Asimov Chess

Jul 14, 2012, 9:53 PM |

Here are a few excerpts relating to chess from the works of science fiction author Isaac Asimov;


1.Nightfall (1941 Short Story)

"The men about the table had brought out a multi-chess board and started a six member game. Moves were made rapidly and in silence. All eyes bent in furious concentration on the board." 

2. Pebble in the sky (1950 Novel) 

Chess, somehow, hadn’t changed, except for the names of the pieces. It was as he remembered it, and therefore it was always a comfort to him. At least, in this one respect, his poor memory did not play him false.

Grew told him of variations of chess. There was fourhanded chess, in which each player had a board, touching each other at the corners, with a fifth board filling the hollow in the center as a common No Man’s Land. There were three-dimensional chess games in which eight transparent boards were placed one over the other and in which each piece moved in three dimensions as they formerly moved in two, and in which the number of pieces and pawns were doubled, the win coming only when a simultaneous check of both enemy kings occurred. There were even the popular varieties, in which the original position of the chessmen were decided by throws of the dice, or where certain squares conferred advantages or disadvantages to the pieces upon them, or where new pieces with strange properties were introduced. 

But chess itself, the original and unchangeable, was the same--and the tournament between Schwartz and Grew had completed its first fifty games. 

They used a "night-board," one that glowed in the darkness in a checkered blue-and-orange glimmer. The pieces, ordinary lumpish figures of a reddish clay in the sunlight, were metamorphosed at night. Half were bathed in a creamy whiteness that lent them the look of cold and shining porcelain, and the others sparked in tiny glitters of red. 

3. Legal Rites (1950 Short Story)

Every night we sat up together. When we didn’t play pinochle or chess or cribbage, we just sat and talked over the news of the day. I still have the book we used to keep records of the chess and pinochle games. Zeb made the entries himself, in his own handwriting.”


"But she had died. Less than five years, all told, it had been; and after that he knew that he could live only by fighting that vague and fearful enemy that deprived him of the dignity of manhood by controlling his destiny; that made life a miserable struggle against a foreordained end; that made all the universe a hateful and deadly chess game."

 "But there was no way of making the people suddenly disbelieve what they had believed all their lives, so that the myth eventually served a very useful purpose in Seldon’s cosmic chess game."

 5. Franchise (1955 Short Story)

"We can’t let you read a newspaper, but if you’d care for a murder mystery, or if you'd like to play chess, or if there’s anything we can do for you to help pass the time, I wish you'd mention it.”

"Reason alone wouldn’t do. What was needed was a rare type of intuition; the same faculty of mind (only much more intensified) that made a grand master at chess. A mind was needed of the sort that could see through the quadrillions of chess patterns to find the one best move, and do it in a matter of minutes."

6. The Dead Past (1956)

"Your scientists can’t write. Why should they be expected to? They aren’t expected to be grand masters at chess or virtuosos at the violin, so why expect them to know how to put words together? Why not leave that for specialists, too?”

7. Waterclap (1970 Short Story)

(excerpt pending)

8. The Winnowing (1976 Short Story)

" Peter Affarre, chairman of the World Food Organization, came frequently to Rodman's laboratories for chess and conversation."

9. NEW YORK MAGAZINE (SEPT 1978, Article on Kreskin)

"Kreskin is offering to meet Bobby Fischer, together with the winner of the Korchnoi-Karpov match and play them both simultaneously, himself with a blindfold. If that should happen and Kreskin proceeds with constant chatter as last Tuesday, I wonder which of his two opponents will kill him first. Probably Fischer."

10. Isaac Asimov's Book of facts (1979)

"The number of possible ways of playing just the first four moves on each side in a game of chess is 318,979,564,000."

11. The Perfect Fit (1981)

 (excerpt pending)

12. Fantastic Voyage II (1987)

"In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate."

13. The smile of the chipper (1988 Short Story)

"Of course, we couldn’t hire them both. Getting two chippers to work together is impossible. They’re like chess grandmasters, I suppose. Put them in the same room and they would automatically challenge each other. They would compete continually, each trying to influence and confute the other. They wouldn’t stop couldn't actually -- and they would burn each other out in six months." 

14. Los Angeles Times (1990 Essay)

Title:      Checkmate?

Subject: Computer chess vs. Human intelligence 

15. I.Asimov: A Memoir (1994 Autobiography)

"Failure at physical sports has never bothered me .... What bothered me though was my failure at chess." ... "My failure at chess was really distressing. It seemed completely at odds with my "smartness" ..."

 16. Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humour

"Once while I was in the army, I read "The Royal Game", surely the best chess story ever written. It filled me with a wild desire to play chess and I began to approach various soldiers who appeared the chess type. No Luck! To each one I came with a wistful "Would you like to play a game of chess?" and from each one came a cold "No."

Finally I had the idea that I should have had to start with. I came to a soldier and said, "Would you like to read a terrific story?" and handed him " The Royal Game".

I waited. An hour passed. And then he came to me and said "Would you like to play a game of chess?"