The Romance of Chess


A few months ago I wrote an article on a topic I've been looking into for some time, the Art of Odds-giving.  I realize that this topic is a very specialized one with limited appeal. At the same time, I also feel that its limited appeal has less to do with its intrinsic entertainment value than with a common tendency of humankind toward making superficial preferences. Its a lot like introducing a new, different food. Some people will try it and either like or dislike it; most will avoid it at all costs because they don't like the way it looks or they don't like what it's called or because it's not what they're used to.


I thought I might give a sample of Odds-giving to the uninitiated by presenting two historical games of a very peculiar nature.


Games, at odds, are generally played between a strong player and a weaker player.  The stong player starts with a basically "lost" game and endeavors to win it. The "odds" themselves are usually (but certainly not always) material odds. The opponents contract between themselves what odds they deem to be appropriate (although sometimes this is already established).  Usual odds would entail the strong player to remove a pawn, a knight, a rook or a queen (or sometimes a combination of minor pieces). In odds games, it's expected that the weaker player will make mistakes, otherwise the odds couldn't be given. The question is whether those mistakes, or the strong players ability to capitalize on them, will be enough compensation for the material difference.


Queen odds are the largest single-piece odds, but there is one extremely rare type of single-piece odds that is much more difficult: the capped piece. In this type of game, the strong player marks or caps one piece (or pawn) and must mate the weaker player with that exact piece. If the piece is captured, or if the strong player can't mate with that exact piece, the weaker player wins.


 In the first game, Max Lange caps his Queen's Knight.

 Max Lange





In this game Staunton caps his King's Knight's pawn.

a capped pawn is called a "Pion Coiffe"

 Howard Staunton