Chess Year In Review: How Well Do You Remember?
Alexander Grischuk (with microphone) and other players address the media—and comments by GMs are always entertaining. Photo: Altibox Norway Chess via Facebook.

Chess Year In Review: How Well Do You Remember?


The year 2020 has been an unbelievable one, most remarkably because of the changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic but also because of amazing statements made by leading chess officials and elite players.

Have some fun and see if you can correctly identify the quotations below with who said them. The correct answers are identified at the end (but no fair peeking). How well can you do in these categories?

GM Magnus Carlsen

Because World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen is so dominant in chess news, the first quotations relate to him:

  1. When Carlsen said, “Honestly, I think that the chess that I played in the _________ is the best chess that I ever played. I just don't think I've played very well since,” what time period is he referring to?
    1. Fall of 2019
    2. Second half of 2019 
    3. First three months of 2020 
    4. First half of 2019
GM Magnus Carlsen at Altibox Norway Tournament in October 2020
In the confessional box at the Altibox Norway Chess tournament, Carlsen explained how tiny he thought his advantage over Firouzja was during round eight. Photo: Altibox Norway Chess via Facebook.
  1. When Carlsen tweeted that his next opponent in the knockout phase of the Skilling Open in November would be “that guy,” who was he referring to?
    1. GM Wesley So
    2. GM Levon Aronian
    3. GM Hikaru Nakamura
    4. GM Anish Giri
  2. What did Carlsen say when Play Magnus Group went public in October and was listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange:
    1. “It is not me who will tell where this company will be in ten years.”
    2. “I have not thought much about it.”
    3. “It is definitely a milestone in the company’s history.”
    4. All of the above.
    Magnus Carlsen at the Oslo Stock Exchange
    Magnus Carlsen in front of the Oslo Stock Exchange in October when his company went public. Photo: Gabriel Aas Skalevik/VG.
  3. When Carlsen secured victory at the Altibox Norway Chess tournament with one round remaining by beating GM Alireza Firouzja, who blundered in a basic pawn endgame, the world champion said:
    1. “I never study endgames.”
    2. “Remind me to study distant opposition more.”
    3. “I lost count of the pawns.”
    4. “It's nice to be the wise old man!"
  4. When Carlsen’s unbeaten streak of 125 classical games came to an end as he was upset by GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda in round five of the Altibox Norway Chess tournament, the world champion said:
    1. “I was really shocked.”
    2. “It’s a game I should have won.”
    3. “Where did my opponent learn that trick?”
    4. “It had to happen at some point. But in any case, it's very, very disappointing." 
World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda
In the endgame before Carlsen resigns, he stares at his losing position. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.
  1. About the game in round five of the Altibox Norway Chess tournament when he defeated Carlsen, Duda said:
    1. “We started to play somewhat randomly; at least I did.”
    2. “I am thinking a lot, and then I wonder what I spent my time on!”
    3. “I almost blundered checkmate in one move!"
    4. All the above.

2020 FIDE Candidates

The next few quotations relate to the disruption of the 2020 FIDE Candidates Tournament, a major story this year:

  1. After the fifth round of the 2020 FIDE Candidates in Yekaterinburg, Russia, and well before the tournament was halted before round eight, which player said, “I don’t want to play at all with this situation. In the beginning, I did not have a clear opinion, but after several days, I have a clear opinion that this tournament should be stopped”?
    1. GM Hikaru Nakamura
    2. GM Wesley So
    3. GM Levon Aronian
    4. GM Alexander Grischuk 
Round 5 of 2020 FIDE Candidates Tournament
Round five of the FIDE Candidates Tournament begins in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Photo: Maria Emelianova/
  1. After winning his first game at the 2020 Candidates, which player said, “Basically we shouldn't play [in] such a situation”?
    1. GM Kirill Alekseenko
    2. GM Ian Nepomniachtchi
    3. GM Fabiano Caruana
    4. GM Wang Hao
  2. When the 2020 FIDE Candidates was halted before round eight, who said, “It was a hard decision to start the tournament, and it was a hard decision to stop it”?
    1. GM Teimour Radjabov
    2. GM Viswanathan Anand
    3. FIDE Director General Emil Sutovsky
    4. GM FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich 
    FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich and 12th world champion Anatoly Karpov (both left center) sit together at the opening ceremony. Photo: Maria Emelianova/
  3. After FIDE made the decision to halt the 2020 FIDE Candidates, who said, “We can't really lock players in Russia since we don't know how long the flight termination will last…. So we had no choice but to stop the event”?
    1. FIDE international organizer and photographer Lennart Ootes
    2. Russian Minister of Sports Oleg Matytsin
    3. FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich 
    4. FIDE Director General Emil Sutovsky

Women In Chess

The next category relates to women in chess and the growing attention to them caused by the miniseries The Queen’s Gambit, podcasts, social media channels, and the arts that feature women.

  1. Who said, “Chess isn't always competitive; chess can also be beautiful”—and where?
    1. WGM Jennifer Shahade on her podcast “Ladies Knight” 
    2. GM Alexandra Kosteniuk on her Twitch channel "chessqueen
    3. WFM Maria Emelianova on her Twitch channel "PhotoChess
    4. Beth Harmon (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) in the miniseries The Queen’s Gambit

    Chess isn't always competitive; chess can also be beautiful.
    —A prominent female personality (do you know her?)

  2. Which streamer tweeted on her 25th birthday in September, “Never been big on birthdays but today I’m feeling grateful for my life experiences so far, most importantly the people in my life.”
    1. WGM Jennifer Shahade
    2. GM Alexandra Kosteniuk 
    3. WFM Maria Emelianova
    4. WFM Alexandra Botez 
  3. Who describes herself as a “lipstick maniac” on her social media profiles?
    1. WGM Jennifer Shahade
    2. GM Alexandra Kosteniuk
    3. WFM Maria Emelianova
    4. IM Anna Rudolf
Ladies Knight podcast with Jennifer Shahade
The popular Ladies Knight podcast with WGM Jennifer Shahade features many prominent guests. Image: USChess.
  1. On WGM Jennifer Shahade’s “Ladies Knight” podcast in September, seven-time U.S. Women’s Champion GM Irina Krush said the big change in becoming a chess coach for her is:
    1. “Your preparation is much more intense.”
    2. “You focus more on tactics.”
    3. “You travel much more.”
    4. “You study a lot less.”
  2. In the song that premiered in May at the FIDE Online Nations Cup, singer-songwriter Juga Di Prima tells us:
    1. “He played Caro-Kann.”
    2. “My rook was a knife.”
    3. “His pieces were dead.”
    4. “You better resign.”
Singer-songwriter Juga Di Prima premiered a song in May at the FIDE Online Nations Cup.
Singer-songwriter Juga Di Prima premiered a song in May at the FIDE Online Nations Cup. Image:

Chess Culture

The final category, which groups the remaining quotations, may be the trickiest.

  1. About the chess variants explored by DeepMind's AlphaZero, GM Levon Aronian described Self-Capture as:
    1. the “weirdest.”
    2. the “stupidest.”
    3. the “easiest.”
    4. the "funniest."
  2. GM Sergey Karjakin described playing in June against cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner on the International Space Station to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first-ever Space vs. Earth chess battle as:
    1. “A bold display of bold openings.”
    2. “A demonstration of important tactics.”
    3. “Important in promoting chess across the globe.”
    4. "Even more exciting than the world championship match in New York."
Chess game in space between cosmonauts and GM Sergey Karjakin
Cosmonauts in space play a chess game against GM Sergey Karjakin to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Space vs. Earth chess battle. Photo: VKontakte.
  1. How was the phrase “A segregated place with the elite and the rest living in different worlds” used?
    1. FC Barcelona forward Lionel Andres Messi describing soccer players
    2. Tadej Pogacar (winner of 2020 Tour de France) describing team riders
    3. LeBron James (Finals MVP when Los Angeles Lakers defeated Miami Heat) describing basketball players
    4. Association of Chess Professionals describing the chess world 
  2. Who said, “During the last Saint Louis event (2020 Rapid & Blitz), I think I was just basically going through the motions. I had no energy or creativity. I was just not playing well at all”?
    1. GM Alireza Firouzja
    2. GM Hikaru Nakamura 
    3. GM Wesley So
    4. GM Magnus Carlsen

    I had no energy or creativity. I was just not playing well at all.
    —A prominent grandmaster (do you know him?)

  3. A news article on that interested many readers this year is the interview with Isa Kasimi, who changed his name from Igors Rausis. How did Kasimi explain the reason for the change?
    1. “Igors was never correctly pronounced in the Latvian language."
    2. "I decided that Igors was wrong, and Igors did wrong things in his life, so let's remove him."
    3. “It would be nice to use the name of my wife.”
    4. All the above.
  4. Harry Schaack, editor of the chess magazine Karl, on the death of a grandmaster in August commented that he “was one of the best players in German history. Only Lasker and Hubner achieved a bit more.” Who is the grandmaster?
    1. GM Efim Bogoljubov
    2. GM Lothar Schmid
    3. GM Markus Stangl
    4. GM Wolfgang Uhlmann 
Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, anticipates amazing growth rates. Photo: Alan Boyle/GeekWire.
  1. Who said, “We're currently on pace to onboard over 1.5 million members this month, an increase of at least 200% year-over-year”?
    1. Reed Hastings, chairman of Netflix, about his company’s growth in November generated by the TV miniseries The Queen’s Gambit.
    2. Jeff Bezos, CEO of, who described the growth of new Amazon Prime members to Wall Street Journal in October.
    3. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, quoted by BBC on signup of future space travelers with his company in December.
    4. Nick Barton, director of business development at, quoted in November by Fox News about growth.
  2. About playing in the online Chess9LX tournament, where first prize was shared by Magnus Carlsen and GM Hikaru Nakamura, which player said, “I know people are happy to see me play. I hope I do not disappoint them. I had fun and as long as I’m having some fun and people are happy, I will keep doing this”?
    1. GM Alireza Firouzja 
    2. GM Fabiano Caruana
    3. GM Wesley So
    4. GM Garry Kasparov 
GM Wesley So during broadcast of Chess9XL tournament
GM Wesley So during the live broadcast of the Chess9XL tournament. Image: Saint Louis Chess Club.
  1. When he attended the South Africa Junior Chess Championship in January, who said, “You don’t play chess to have fun. You play chess to crush your opponent”?
    1. GM Alireza Firouzja
    2. GM Fabiano Caruana
    3. GM Wesley So
    4. GM Levon Aronian

How did you do? Consider yourself a master if you missed fewer than seven and a grandmaster if fewer than three. By now, you have probably realized that all correct answers are d. I hope you enjoyed this diversion from chess games and puzzles as we wait for the coronavirus pandemic to end.

Now it's your turn. What comments by someone connected to the chess world are also interesting?