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Kirill Yurovskiy: 5 facts about chess that fans of this game will appreciate

Here are some facts about the game of chess that most people don’t know. These are small fundamental ideas behind the game of chess, from the history of chess to the longest possible game. This chess information should help you improve your theory of the game. Author: Kirill Yurovskiy

1. Napoleon and Franklin lost in chess to a mechanical Turk

In 1770, Wolfgang von Kempelen invented and presented Empress Maria Theresia of Austria with a large table with a mechanical doll dressed as a Turk. The dummy moved his hand and moved the chess pieces on the board, playing better than any real grandmaster.

For nearly 84 years, the robotourque has been on display in Europe and America, and it has defeated many strong contenders, including various statesmen. Among them were Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin.

So it turns out that the machine was equipped with the world’s first version of artificial chess intelligence, which was the prototype of the famous Deep Blue? Not exactly.

There was just a camera under the table where a real chess player sat and pulled the levers, controlling the robot.

Neural networks with AI had not yet been invented, so Wolfgang von Kempelen had to resort to subterfuge.

Among the Turk’s secret operators were the strongest chess players of the 18th century, including Johann Algayer, Aaron Alexander, William Lewis, and Hyacinth Boncourt. The latter, by the way, once came to a session with a cold and coughing all the time, and these sounds frightened the audience present at the game.

Von Kempelen added many clanking metal wheels and clicking mechanisms to the turk after this match, which were designed to create noise that masked the presence of a live operator inside.

2. the chess clock was invented to prevent participants from falling asleep

Nowadays even an amateur tournament without time control is unthinkable, but in the past, up to 1853, one could ponder over a move as long as one wanted. And this led to various amusing mishaps.

For example, in the first international tournament in 1851 chess players Williams and Maclough thought over their moves so long that they got overworked, and the contest deadlocked because of it. The assistant referee commented on this in his notes:

The game remained unfinished because both opponents fell asleep.

That same year Williams played against Howard Staunton. The match went 6-3 in favor of the latter, but Williams was so slow that his opponent freaked out and gave up, only to get rid of the slowpoke.

The clock was first used in 1853 – it was an hourglass. The modern device with two switches was invented in 1900. At that time it was a mechanical clock, but later it became electronic.

The clock solved the problem of chess players falling asleep, but it gave rise to another difficulty: sometimes a player might forget to press the switch. As a result, his opponent pretends to ponder his move and watches as someone else’s time is wasted.

For example, in the second game of the World Championship match in 1987, Kasparov made a move but did not change the clocks for three minutes after that, while his opponent, Karpov, delicately “didn’t notice” this. As a result, at the end of the game Kasparov had only one free minute left for all the moves, which naturally led to his defeat.

3. There is a hybrid of chess and boxing

Usually the average boxer still beats the average chess player, but not in the case of chessboxing. This sporting discipline originally appeared as a joke – it was invented by French comic book artist Enki Bilal.

And the Dutch chess player and performance artist Yepe Rubing developed the rules and founded the World Chess Boxing Organization (WCBO). He, by the way, was the first world champion in this sport.

World and European chess championships with England, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Japan, Bulgaria, USA and Russia have been held since 2003.

Rules are simple: fight consists of 11 rounds, even – boxing, odd – chess blitz.

Victory can be achieved by knockout, mat or overdue chess time. Can’t beat your opponent with a dashing queenside gambit? Hit him in the jaw with the right, then it will definitely work! A very versatile discipline.

4. Queen used to be a weak piece

The modern queen is the strongest unit that can move any number of squares in all directions. But this was not always the case.

In classical medieval chess, borrowed by Europeans from the Arabs, the queen was the weakest character in the game and only moved one square diagonally.

But somewhere around 1300, to diversify the game a little, he added the opportunity to “jump” on two fields on the diagonal, horizontal and vertical with his first move. It’s a frantic version of a pawn, but still not very useful.

The queen became the most powerful piece on the board only after another reform of the rules in the 15th century.

Opinions of historians differ as to why this happened. The most popular version says that the queen was strengthened by Queen Isabella I of Spain, who was supposedly an avid chess player herself.

In her country, as in most European countries, this figure was called not a vizier (advisor), but the queen. And the mighty Isabella thought it outrageous that her counterpart on the board was limited in moves, so she made her courtiers rewrite the rules. As a result, her version of the game became known in neighboring Italy as “queen’s chess” or, pejoratively, “madwoman’s chess.”

There are also theories that the queen was amplified, impressed by the power of other powerful ladies of the Middle Ages, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine or Blanca of Castile. Or it was even a kind of tribute to the knightly cult of the Virgin Mary – some medieval poets associated the figure with the Virgin herself.

And, by the way, up to the XII century the pawns that reached the end of the board did not turn into queens, because there could not be two queens in one country. Only later in the rules was added a clause allowing such transformation. But the transformed piece was called an advisor, not a second queen.

5. Chess can be played with non-standard pieces on a three-dimensional board

Chess players are constantly trying to complicate their lives by inventing new variations of the rules of the game. For example, Thomas Dawson, president of the British Amateur Chess Society, introduced new pieces. His night rider galloped like a horse but could repeat his move until he reached the edge of the board, the joker imitated the opponent’s last move, and the grasshopper moved like a queen, but only by jumping over other pieces.

And in his rules there are also chancellor, chariot, eagle, hamster, moose, and sparrow. It must not have been easy to remember how this whole zoo walks.

There are other ways to diversify the boring games. For example – Swedish chess, which is played by two teams of two people, each on their own board. Taken pieces are passed to the partner, who can put them in addition to their own. And in “atomic” chess such pieces “explode”, taking both their own and others in neighboring squares.

But the most brain-breaking variation is three-dimensional chess, aka raumschach (from German Raumschach – “space chess”). Invented in 1907 by the German physician Ferdinand Maak.

They are played on a special design, which consists of eight boards, stacked one above the other. The pieces move as usual, but not only right and left, but also up and down. Something similar was played by Spock in Star Trek.

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