Facts about chess

By Bill Wall


There are 8 different ways to checkmate in two moves.

1.f3 e5 2.g4 Qh4 mate

1.f3 e6 2.g4 Qh4 mate

1.f4 e5 2.g4 Qh4 mate

1.f4 e6 2.g4 Qh4 mate

1.g4 e5 2.f3 Qh4 mate

1.g4 e5 2.f4 Qh4 mate

1.g4 e6 2.f3 Qh4 mate

1.g4 e6 2.f4 Qh4 mate


Sergey Karjakin (1990- ) was awarded the grandmaster title at the age of 12 years and 212 days.


Garry Kasparov placed 1st or equal in 15 individual international tournaments from 1981 to 1990.


The shortest decisive game in world championship play (other than forfeit) is 17 moves, Anand-Gelfand, game 8, world championship game 2012 (source: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1666558)


Ruslan Ponomariov won the FIDE world chess championship at the age of 18 years and 103 days.


There are 20 possible positions for White’s first moves, consisting of 16 pawn moves and 4 knight moves.

Carlos Armando Juarez Flores has won the national chess championship of Guatemala 25 times, making him the world record holder for most times having won a national championship.

In 1968, the USA only had 25 blind chess players in its Braille Chess Association.  The USSR had 150,000 blind players in its Braille Chess Association.

Howard Ohman (1899-1963) won the Nebraska State Chess Champions 25 times, a record for state championship titles.

Dr. Emanuel Lasker was world chess champion for 26 years and 337 days, the longest ever.

In 1927, FIDE awarded 27 players the first grandmaster title.

William Steinitz played 27 chess matches from 1862 to 1896, and won 25 of the 27 matches.    He won 160 games, lost 70, and drew 57.

Arkadijs Strazdinis won the New Britain, Connecticut chess club championship 30 times, from 1952 to 1994.  From 1952 to 1975, he had won it 23 times in a row.

The longest decisive game without a pawn or piece capture is 31 moves, Nuber-Keckeisen, Mengen 1994.  (source: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1442039)

The largest age discrepancy in world championship matches is 32 years when Emauel Lasker,age 26, played Steinitz, age 58.  In 1996, former world champion Vasily Smyslov, age 75, played Bacrot, age 13, for an age difference of 62 years.

Jose Capablanca only lost 34 games in his adult career.  He was unbeaten from February 10, 1916 to March 21, 1924.

Edgar McCormick (1914-1991) played in the U.S. Open 37 times, more than anyone else.

Arpad Elo (1903-1992) played in 37 consecutive state championships in Wisconsin, from 1933 to 1969, winning the title 8 times.  He was a professor of physics for 37 years and president (1935-1937) of the American Chess Federation before it merged and came part of the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) in 1939.  He is considered the father of scientific chess ratings and his Elo rating system was adopted by the USCF in 1960 and by FIDE in 1970.

There are 44 players rated over 2700. (source: http://ratings.fide.com/top.phtml?list=men)

Miguel Najdorf played 45 games blindfold and simultaneously in Brazil in 1947.  He score 39 wins, 2 losses, and 4 draws in about 23 hours.

The longest time for a castling move to take place was after 48 moves.(source: http://chess-db.com/public/game.jsp?id=3010090857.Garrison,%20R.27586048.19360)

In 1957, there were only 50 grandmasters in the world.  The USSR had 19, followed by Yugoslavia with 7, then the USA at 5, and Argentina at 4.

Emanuel Lasker had 52 career wins in world championship play, more wins than any other world champion.

Reinhart Straszacker and Hendrick van Huyssteen, both of South Africa, played their first game of correspondence chess in 1946.  They played for over 53 years, until Straszacker died in 1999.  They played 112 games, with both men winning 56 games each.

In 2013, Alexey Khanyan created a chess problem with 54 consecutive checks.

In 1960, George Koltanowski played 56 chess games blindfolded, winning 50 and drawing 6. 

Hermann Helms (1870-1963) wrote a chess column for 62 years, from 1893 to 1955, in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.  This is the record for the longest-running uninterrupted chess column under the same authorship.  He published the American Chess  Bulletin from 1904 to 1963, a period of 59 years.  He also wrote weekly chess columns in the New York World Telegram, the Sun, and the New York Times.  He died in Brooklyn, one day after he reached his 93rd birthday.  He was instrumental in directing Bobby Fischer to the Brooklyn Chess Club.  He won the New York State championship in 1906 and 1925.  He was the first to broadcast chess games over the radio (WNYC).

There were 72 consecutive queen moves in the game Mason-Mackenzie, London 1882. (source: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1305751)

The longest series of checks was 74, in the game Rebickova-Voracova, Czech Republic 1995.

Vera Menchik-Stevenson (1906-1944) was World Women’s Chess Champion from 1927 to 1944.  She defended her title 6 times.  In world championship play, she played 83 games, winning 78 games, drawing 4 games, and only lost once.

Walter Ivans (1870-1968) of Tucson, Arizona, started playing chess at the age of 10.  He died at the age of 98.  He played chess for 85 years, perhaps the longest of any player.  Walter Muir (1905-1999) played correspondence chess for 75 years.

There were 88 grandmasters on the world in 1972, with 33 GMs from the USSR.

David Lawson (1886-1980) was 89 years old when his biography of Paul Morphy, Paul Morphy: The Pride and Sorrow of Chess, was published in 1976.  He is perhaps the oldest chess author of a major chess book.

There are 92 ways to placing 8 queens on a chess bard so that no two queens attack each other.

The latest first capture of a pawn or piece is 94 moves, in Ken Rogoff-Arthur Williams, Stockholm 1969. (source: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1709732)

Mikhal Tal played 95 games in a row (46 wins and 49 draws) without a single loss from October 1973 to October 1974.

In 1989, the Belgrade Grandmaster’s Association (GMA) had 98 grandmasters participating, the most grandmasters in one tournament.

Jose Capablanca played 103 opponents simultaneously in Cleveland in 1922, winning 102 and drawing 1 game.

Bill Martz played 104 consecutive USCF-rated games without a loss

In 1966, Jude Acers played 114 opponents at the Louisiana State Fair, and won all 114 games

The longest world championship game is 124 moves in the 5th game of the 1978 Korchnoi-Karpov match in Merano, Italy.  The game ended in a stalemate.

The first philatelic item, a chess cancellation, appeared on a German envelope in 1923.  The first postage stamp depicting a chess motif was issued in Bulgaria in 1947 on the occasion of the Balkan games.  Over 140 countries have issued postage stamps related to chess.  The United States has never issued a postage chess stamp with any chess theme.

The greatest number of checks in one game is 141 checks, Wegner-Johnson, Gausdal 1991.

Mikhail Botvinnik played 157 world championship games, more games than any other world champion.  He won 36, lost 39, and drew 82.

The longest world championship match was the 1984-85 Karpov-Kasparov match.  It lasted 159 days after 48 games had been played.  The match was later called off by FIDE.

There are 174 countries that belong to FIDE.

The longest won game for White was 193 moves, played in the game Stepak – Mashian, Israel 1980.  (source: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1297307)

In 1983, two bus drivers from Bristol, England played chess non-stop for 200 hours.  Roger Long and Graham Croft played 189 games with Long winning 96 games to 93 games.

The longest chess book devoted to a single games is 202 pages.  D. King wrote Kasparov Against the World in 2000, featuring only one game.

The longest won game for Black at normal time control is 210 moves, Neverov-Bogdanovich, Ukraine 2013. (source: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1721829)

The longest decisive game is a 237-move rapid game, Fressinet-Kosteniuk, Villandry, 2007. (source: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1536839)

The longest mate with 6 chess men is 243 moves.

Fred Reinfeld (1910-1964) authored 260 books on chess, checkers, coins, geology, history, and astronomy.  He wrote at least 102 books on chess alone.  He also wrote chess books under the name of Robert Masters and Edward Young.  He was a master chess player who won the U.S. Intercollegiate Chess Championship, the New York State Championship (twice), the Marshall Chess Club Championship, and the Manhattan Chess Club Championship.  He was invited to play in the U.S. Championship but declined.  He was one of the top 10 players in the US in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  He taught chess at Columbia University and New York University.

The longest chess game lasted 269 moves.  It was played in the game Ivan Nikolic – Goran Arsovic, Belgrade 1989 and resulted in a draw after over 20 hours of play. (source: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1268705)

The longest chess puzzle is 290 moves, created by Otto Blathy (1860-1939) in 1929. (source: http://www.chess.com/forum/view/more-puzzles/mate-in-292-movesblathys-monster)

There are 355 different ways to checkmate in three moves.

There are 400 different possible positions after the first move by White and the first move by Black.

In 1994, FIDE master Graham Burgess played 500 games of blitz chess (5-minute chess) in 3 days.  He won over 75% of his games.

The longest checkmate with 7 men is 549 moves. It is an endgame consisting of queen and pawn vs. rook, bishop, and knight.  (source: http://timkr.home.xs4all.nl/chess2/diary.htm)

The record for the most simultaneous boards of chess played at once is 614.  Ehsan Ghaem-Maghami played that many boards in 2011 in Tehran, Iran.  It took him 25 hours and he walked 32 miles.  He won 590, lost 8, and drew 16.

Floyd Sarisohn is the owner of the largest chess set collection in the world.  He owns over 700 chess sets and has been collecting for over 40 years.

There were 865 members in the first All-Russian Chess Federation, formed in 1914.

John Curdo (1931- ) won over 890  chess tournaments as of 2014 and is trying to win 900 chess events.

There are 960 ways to set up the first and last rank of chess board.

In 1988, Stan Vaughan of Nevada played 1,124 correspondence games at once.  The prior record was 1,001.  In 1948, Robert Wyller of Hillsboro, California played 1,001 correspondence games at once.

There were 1,192 grandmasters in the world in 2008.

There were 1,146 grandmasters in the world in 2014.

The highest tournament in the world was the 2014 Sinquefeld Cup, with the average rating of 2802.  The strongest tournament in the world was the 1938 AVRO tournament, which had the top 8 players in the world participating.

Algemeene Veerenigde Radio Oemrop (AVRO), a Dutch broadcasting company, which sponsored the world's strongest tournament held up to that time from November 5th to the 27th of November, 1938. The top eight players in the world participated (Keres, Fine, Botvinnik, Alekhine, Reshevsky, Euwe, Capablanca, and Flohr).  First place was  equivalent to $550 (shared by Fine and Keres).  Alekhine, for the first time in his life, came ahead of Capablanca.  Capablanca, for the first time in his life, fell below 50%.  He lost four games in this event.  Salo Flohr, the official challenger who was expected to play a world championship match with Alekhine, came last without a single victory in 14 rounds.  Each round was played in a different Dutch city that rotated between Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Groningen, Zwolle, Haarlem, Utrecht, Arnhem, Breda, and Leiden

In 1995, Robert Smeltzer of Dallas played 2,266 USCF-rated games in one year, the most ever.

Magnus Carlsen had the highest FIDE rating ever, rated at 2882 in May 2014.

In 1993, John Penquite had a USCF correspondence rating of 2933, the highest rating ever, after 58 straight wins with no losses or draws.

Fabiano Caruarna had a performance rating of 3103, the largest ever, at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup.

There were only 5,000 chess book titles worldwide in 1913.  By 1949, there were 20,000 titles.  There are now over 100,000 titles.

There are 5,372 possible positions after three moves (two moves for White and one move for Black).  Of these, there are 1,862 unique positions.

The longest game of chess that is theoretically possible is 5,949 moves.

George Koltanowski (1903-2000) wrote over 19,000 chess columns during his lifetime.

There were 20,500 players in a simultaneous exhibition in Ahmadabad, India in 2010.

The largest public library for chess is the J.G. White Collection at the Cleveland Public Library.  It contains over 33,000 chess books and over 7,000 volumes of bound periodicals.  The largest private library for chess was owned by Grandmaster Lothar Schmid.  He had over 20,000 chess books.

There are 71,852 different possible positions after two moves each for White and Black, of which 9,825 positions are unique.

125,000 players competed for the championship of the USSR collective farms in 1949.

There are over 150,000 FIDE-rated players in the world.

Former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov had over 400,000 stamps in his collection before he sold it.

U.S. checker champion Newell Banks (1887-1977)  was also a chess master.  He defeated the U.S. chess champion, Frank Marshall, and he leading challenger, Isaac Kashdan, at the Chicago Tournament in 1926.  In his lifetime he traveled over a million miles playing chess and checkers and played over 600,000 games of chess and checkers.  He was considered the world’s best checkers player from 1917 to 1922 and 1933-1934.

There were 700,000 entries in the 1936 USSR Trade Union Chess Championship.

There are 822,518 possible positions after three moves for White and two moves for Black.  Of these, 53,516 positions are unique.

The bestselling chess book is Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess.  It has sold over 1,000,000 copies since 1966.

There are 9,417,681 total possible positions in chess after three moves each for White and Black.  Of these, 311,642 positions are unique.

It is estimated that there are 45,000,000 chess players in the United States.

There are 96,400,068 possible positions after 4 moves by White and 3 moves by Black.  Of these, 2,018,993 positions are unique.

The Deep Blue computer that beat Garry Kasparov in a match in 1997 could evaluate 200,000,000 positions a second.

It is estimated that there are over 200 million people who have played chess on the Internet.

There are over 700,000,000 people who play chess worldwide.

There are 988,187,354 total positions after 4 moves for White and 4 moves for Black.  Of these, 12,150,635 positions are unique.

There are 9,183,421,888 total positions after 5 moves for White and 4 moves for Black.  Of these, 69,284,509 positions are unique.

There are 85,375,278,064 total positions after 5 moves for White and 5 moves for Black.  Of these, 382,383,387 positions are unique.

There are 26,534,728,821,064 ways to conduct a knight’s tour in which a knight is placed on an empty board, moves like a knight, and visits each square exactly once.

If you took a number and doubled it every time on a chess board square, by the time you get to the 64th square, the number would be 18,446,744,073,709,551,615. 

There are 10^46 possible unique positions in chess.

There are 10^120 possible moves in chess, known as the Shannon number, named after Claude Shannon. (source: http://archive.computerhistory.org/projects/chess/related_materials/text/2-0%20and%202-1.Programming_a_computer_for_playing_chess.shannon/2-0%20and%202-1.Programming_a_computer_for_playing_chess.shannon.062303002.pdf)

The maximum number of moves required to deliver checkmate from the worst possible starting positions is as follows:

Rook and bishop vs. rook – 59 moves

Queen vs. two knights – 63 moves

Two bishops vs knight – 66 moves

Queen and rook vs. queen – 67 moves

Queen vs. two bishops – 71 moves

Rook and bishop vs. two knights – 223 moves


The second book ever printed and published in the English language was a chess book.  The first book ever re-published was a chess book.  William Caxton, the first English printer, published The Game and Playe of Chesse in 1474.  It was reprinted in 1483 with woodcuts (illustrations) added.  For the longest time, it was thought to be the first book published by Caxton, but he printed the Recuyell of the Historyes of Troy just before the chess book in 1471. (see http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10672?msg=welcome_stranger)