|Following is a glossary of chess terms first published by U. S. Master Eliot Hearst in his column "Chess Kaleidoscope" in the July 1962 issue of Chess Life magazine. This column made a deep impression on me at the time, particularly the definition of the term "opponent." There are many aspects to the enjoyment of chess ... humor is an important one for me. I hope you enjoy these "definitions" as much as I do. Of course, the reader should remember that these "definitions" were written many years ago when Descriptive Notation ruled in America and the standard opening reference was MCO (Modern Chess Openings). This material is copyrighted by the United States Chess Federation (USCF) and is reproduced with the permission of Glenn Petersen, editor of Chess Life, publication of the US Chess Federation. -- J. Franklin Campbell|
by U. S. Master Eliot Hearst
Adjudication: a binding decision about the outcome of an unfinished game, made by someone who is rated 200 points below you and who renders his judgment after spending a total time equal to only 5% of the time you devoted to the game.
Algebraic Chess Notation: a system of recording chess moves which is so logical and mathematically neat that it will never gain favor in the U.S.A.
Amateur: in chess, someone who plays only for money (cf: professional).
Annotator: a "friendly guide" to the complexities of master play, who first cites the MCO column for the game under review, then remains silent until white is a rook ahead, and , finally, points out how black could have held out longer; alternately, someone whose grasp of chess doesn't extend beyond his library on the openings.
Blindford Chess: a skill through which minor masters can gain a world-wide reputation; outlawed in Russia because Morphy and Pillsbury died crazy.
Blitz: an extreme form of rapid transit chess, where the players move faster than they can think -- thus ensuring the games a rare profundity.
Book-Player: a chess slave, who fills a relatively empty head with information that makes it even emptier.
Botvinnik: a Russian king, revered by communist society.
Brilliancy: a combinative sequence which is understandable to anyone once the solution is revealed.
Bye: in Swiss System tourneys, a full point given to an odd player.
Center: according to the hypermoderns, the squares QR1, KR1, KR8, QR8.
Champion: someone who has attained success in chess only because he has had more time to devote to the game than you have.
Cheapo: a phrase coined by U. S. Master Dr. Karl Burger, who has won a large percentage of his games by such a maneuver; a move which threatens something so obvious that only an idiot would fall for it, and he does.
Chess: a most intriguing intellectual challenge, played in a cultured manner according to strict rules and regulations. The object of the game is to crush your opponent.
Chess Fever: a disease common among adolescent members of the Manhattan Chess Club; characterized by jagged fingernails, bulging eyes, and an unsteady hand.
Clock, Chess: a mechanical device used to time tournament games which no one ever pays attention to until that little red marker is about to fall.
Club, Chess: a group of devotees of the Royal Game whose meetings are characterized by brotherhood and good sportsmanship and where never is heard an encouraging word.
Combination: any long series of moves that the average player cannot understand.
Connoisseur, Openings: an undiscriminating authority, who thinks one opening is better than another.
Correspondence Chess: a system of play which is gaining in popularity because you cannot lose USCF rating points in this sort of competition.
Draw, Grandmaster: a friendly conclusion due to mutual fear.
Duffer: anybody who can beat you three in a row.
Egotist, Chess: someone who is more interested in describing his own victories than in listening to yours.
Ethics, Chess: undefined (we could find no examples of this).
Euwe, Max: that Dutch master whose name I can't pronounce.
Fianchetto: an Italian method of developing bishops, popularized by Russians.
Fischer, Robert: an American chess veteran who has been U. S. Champion four times. His victims accuse him of bad manners; his conquerors think him a fine sport.
Fool's Mate: the logical conclusion to any game of chess.
Foresight: the ability to play in only those tournaments you are sure of winning.
Fork: "an instrument used chiefly for the purpose of putting dead animals into one's mouth" (A. Bierce).
Gambit: any unsound sacrifice in the opening.
Grandmaster: anyone who has reached the point in chess where he is acclaimed for drawing all him games.
Hypermodern Play: any opening system where an early checkmate is impossible.
Isolated Pawn: a pawn that will queen in the endgame (cf. passed pawn).
J'adoube: a phrase customarily emitted when you are caught starting your opponent's clock on your move.
Kibitzer: someone who gives good advice to your opponent and bad advice to you.
M.C.O.: Modern Chess Oblivion.
Median System: a way of breaking Swiss System ties which requires a knowledge of mathematical statistics and algebra, but which is much simpler than any other system.
Middlegame: in postal chess, the first move after published analysis is exhausted.
Opening: that phase of the game in which intelligence plays no part.
Open File: a file cleared of pawns - a worthy objective since it is then easy to exchange a pair of rooks and obtain an early draw.
Opponent: a slimy individual with an ugly face.
Open Tournament: a tournament open to all; a weak tournament.
Overprotection: first emphasized by the well-known theorist Nimzovich, this positional theme symbolizes Nimzo's relationship with his mother.
Passed Pawn: any pawn that never queens (cf. isolated pawn).
Pawn-Snatcher: a defensive genius.
Perfect Game: a way of describing all one's victories.
Principles of Chess: an archaic term; shown to be useless by Mikhail Tal.
Problem Chess: any chess position that could never occur in an actual game.
Professional Chessplayer: anybody who cannot make a living at chess (cf. amateur).
Rating System: an objective method of ranking chess players which does not take into consideration the inherent beauty of a rose.
Resigns: a way of terminating a game, unknown to weak players.
Round-Robin Tournament: a competition in which you cannot talk the tournament director out of pairing you with someone you are afraid of.
Sacrifice: any piece left en prise.
Simultaneous Exhibition: a demonstration of ego, where one individual seeks to display his chess prowess by beating 40 beginners simultaneously.
Sportsmanship, Good: concealed hatred for a victorious opponent.
Strategy: any idea longer than one move deep (cf. Tactics).
Swindle: the only way anyone can be defeated.
Swiss-System: a pairing system full of holes, like some other Swiss products.
Tactics: a one-move threat (cf. Strategy).
White: since recent Supreme Court decisions, not so big an advantage as it once was.
Win: to make an enemy.
Won Game: any game you lost.
Woodpusher: a way of describing one's chessplay so as to make opponents overconfident.
Zugzwang: there is no definition of this word.
For more chess definitions check out A Gentle Glossary (Addendum).
Copyright © 1962, 1998 by U. S. Chess Federation