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Endgame Fundamentals: Chess Quotes

By Donny Gray

A while back I did an article on quotes by world champions.  They mostly were serious quotes on how to play better; however, not all chess quotes are helpful.

Some of the following quotes are very helpful and thoughtful, while others are jokes.  Many of them contradict each other. A lot of them you probably have read before, but I bet a lot are new to you.  Whatever the case may be, I hope you like them!



If you have any doubt what to study, study endgames. Openings teach you openings. Endings teach you chess. – Stephan Gerzadowicz

After giving a student the basic mating patterns and strategies you must begin giving them advanced concepts. At first these ideas will not make sense, many players will have a vague idea of what you are talking about but nothing more. Even a fragmented understanding of these concepts will prove useful though, and eventually they will improve as these lessons are assimilated by repetition and example. – Jeremy Silman

A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing.  – Emo Phillips

I failed to make the chess team because of my height. – Woody Allen

If drink is the curse of the working classes and work is the curse of the drinking classes then chess is the curse of the thinking classes.  – J Ross

Chess is 99 percent tactics. – Richard Teichmann

Chess is 99 percent calculation. – Andrew Soltis

Chess is a beautiful mistress to whom we keep coming back, no matter how many times she rejects us. – Bent Larsen

Chess is not a game but a disease.  – Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman

Place the contents of the chess box in a hat, shake them up vigorously, pour them on the board from a height of two feet – and you get the style of Steinitz.   – Henry Bird

Fame, I have already. Now I need the money.   – Wilhelm Steinitz

I keep on fighting as long as my opponent can make a mistake.  – Emanuel Lasker

Some of Marshall’s most sparkling moves look at first like typographical errors.  – William Napier

Chess was Capablanca’s mother tongue.  – Richard Reti

Why must I lose to this idiot?!  – Aaron Nimzowitsch

When in doubt, centralize. – Aaron Nimzowitsch

Nobody can give God pawn odds and win. But if I played white, I bet I could play God to a draw.  – Robert J. Fischer

In a gambit, you give up a pawn for the sake of getting a lost game.  – Samuel Boden

Always check; it may be mate. – Al Horowitz

Chess is a sea in which a gnat may drink and an elephant may bathe. – Indian proverb

I’d rather have a pawn than a finger.   – Reuben Fine

It all depends: which pawn and which finger?  – Roman Dzindzichashvili

Chess is as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you can find outside an advertising agency.  – Raymond Chandler

A man that will take back a move at chess will pick a pocket.  – Richard Fenton

There are two types of sacrifices: correct ones and mine  – Mikhail Tal

The eighth square at last! Oh how glad I am to get here. And what is this on my head?  – Alice (in Through The Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll)

My name is Rustam Kamsky. You annoyed my son. Prepare to die.  – Rustam Kamsky

That’s what Chess is all about. One day you give your opponent a lesson, the next day he gives you one.  – Bobby Fischer

Chess is as much a mystery as women.  – Purdy

There are easier things to do than understand women, like nailing water to a tree.  – Kombucha

Merely memorizing moves is the first step to forgetting how to play chess. It is more essential to understand the nuances of structures than to rattle off opening variations. – Robert Hess

Chess is not something that drives people mad, chess-playing psychologist William Hartston once remarked. Chess is something that keeps mad people sane.

If you play Botvinnik, it is even alarming to see him write his move down. Slightly shortsighted, he stoops over his score sheet and devotes his entire attention to recording the move in the most beautifully clear script; one feels that an explosion would not distract him and that examined through a microscope not an irregularity would appear. When he wrote down 1… c2-c4 against me, I felt like resigning.  – Hugh Alexander

Checkers is for tramps.  – Paul Morphy

Climbing, in particular, is a paradoxically intellectual pastime, but with this difference: you have to think with your body. Every move has to be worked out in terms of effort, balance and consequences. It is like playing chess with your body. If I make a mistake, the consequences are immediate, obvious, embarrassing and possibly painful.  – A. Alvarez

I want to remind you to conduct yourselves like adults. I don’t want any trouble. You know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re going to watch the game, do so from behind the player. No throat noises. No comments. No eye contact. Nobody cares if you’re guilty or not. If you all behave yourselves, I think we’ll all have a very good time. I’m not kidding.
– Tournament Director in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer talking to the parents

At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box – Italian Proverb

He who analyzes blitz is stupid.  – Rashid Nezhmetdinov

If your opponent can not do anything active, don’t rush the position; instead you should let him sit there, suffer, and then beg you for a draw – Silman

When you see a good move, look for a better one – Lasker

Chess is the gymnasium of the mind – Pascal

Every chess master was once a beginner – Chernev

I am convinced, the way one plays chess always reflects the player’s personality. If something defines his character, then it will also define his way of playing.  – Vladimir Kramnik

Chess helps you to concentrate, improve your logic. It teaches you to play by the rules and take responsibility for your actions, how to problem solve in an uncertain environment – Garry Kasparov

On the other hand, chess is a mass sport now and for chess organizers shorter time control is obviously more attractive. But I think that this control does not suit World Championship matches.  – Boris Spassky

In boxing you create a strategy to beat each new opponent, it’s just like chess. – Lennox Lewis

Chess as a sport requires a lot of mental stamina, and this is what that makes it different from a physical sport. Chess players have a unique ability of taking in a lot of information and remembering relevant bits. So, memory and mental stamina are the key attributes. – Viswanathan Anand

I started by just sitting by the chessboard exploring things. I didn’t even have books at first, and I just played by myself. I learnt a lot from that, and I feel that it is a big reason why I now have a good intuitive understanding of chess. – Magnus Carlsen

Once you’re a chess player, you spend a lot of time thinking about the game and you can’t get it completely out of your head.  – Magnus Carlsen

Chess is a very tough game, and psychologically a tough game. And of course, chess needs a lot of qualities, human qualities. And so you must have a very strong nervous system, and then you must be well prepared; you must be able to work a lot. – Anatoly Karpov

I get more upset at losing at other things than chess. I always get upset when I lose at Monopoly. – Magnus Carlsen

The Soviet Union was an exception, but even there chess players were not rich. Only Fischer changed that. – Boris Spassky

The chess player who develops the ability to play two dozen boards at a time will benefit from learning to compress his or her analysis into less time.  – Marilyn vos Savant

Chess is life.  – Bobby Fischer

All I want to do, ever, is play chess.  – Bobby Fischer

I consider myself to be a genius who happens to play chess.  – Bobby Fischer

A woman can beat any man; it’s difficult to imagine another kind of sport where a woman can beat a man. That’s why I like chess.  – Alexandra Kosteniuk

Chess is a foolish expedient for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever, when they are only wasting their time. –  George Bernard Shaw

Tactics flow from a superior position. –  Bobby Fischer

Even the laziest king flees wildly in the face of a double check. – Aron Nimzowitsch

Chess is a fairy tale of 1,001 blunders. – Savielly Tartakower

The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake. – Savielly Tartakower

The pawns are the soul of chess. – Francois Andre Danican Philidor

Half the variations which are calculated in a tournament game turn out to be completely superfluous. Unfortunately, no one knows in advance which half . – Jan Timman

The hardest game to win is a won game. – Emanuel Lasker

Actually, the hardest game to win is a lost game – Dr. Dave

A sacrifice is best refuted by accepting it. – Wilhelm Steinitz

Many have become chess masters; no one has become the master of chess. – Siegbert Tarrasch

Most gods throw dice, but Fate plays chess, and you don’t find out til too late that he’s been playing with two queens all along. – Terry Pratchett

As a kid, chess was the first thing I studied in a structured way that helped me gain the discipline to study medicine and become successful doctor. – Mark Spitz

He who fears an isolated Queen’s Pawn should give up Chess. –  Siegbert Tarrasch

To avoid losing a piece, many a person has lost the game. –  Savielly Tartakower

For me, Chess is life and every game is like a new life. Every chess player gets to live many lives in one lifetime.  – Eduard Gufeld

The enormous mental resilience, without which no chess player can exist, was so much taken up by chess that he could never free his mind of this game. –  Albert Einstein

First-class players lose to second-class players because second-class players sometimes play a first-class game. –  Siegbert Tarrasch

There are tough players and nice guys, and I’m a tough player.  –  Bobby Fischer

The defensive power of a pinned piece is only imaginary. –  Aron Nimzowitsch

There are two types of sacrifices: correct ones and mine.  –  Mikhail Tal

It is difficult to play against Einstein’s theory -on his first loss to Fischer.  –  Mikhail Tal

Bobby just drops the pieces and they fall on the right squares. –  Miguel Najdorf

Do you realize Fischer almost never has any bad pieces? He exchanges them, and the bad pieces remain with his opponents. –  Yuri Balashov

You know you’re going to lose. Even when I was ahead I knew I was going to lose -on playing against Fischer. –  Andrew Soltis

You can only get good at Chess if you love the game. –  Bobby Fischer

Every chess game is like taking a five-hour final exam.  – Bobby Fischer

Chess is war over the board. The object is to crush the opponent’s mind. – Bobby Fischer

When your house is on fire, you can’t be bothered with the neighbors. Or, as we say in chess, if your King is under attack, don’t worry about losing a pawn on the queen side.  – Garry Kasparov

Of chess it has been said that life is not long enough for it, but that is the fault of life, not chess. – Irving Chernev

Chess is mental torture. – Garry Kasparov

When in doubt — play chess. – Tevis

Chess is a curse upon a man. – H.G. Wells

A good player is always lucky – Capablanca

One bad move nullifies forty good ones – Horowitz

The older I grow, the more I value Pawns – Keres

The wood-pusher overlooks the ranks – Old Russian Saying

Pawn endings are to chess what putting is to golf – Purdy

There is no remorse like the remorse of chess – H. G. Wells

You can’t play chess if you’re groggy from pills – Karpov

All chess masters can play one game blindfolded – Koltanowski

You cannot play at chess if you are kind-hearted – French Proverb

An isolated Pawn spreads gloom all over the chessboard – Tartakover

The first principle of attack–Don’t let the opponent develop! – Fine

When you see a good move–wait–look for a better one – Em Lasker

On the chess-board lies and hypocrisy do not survive long – Em Lasker

I think it’s almost definite that the game is a draw theoretically – Fischer

What distinguishes a Grandmaster from a master? Chess-lovers often ask questions like that. To many people it seems that Grandmasters simply calculate variations a little deeper. Or that they know their opening theory slightly better. But in fact the real difference is something else. You can pick out two essential qualities in which those with higher titles are superior to others: the ability to sense the critical moment in a game, and a finer understanding of various positional problems – Yusupov

It is often supposed that, apart from their ‘extraordinary powers of memory’, expert players have phenomenal powers of calculation. The beginner believes that experts can calculate dozens of moves ahead and he will lose to them only because he cannot calculate ahead so far. Yet this is utter nonsense.

From my own experience I can say that grandmasters do not do an inordinate amount of calculating. Tests (notably de Groot’s experiments) supports me in this claim. If anything, grandmasters often consider fewer alternatives; they tend not to look at as many possible moves as weaker players do. And so, perversely, chess skill often seems to reflect the ability to avoid calculations. It is, in truth, not clear that chess is a game of calculation – Artur Yusupov

Of course there are times when intense calculation is called for, and often the master is better at dealing with these situations than the amateur. No wonder, he has had more practice than the amateur, but all the same his innate calculating ability need not be any greater. Most of the time it is something quite different that is required in chess, something more akin to ‘understanding’ or ‘insight’ – David Norwood

A lot of the difference between an IM and GM is a seriousness to the game. The GM is willing to go through all this. He’s willing to put up with anything. This shows his dedication. One other thing is the GMs superiority in tactics. For example Christiansen can find tactics in any position. If you’re a GM you should be able to overpower the IM tactically. The GM will often blow out the IM in this area – Nick de Firmian

One example of this would be the tremendous emphasis which is placed on the dynamic use of the pieces, if necessary at the expense of the pawn structure, or even of material. This is no mere question of style; it is a characteristic of the games of all the great players – Peter Griffiths, Introduction to Secrets of Grandmaster Chess

The most important feature of the chess position is the activity of the pieces. This is absolutely fundamental in all phases of the game (opening, middlegame and especially endgame). The primary constraint on a piece’s activity is the Pawn structure – Michael Stean

No one ever won a game by resigning – Unknown

A good sacrifice is one that is not necessarily sound but leaves your opponent dazed and confused – Rudolph Spielmann

Whereas the tactician knows what to do when there is something to do, it requires the strategian to know what to do when there is nothing to do – Gerald Abrahams

In positions of strategic maneuvering (where time is not of decisive importance) seek the worst-placed piece. Activating that piece is often the most reliable way of improving your position as a whole – Mark Dvoretsky

Whenever you have to make a rook move and both rooks are available for said move- you should evaluate which rook to move and, once you have made up your mind… MOVE THE OTHER ONE!!!  – Oscar Panno

You can retreat pieces… but not pawns. So always think twice about pawn moves – Michael Stean

Chess is above all a fight – Em Lasker

Before the endgame, the Gods have placed the middle game – Tarrasch

Great skill at chess is not a mark of greatness of intellect but of a great intellect gone wrong – Unknown

Winning isn’t everything… but losing is nothing – Mednis

If your opponent offers you a draw, try to work out why he thinks he’s worse off – Nigel Short

All openings are sound below master level – Lombardy

When I’m white I win because I am white, when I’m black I win because I am Bogulyubov – Bogulyubov

I have never in my life played the French Defence, which is the dullest of all openings – Steinitz

If chess is a science, it’s a most inexact one. If chess is an art, it’s too exacting to be seen as one. If chess is a sport, it’s too aesoteric. If chess is a game, it’s too demanding to be *just* a game. If chess is a mistress, she’s a demanding one. If chess is a passion, it’s a rewarding one. If chess is life, it’s a sad one – Unknown

A Chess game is divided into three stages: the first, when you hope you have the advantage, the second when you believe you have an advantage, and the third… when you know you’re going to lose! – Tartakower

From Austin Powers, The Spy Who Shagged Me:

Ivona:  Do you know how we keep warm in Russia?
Austin:  I can guess, baby.
Ivona:  We play chess.
Austin:  I guessed wrong.

Never have lunch with a chess player – I did once; there was a checkered tablecloth, and it took him half an hour to pass me the salt.

A man went to visit a friend and was amazed to find him playing chess with his dog. He watched the game in astonishment for a while. “I can hardly believe my eyes!” he exclaimed. “That’s the smartest dog I’ve ever seen”.

“Nah, he’s not so smart, the friend replied. I’ve beaten him three games out of five.”

David Letterman’s Top 10 Moments when you should sense DANGER in chess

1. There has been a change in the pawn structure. Your opponent has 8 and you don’t have any.
2. Your opponent begins to throw pawns at your eyes.
3. You have a won position but your opponent has a gun.
4. The Director tells you not to bother turning in your score sheet after the game.
5. Before the game begins you notice your opponents 1st initials are ‘GM’.
6. After completing your development you sense your opponent playing the endgame.
7. Just as you make your opening move your opponent announces mate in 11.
8. You don’t control any squares at all.
9. Your draw offer sends all the people watching your game into uncontrollable laughter.
10. Your opponent has 3 bishops.


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