5 Dumb Things Your Non-Chess Friends Say

5 Dumb Things Your Non-Chess Friends Say

Apr 6, 2015, 12:00 AM |
202 | Fun & Trivia

GM Serper recently performed an in-depth criticism of the popular chess movie “Searching For Bobby Fischer,” pointing out bad habits you could pick up if the film were your only source of chess education.

Serper also mentions that the movie’s success went a long way in popularizing chess with the general public.

But many non-chess players may not have even seen the movie, and only have a vague idea of what chess and its competitive world are like.

Chess players have long had to endure false cliches and ridiculous ideas from their friends who don’t play the game — the same is true for devotees of any specialized field or hobby.

Here's a list of five stupid things your non-chess-playing friends often say about our favorite game. Remember, it's all in good fun.

Let us know the dumb things you've heard said about chess in the comments and on Facebook

1. A knight is called a horse.

We start with a classic. Mistakenly calling a knight a "horse" is not uncommon even among beginner chess players, much less the general public.

After all, the piece does look like a horse. But while most chess players quickly learn the chess terminology, you'll hear this mistake from your non-chess friends quite often.

2. A master calculates dozens of moves ahead.

This is a strange one. The belief that the world's best players must calculate 10, 20, or more moves ahead in every position is fairly widespread among the non-chess-playing public, but aside from strictly forced variations, this idea couldn't be further from the truth.

In most positions, even the best chess engines can't look dozens of moves ahead, unless there is an easy checkmate for it to calculate.

In practical play, the exponential growth of possible moves limits even the most calculating player to a few good candidate moves, and human masters often rely on "intuition," or pattern-based memory, to find the right move.

When asked by non-chess-playing media how many moves he sees ahead, GM Siegbert Tarrasch is said to have replied: "only one — the best one."

3. Only geniuses are good at chess.

Chess is certainly an intellectual game, but it's not just geniuses who are good at it. A quick visit to any chess tournament will quickly disabuse your non-chess-friends of this farcical notion. 

The truth is that chess is a specialized pursuit, and that while general intelligence and creativity are extremely valuable in the game, you don't need to be Albert Einstein to crack a 2000 rating.

4. You can just make up a square.

Oftentimes, non-chess-players have heard chess moves described in algebraic notation, but they don't quite understand how it works. Perhaps in an attempt to mock the geekiness of chess, these jokesters will sometimes make up "logical-sounding" moves like "queen to f10."

Chess isn’t Battleship. A chessboard has eight rows and eight columns. If you hear about a square that goes past the letter h or the number eight, chances are you're talking to a non-chess-player. 

5. Only nerds play chess.

Chess might be portrayed as a nerdy game in popular entertainment, but this is a big misconception. Chess is by far the most popular and widely played board game on earth, and players from all cultures, ages, and occupations love the game.

The list of famous and definitive "non-nerds" who play chess is too long to print here  — celebrity actors, athletes, and musicians all enjoy the game.

Chess.com member (and actor) Rainn Wilson might not be a nerd, but he did play one on television. 

What are the stupidest things you've heard about chess? Let us know in the comments and on Facebook.


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