karpov on Karpov (New York, 1991), page 213. C.N. 9345.

‘It has been truly said that Morphy was at once the Caesar and the Napoleon of chess. He revolutionized chess. He brought life and dash and beauty into the game at a time when an age of dulness was about to set in and he did this at a stroke. Then he quit forever. Only two years from the beginning to the end. The negotiations for some modern matches have taken that long!’

Source: J.A. Galbreath, American Chess Bulletin, October 1909, pages 219-224. See Paul Morphy.

‘Outside chess Norman was not very distinguished, being involved in too many things at and beyond the laws he studied.’

Source: J.E. Gates, obituary of N.T. Whitaker, Chess Life & Review, August 1975, page 521.

‘I believe my book Chess Strategy, the sale of which (between 40,000 and 50,000 copies) exceeded that of any other chess book, achieved its success solely because for the first time it offered the student a real theory of the game which they could apply to any position, according to their more or less thorough grasp of the general strategic principles explained in the book.’

Source: Ed. Lasker, Chess Correspondent, March-April 1943, page 7. C.N. 5172.

‘I feel Chigorin to be the strongest player alive, so far as match playing is concerned. I should not feel at all troubled if I had to meet either Steinitz, Lasker or Tarrasch in a set match. I fancy my chess is as good as theirs, and if I should not beat either of them I feel pretty certain of not being disgraced. Neither would I fear Chigorin, as I have a good deal of confidence in myself.’

Source: H.N. Pillsbury, New York Times, 29 September 1895, page 6. C.N. 7760. See also Mikhail Chigorin.

‘I may not have read a line of Voltaire, but I will defend to the death my right to misquote him.’

See Voltaire and Chess.

‘No writer of fiction ever penned so moving a chess story as this true one.’

See C.J.S Purdy, Chess World, 1 September 1946, page 161, concerning an article about Alekhine, ‘The Broken King’, by F. Lupi.

‘Chess is played on a squared board with 62 black and white alternating squares, each player set up there pieces so the light squares are on the right hand side ...’

Source: T. North: The Ultimate Chess Playing Guide (2015), page 2.

‘In truth, the only players whom we should consider grandmasters are Capablanca, Alekhine, Lasker, perhaps Marshall (if we wish to forget his misfortunes in match play) and, on account of their former successes, Tarrasch and Rubinstein. All the others should be regarded as plain masters.’

Source: E.A. Znosko-Borovsky: L’Echiquier, November 1925, pages 221-222. See also Chess Grandmasters.

‘… Schlechter was the one competitor who accepted all things and all arrangements with equanimity amounting almost to indifference. Everything was right for him and nothing amiss, and this man, who apparently paid such little regard to his interests, was the winner of the first prize. Schlechter also showed us the generous side of his nature by declining to compete for any of the brilliancy prizes, for which he undoubtedly would have had the best chance. “I have won enough”, he said. “Let others get something too”.’

Source: I. Gunsberg: The Year-Book of Chess, 1907 by E.A. Michell (London, 1907), page 19, concerning Ostend, 1906. See also Carl Schlechter.

‘In rook endings the weaker side generally has some chances of a draw right up to the very end.’

Source: S. Tarrasch: The Game of Chess (London, 1935), page 81. C.N. 5822. See also ‘All Rook Endgames are Drawn’.

Latest update: 20 May 2024.

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