The game of chess has been played around the world since the days of Cleopatra and is currently enjoying an unprecedented level of popularity. This is quite miraculous when you think that the humble chess set is up against so many other forms of entertainment on offer in the modern, digital landscape.
Chess pieces being moved around a chess board might seem at first glance like a relatively simple concept, but the infinite amount of permutations and moves possible make it one of the best ways of testing your wits against an opponent.
In this article, we look at 10 interesting facts that you might not know about the much-loved game, which put into perspective just how long and rich a history chess has. So, without further ado, let’s delve into the interesting world of chess pieces, chess boards and chess trivia.
Fact 1 - Games Can be Won in Seconds or Hours
Although every game begins with a chess board and two sets of differently coloured chess pieces , every game played is singularly unique and can result in checkmate after many hours or just a few seconds. For example, if a fool’s mate occurs, it usually means the game is over after just two or three chess pieces have been moved.
Conversely, the longest ever game of tournament chess took more than 20 hours to complete, and it ended in a draw! When you set up your chess set for a game, you never can guess how long it’s going to take.
Fact 2 - Some People Play Blindfold Chess
Believe it or not, there are some players that are so adept at the game that they’re able to play blindfolded! This takes an enormous amount of mental dexterity to remember where all of the chess pieces are on the chess board at any given time.
Blindfold chess typically uses a second person who moves the chess pieces around the board for the player, but that’s all the help that they get. The world record for blindfold chess is held by Janos Flesch, who in 1960 played 52 games in this way simultaneously on 52 different chess boards - a quite incredible feat of mental agility.
Fact 3 - In the 18th Century, an Automated Chess Machine was invented - but it was fake!
A chess machine known as The Turk was created in 1770 that was purported to be a device that was able to take on and beat the best chess players of the day. Whilst it was pretty impressive at first glance in the way it was seemingly able to decide the best way to move the chess pieces around the board, it was actually hiding a big secret!
That secret was that it housed a real human chess master, who was the one winning all of the games. The hoax was only uncovered after almost 84 years, during which time it had beaten the likes of Benjamin Franklin and even Napoleon Bonaparte.
Fact 4 - Computers are Now Better at Chess Than Us!
Whilst the Turk ultimately turned out to be an elaborate hoax, modern-day chess automatons are very real and very good at the game. Deep Blue, was created by IBM in the late 1990s and it beat Gary Kasparov, arguably the best player ever to own a , over 6 games.
This was a major shock to the chess world at the time, but while it could have led some to feel that the concept of human beings pushing chess pieces around a chess board as a redundant practice, the game has gone from strength to strength. Whilst modern day chess computers are of a similar standard to Deep Blue, they haven’t been developed beyond the level of a Grandmaster and are useful in helping people to improve their game.
Fact 5 - Many Different Variants of Chess Exist
While one chess board and one set of chess pieces is usually enough for most people, there have been a number of different variants of the game created over the years. There’s Bughouse, which involves putting two chess boards next to each other and giving your opponent chess pieces that you capture so that they can place them on the other board.
Or what about Chess Boxing, in which there is a predetermined Boxing Round, adding a new twist to the old game. It's good to know that the people involved in the chess world are continually trying to innovate!
Fact 6 - The Folding Chess Board Was Invented by a Priest
The folding chess board is something that most of us are familiar with, but it came about in the most unlikely of circumstances. In the 12th century, priests were forbidden from playing the game, although they still did in private!
Folding chess boards were created so that these priests could play the game without being found and able to quickly hide what they were doing should the Bishop (no pun intended) walk in.
Fact 7 - The 2nd Book Ever Written in English was about Chess!
There have been millions of books written in English over the years about a good many subjects, but did you know that the second book ever to go to print was about the game of chess? The Game and Playe of Chesse was written and published by William Caxton, the first person ever to be able to call themselves an English printer.
It was published in 1470 and was once thought to be the first book ever written in English. That was until the honour was given to Jacobus de Cessolis instead.
There are countless other facts and trivia attached to the game of chess that would just take too long to list here. Suffice to say, however, that even just the small selection provided here clearly illustrates that chess is a game that is as much a part of our history as people, as it is a game that continues to be enjoyed the world over.
Perhaps in 2 centuries, a writer will put together an article about how chess boards, chess sets and the majestic game itself have continued to inspire the minds of our descendants.