The Devil's Dictionary of Chess

The Devil's Dictionary of Chess

Mar 29, 2008, 10:07 PM |
This blog is inspired by Ambrose Bierce’s 1911 book The Devil’s Dictionary, an example from which is the following.

Christian: One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.

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While I do not claim to have Bierce’s satiric wit, I hope some of you may find minor amusement in a few of these chess definitions.

Backward Pawn:     A pawn that doesn’t realize how good your position really is.
Blunder:                 The only way that you ever lose games.
Brilliancy:              The only way that you ever win games.

Calculation:         For many players, this refers to the mental process of visualizing the future course of the next move.
Checkmate:          A term mostly uttered in the hotel restaurant of the Australian Open.
Compensation:     Tactical barter.
Counterplay:        Female chess player’s response. (see Mating Net below).

Development:          Placing your pieces en prise faster than your opponent.
Discovered Check:   A move that is sometimes a surprise to both players.
Doubled Pawns      Serfs up.

Endgame:         Transition to the loss.
En passant:      French term for “drive-by shooting”.
En prise:          French for ‘a prize’.

Fianchetto:      An oft-mispronounced Italian term for ‘funky cleric.’
File:                 A dangerous place for royalty to hang out in the open.

Gambit:           Pouring a libation to the chess Gods.
Grandmaster:  A chess player whose sole skill exceeding your own is that of selecting a chess move.

Hypermodern:  Nimzovich on speed.

Isolated Pawn:  A pawn that is an island entire of itself, ringing a bell that tolls for he.

Luft:  An embarrassing noise that emanates from beneath the table when your opponent threatens your king.

Master:         An expert who has lost his humility.
Material:       Any information that may be collected into a good blog.
Mating Net:   A ring of desperate males who lurk on the edges of women’s open tournaments.
Middlegame:  Portion of the game that consists exclusively of Zwischenzugs.
Mobility:       The degree to which one can flee from a pawn storm.
Opening:              A position that occurs in every game during which you are the equal of any chess master.
Opposition:          A form of arm wrestling where the king that gets the jump loses.
Overprotection:   What pieces do when they suffer from neurotic paranoia.

Passed Pawn:     A serf with delusions of grandeur.
Patzer:              Anyone who thinks you are a patzer.
Pawn Chain:       A connected archipelago.
Pawn Island:       No pawn is an island entire of itself.
Poisoned Pawn:  A tempting morsel offered by Satan for the instruction of innocents.
Prophylaxis:      A chess move frowned upon by the Pope.

Rank:  Atmospheric condition of the hall at the end of a long tournament.

Sacrifice:  What a chess player’s spouse has to endure.

Skittles:      A casual game marked by players who vie for the cleverest insult.
Stalemate:  A skittles game where the players have exhausted their wit.

Tactics:  What you try to do when you are otherwise clueless.
Tempo:  The metronomic rhythm of pieces hitting the board during speed chess.

Zugzwang:      You are required to supply this definition.
Zwischenzug:  Any chess move modeled after the German military re-armament of the 1930’s.