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Why does White move first in chess ?

  • 2 weeks ago · Quote · #41


    White moves first by convention.  This convention actually became standard for an unusual reason.

    In the early days, there were many local variations in the rules.  In some regions White moved first, a few had Black first, others drew lots for the first move. 

    By the 19th Century, it was quite common for two players engaging in a series of games to choose color by lot for the first game, White moving first, but then alternating first move with each player keeping his color. Many historical games are presented with the player moving first as "White" when in fact they were playing the Black pieces in the actual game.


    So how did White moving first become the standard?  Publishing.  Chess diagrams involved entirely separate typefaces, with each piece being represented on white and dark squares, which had to be put together by hand for the old type of presses.  Typesetters typically weren't players and it was easy to make mistakes.  So to make it easier to put accurate diagrams in books and newspapers, White at the bottom became the standard, and this made it more natural for White to actually move first.


    The needs of simplifying setting type for publishing led to the convention.  A bit weird, but no big mystery and no racist conspiracy.

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