Fast and Fun Chess Facts
You’re never too old and you’re never too young to become a Chess Master.
Oscar Shapiro achieved Master rating at the age of 74; and, to date, the youngest Master is Maximillian Lu who, in 2014, earned the title at 9 years, 11 months and 2 days.
When he was 13 years, 4 months and 26 days old, Magnus Carlsen became the youngest chess Grandmaster in the world in 2013. The international press raved about the Norwegian prodigy. Carlsen, the current World Champion reached the highest rating ever achieved—2882—in May 2014. As of June 2016, Carlsen is ranked #1 in classical chess, rapid chess and blitz chess.
Note: At the time of this writing, the youngest to achieve the Grandmaster title is Sergey Karjakin (Ukraine), who achieved the title at 12 years, 7 months.
SPECIAL UPDATE: In November, 2016, in New York City, Carlsen, age 25, and Karjakin, age 26, vied for the World Chess Championship. Carlsen defeated Karjakin in a quickfire tie-breaker to defend his title and remain World Champion.
You can play chess anywhere! In 1970, the Soyuz 9 crew played the first ever chess game between space and Earth. The game ended in a draw.
Baseball and Chess! Baseball’s Rookie of the Year has chess to thank for the name. Rookies, or players in their first year, are named after the Rook in Chess. The Rooks, who shouldn’t come out in an opening, are usually the last pieces to move into action. The same goes for Rookies in sports.
At age 8, Samuel Reshevsky defeated many Chess Masters at once in 1920, France.
In 1960, a 20th century American Chess Master, George Koltanowski, played a simul of 56 games blindfolded, with only 10 seconds per move. He won 50 games and drew 6. Even more amazing, after the games were over, he could recite every move for every game from memory—a very well-trained mind.
According to Guinness, the world record for a simultaneous chess exhibition was set in 2011. Ehsan Ghaem-Maghami faced 614 players in 25 hours and won 590 or 96% of his games. He drew 16 and lost only 8. As he walked up and down the aisles through this marathon, he traveled about 34 miles.
The longest official chess game ever featured I. Nikolic-Arsovic, Belgrade, 1989. The game ended in a draw after 269 moves in 20 hours, 15 minutes of play.
The word “checkmate” comes from the Persian, “Shah Mat,” which means “the King is dead.”
When chess came to Europe from Asia in about the 10th century, there was no Queen on the board. Instead, the piece that stood next to what is now the King, the “Fer,” was an advisor and was very weak. When the piece was changed to the Queen to reflect the royal family, the Queen could move only 1 square at a time, diagonally. Later, the Queen could move 2 squares at a time, diagonally. It wasn’t until the 15th century, when Europe saw the rise of powerful Queens—Queen Isabella of Spain, Queen Elizabeth of England and Katherine the Great of Russia—that the Queen became the most powerful piece on the board.
As late as the 16th century, Castling was actually 2 moves. On the first move, the Rook was placed on the f-file; on the next, the King would jump over the Rook and was placed on the g-file.