The Most Famous Chess Quotations

Edward Winter


In C.N. 5520 Fred Shapiro (New Haven, CT, USA), the editor of The Yale Book of Quotations (2006), announced that for the book’s next edition he would welcome suggestions for the ten most famous chess quotations of all time. We invite readers’ contributions, requesting a rock-solid source in each case, in accordance with the format below. It is intended that the present feature article will gradually build up into the kind of list sought by Mr Shapiro.

François-André Danican Philidor (1726-95)

L’Analyze des Echecs by F.-A.D. Philidor (London, 1749), page xix.

Chess Analysed [Cheſs Analyſed] by F.-A.D. Philidor (London, 1750), pages ix-x.

For reproductions of the passages in question, see C.N. 5762.

Peter Pratt (circa 1770-circa 1835)

Studies of Chess by P. Pratt (London, 1803), page iii.

Concerning remarks, attributed to Steinitz, about chess being intellectual/mental gymnastics (geistige Gymnastik or intellektuelle Gymnastik), see C.N. 11172.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830)

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

The observation was discussed in a letter headed ‘Hazlitt and Chess’ from H.A.K., Bath, October 1855, on pages 372-373 of the 1855 Chess Player’s Chronicle.

Henry James Byron (1835-84)

Talbot, in Act I of Our Boys by H.J. Byron. Play first performed in London on 16 January 1875. Text published in 1880. See ‘Life’s too short for chess’.

Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941)

Lehrbuch des Schachspiels by E. Lasker (Berlin, 1926), page 201.

Lasker’s Manual of Chess by E. Lasker (New York, 1927), page 262.

Note: ‘lie’ became ‘lies’ on page 235 of the London, 1932 edition.

Siegbert Tarrasch (1862-1934)

Das Schachspiel by S. Tarrasch (Berlin, 1931), page 4.

The Game of Chess by S. Tarrasch (London, 1935), page xi. Translated by G.E. Smith and T.G. Bone.

Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935)

Mein System by A. Nimzowitsch (Berlin, 1925), page 246.

My System by A. Nimzowitsch (London, 1929), page 181. Translated by P. Hereford.

Savielly Tartakower (1887-1956)

Die Hypermoderne Schachpartie by S. Tartakower (Vienna, 1924), page 90.

A slightly earlier appearance of the same observation by Tartakower was on page 551 of the Teplitz-Schönau, 1922 tournament book:


For the three-page feature by Tartakower in the tournament book, see C.N. 11929.

Acknowledgement for the Hazlitt quote: Mark McCullagh (Belfast, Northern Ireland).

Latest update: 22 September 2023.

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