The Best Chess Quotes You've Never Seen, part 2

Nearly two years ago I posted part one of this blog and since that time I have been collecting new quotations as I encounter them in my readings.  As before, I will offer a small sampling of information with each quotation in the hopes that it will enhance either your understanding or enjoyment of it.

Let us begin with an insightful observation about pawns.  Of course, everyone is familiar with Philidor’s dictum that “Pawns are the soul of chess”, but I have promised you quotes that you have not seen before.  George Koltanowski, whom I have written of in more than one of my blogs, also had something to say about pawns.  When he died in 2000, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an obituary in which Koltanowski was quoted as saying that, “Pawns are like buttons.  Lose too many and the pants fall down by themselves.”

In my last blog, I wrote of Edwyn Anthony’s invention of a method to transmit by telegraph two chess moves at the cost of one word. In the beginning of his 1890 monograph entitled Chess Telegraphic Codes Anthony wrote that, “The game of Chess stands at the head of sedentary pastimes.”

While Anthony’s work has been forgotten, not so the many books by one of my favorite chess authors, Irving Chernev.  He gave hope to every student of chess when he reminded them that, “Every chess master was once a beginner.”

Emanuel Lasker was world chess champion for twenty-seven years, but there is another influential Lasker, whose first name was Edward, and an International Master himself.  Edward Lasker was also a fine chess author and once wrote that, “There is in chess, as in art and music, an element of style.”

Regarding the topic of art, one of my more popular blogs, Still a Victim of Chess, was about French artist Marcel Duchamp.  You may or may not like his art, but Marcel Duchamp was undeniably a thinking man and not a small amount of his thinking was directed toward chess, which influenced his art.  He wrote, “The chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts; and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chess-board, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem.”

Chess is complex, and that complexity expresses itself in the ideas of chess players.  In another book review, I discussed Andrew Soltis’ How to Choose a Chess Move.  In that book, I was delighted to learn of a concept that had not previously occurred to me.  Here is how Soltis explained the idea on page 207: “If you have the inferior position you usually want matters to be impossible to calculate because that increases the likelihood that your opponent will make a bad decision.”  Since reading that, I have come to refer to this notion as ‘tactical entropy’, which summarizes the concept in just two words. (Incidentally, while I confess fondness for my summary, it is the Soltis quote that I am offering up for your enjoyment.)

One of my friends is Dr. David Burns, whose screen name here is pastoryoshi.  In one of our private correspondences last August he said something memorable, which reminded me of what Soltis wrote, although this is not how David intended it.  At the time he kindly gave me permission to share his words in some future blog, which I am now happy to do.  He wrote simply that, “The reason we all love chess so much is because it gives us so many opportunities to be wrong.”

Another interesting chess author is Jacob Aagaard, whose book Inside the Chess Mind I have also reviewed.  On page 7 of that book, he, like Soltis, commented on the complexity of chess, though in quite a different manner.  Aagaard simply wrote the lovely words,  “Chess is a game of beautiful complexity, evolved to give the most possible meaning to our many-sided imagination.”

Let us finish by citing the words of the man for whom the Sicilian Opening was named, Pietro Carerra.  In the English translation of his 1617 book The Game of Chess, Carerra wrote yet another view of complex chess positions.  For anyone who has been inspired by a brilliant combination in the game of a chess master, this last quote will ring true.  “Who will deny that the mind is awakened and excited to victory by ingenious positions?”


  • 2 years ago


    "Why must I lose to this complete idiot!!' - Alexander alakine note- he was stood on the table screaming in anger

  • 7 years ago


    Check Mate. ~ Any victors favorite phrase.

  • 7 years ago


    "The Pin is mightier than the sword" — Fred Reinfield
  • 7 years ago


    Enjoyable as always, KG. I loved the quote from Koltanowski's obit: "pawns are like buttons". Magic stuff! And that "tactical entropy"  is pure genius.

    Muhmmed333's comment, "The best way to win is NOT to lose" reminds me of a 1980s comment in Triathlon magazine when a nervous reader wrote to San Diego-based Scott Tinley -- at that time probably the world's #2 triathlete -- and asked how to avoid  bicycle accidents. His response was brief and to the point: "Try to keep the rubber side down."

  • 7 years ago


    "The best way to win is NOT to lose"


  • 7 years ago


    "Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake."

    - Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower

  • 7 years ago


    "If you find a good move, look for a better one"

                                                      -Emanual Lasker

    yes, that will work, no doubt

  • 7 years ago


    `Chess is a time consuming endeavor wisely embarked into by smart people who have lots of idle time to spare', which accomplishes nothing of value but merely just having one's ego infated or deflated'. 

  • 7 years ago


    Checkers are for tramps~ -Paul Morphy- though I dunno how its related to chess, it is still a quote

  • 7 years ago


    Don't know where I read this one:

    Play the opening by the book, the middle game like a magician & the end game like a machine.

  • 7 years ago


    "A knight on the rim is dim." Classic chess saying.

  • 7 years ago


    "Chess is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get."

    Forrest Kasparov

  • 7 years ago



    But unfortunately, I have no quote, at least not one that isn't well-known.

    But here's one anyway; Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy. (Tarrasch, Siegbert)

  • 7 years ago


    "The pin is mightier than the sword."

    - Irving Chernev

  • 7 years ago


    "A pawn is the soul of chess"

                                -Paul Morphy

  • 7 years ago


    "If you find a good move, look for a better one"

                                                      -Emanual Lasker

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