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10 Chess Facts You Might Not Know

  • pete
  • | Jul 21, 2014
  • | 19231 views
  • | 41 comments

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably well-informed on chess in general.

So you already know that Chess.com offers an extensive library of chess newsarticles, videos, openings information, training tools, and lessons — enough knowledge for players of all levels who are looking to improve their games.

But do you know *everything* about the game and its history? Surely there are some facts -- however obscure and "not relevant" to your chess growth -- that might surprise and bring a smile to the face of even the most astute chess fan.

No need to scour Wikipedia for random chess facts to impress your friends at the next tournament. We gathered 10 of our favorites here for you!

If you like this article (let us know in the comments and on Facebook), we'll bring you some more chess trivia down the road.

Take a look at the top 10 chess facts you might not know. (Research courtesy of FM Mike Klein.) Enjoy!

1. Best Initials

AnatoliKarpov14b by Stefan64 

The best initials to have if you want to become a GM are “A.K.”

Some 30 grandmasters share these initials, including three former world champions: Anatoly Karpov, Alexander Khalifman, and Alexandra Kosteniuk.

Karpov stands out as the strongest “A.K.” chess player ever, with a peak rating of 2780 in July 1994.

The current highest-rated player with the initials “A.K.” is Grandmaster Anton Korobov of Ukraine, who ranks as the 61st-best player in the world, with a rating of 2680 in the July 2014 FIDE list.

2. Female Grandmasters

Judit Polgar via wikipedia commons

There are 30 women to achieve the full grandmaster (not WGM) title.

No woman who has ever earned the GM title has died.

The strongest woman in the history of chess is undoubtedly Judit Polgar, who at age 37 is still atop the women's ratings list. Polgar checks in at 2676 for the July 2014 FIDE ratings.

Hou Yifan, the 20-year old Chinese chess prodigy and current women’s world champion, is close behind at 2629. 

3. According to Webster 

via Webster.edu

Webster University's chess team is stronger than most national federations.

The average FIDE rating of Webster University's top four boards (Wesley So, Le Quang Liem, Georg Meier and Ray Robson) is currently 2679.

As of the last Olympiad, that would make them the 10th strongest federation, just ahead of teams like England. The population of England is 53 million. The total enrollment at Webster University (in East Missouri) is 22,000.

4. Younger than Magnus

via wikipedia

Since the reigning world chess champion Magnus Carlsen was born, 31 new sovereign nation states were created.

Carlsen, now 23, was born on November 30, 1990.

According to the list at About.com, 31 current and former nation states were formed since that date, many of them sprouting from lands held by the former Soviet Union.

The newest nation state to achieve sovereignty is South Sudan, which became independent on July 9, 2011. In July 2011, Carlsen was the top chess player in the world, with a rating of 2821.

5. Not in the U.N. 

68 Período de Sesiones de la Asamblea General de la ONU (9901271506) by Cancillería Ecuador 

There are 16 FIDE member federations that are not members of the United Nations.

Some of them are countries that are part of larger nation states, like Scotland, Wales, and England in the United Kingdom. All three countries are separately part of FIDE, but are represented together in the United Nations.

Others, like Puerto Rico, are unincorporated territory of a larger nation state, but with a distinct culture, heritage, history, and chess federation.

6. Searching for Bobby Fischer

via wikipedia


A secondary ending to “Searching for Bobby Fischer” was planned, but scrapped because it didn't rely on Josh Waitzkin's inclination to bring out his queen early.

GM Pal Benko choreographed the final position to look like this, with Black (Waitzkin) to move: 

Can you spot the win for Waitzkin?

Benko composed this position for Black to play 1…Ne2!, after which White is in zugzwang and must either lose his bishop or be checkmated.

7. The Movie Game


In the game that was created for the movie, Josh's opponent had a way to hold the draw even after he declined Josh's offer.

Try to save the game for White in the puzzle above, or click the question mark on the bottom of the board to see the answer.

8. The Real Game

In real life, the game ended in a draw when both players were reduced to only a king.

Jeff Sarwer, Waitzkin's real-life opponent, went on to earn over half a million dollars in poker tournaments after retiring from serious chess. Waitzin has found success as an author and martial arts expert.

9. Youngest GMs

via Chess.com

At least 23 players have become grandmasters before they turned 15 years old. 

Bobby Fischer held the record for youngest grandmaster for 33 years after he became a GM at 15-and-half years old in 1958. Judit Polgar beat Fischer's record in 1991 by earning her GM title at 15 years and almost 5 months.

Since then, plenty of chess players have become grandmasters at astonishingly young ages. 

The current record-holder for youngest grandmaster is Ukraine’s Sergey Karjakin, who became a GM at the age of 12 years and 7 months.

The youngest woman to ever become a full grandmaster is China’s Hou Yifan, who earned the GM title at age 14 years and 6 months.

10. Iceland vs. Brazil

via Crossed Flag Pins 

The average rating of Iceland's and Brazil's top 10 players is equal -- 2513 for both countries.

Iceland has 324,000 people, while Brazil has 203,000,000 -- more than 600 times the population of Iceland.

In the chess world, Iceland is surely best known for hosting the 1972 world chess championship match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. The match was held in Reykjavík, Iceland, and Fischer won the world championship after 21 games with a score of 12.5 to 8.5 for Spassky. 

Brazil has been a star on the international sports stage lately, hosting the just-completed 2014 FIFA World Cup, along with the upcoming 2016 summer Olympics.

What are some other chess facts someone might not know? Share yours in the comment section.


article image: Question Mark Block by Jarden Cherup | CC

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