Chess Quotes from the Masters





How many wonderful games have we been given by the World Chess Champions. The creativity that inspires them is quite remarkable. When those sparks of genius are not bringing us great chess games, they are fueling some great chess quotes.


There is an endless supply of wonderful chess sayings. When they weren't playing, chess masters were talking and the lines they came up with were as golden as their best variations.


Some were gems applicable to not just chess, but life. Others were observations focusing specifically on the game. Yet more were razor-sharp put downs of friends and enemies alike. I have compiled some of the best here for you.


Chess Quotes




Analysis, if it is really carried out with a complete concentration of his powers, forms and completes a chess player.
Lev Polugaevsky

It is hardly useful if you trustingly play through variation after variation from a book. It is a great deal more useful and more interesting if you take part actively in the analysis, find something yourself, and try to refute some of the author's conclusions.
Mark Dvoretsky

I claim that nothing else is so effective in encouraging the growth of chess strength as such independent analysis, both of the games of the great players and your own.
Mikhail Botvinnik

Oh! this opponent, this collaborator against his will, whose notion of Beauty always differs from yours and whose means (strength, imagination, technique) are often too limited to help you effectively! What torment, to have your thinking and your fantasy tied down by another person!
Alexander Alekhine

The weaker the player the more terrible the Knight is to him, but as a player increases in strength the value of the Bishop becomes more evident to him, and of course there is, or should be, a corresponding decrease in his estimation of the value of the Knight as compared to the bishop.
Jose Raul Capablanca

Most chess players know, thanks to the study of master games, that two bishops are stronger than two knights or than bishop and knight, though very few know the reason for this advantage and how to turn it to account.
Richard Reti

As Rousseau could not compose without his cat beside him, so I cannot play chess without my king's bishop. In its absence the game to me is lifeless and void. The vitalizing factor is missing, and I can devise no plan of attack.
Siegbert Tarrasch

The first great chess players, including the world champion, got by perfectly well without constant coaches.
Anatoly Karpov

Like dogs who sniff each other when meeting, chess players have a ritual at first acquaintance: they sit down to play speed chess.
Anatoly Karpov

Playing rapid chess, one can lose the habit of concentrating for several hours in serious chess. That is why, if a player has big aims, he should limit his rapid play in favor of serious chess.
Vladimir Kramnik

Blitz chess kills your ideas.
Bobby Fischer

When you are lonely, when you feel yourself an alien in the world, play Chess. This will raise your spirits and be your counselor in war.
Aristotle

I honestly don't like him playing chess. I mean I see him sitting there for ten minutes thinking four moves ahead before he makes one. And he actually does the same thing in the ring, he thinks too much.
Emmanuel Steward (on Lennox Lewis, Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion - then coached by Steward)

Excelling at chess has long been considered a symbol of more general intelligence. That is an incorrect assumption in my view, as pleasant as it might be.
Garry Kasparov

The passion for playing chess is one of the most unaccountable in the world. It slaps the theory of natural selection in the face. It is the most absorbing of occupations. The least satisfying of desires. A nameless excrescence upon life. It annihilates a man. You have, let us say, a promising politician, a rising artist that you wish to destroy. Dagger or bomb are archaic and unreliable - but teach him, inoculate him with chess.
H.G. Wells

Chess can learn a lot from poker. First, chess media and sponsors should emphasize its glamorous aspects: worldwide traveling, parties and escape from real world responsibilities.
Jennifer Shahade

The game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions, for life is a kind of chess.
Benjamin Franklin

Chess is a matter of delicate judgement, knowing when to punch and how to duck.
Bobby Fischer

By some ardent enthusiasts Chess has been elevated into a science or an art. It is neither; but its principal characteristic seems to be - what human nature mostly delights in - a fight.
Emanuel Lasker

Chess is a bond of brotherhood amongst all lovers of the noble game, as perfect as free masonry. It is a leveler of rank - title, wealth, nationality, politics, religion - all are forgotten across the board.
Frederick Milne Edge

Chess is a great game. No matter how good one is, there is always somebody better. No matter how bad one is, there is always somebody worse.
I.A. Horowitz

Chess can never reach its height by following in the path of science ... Let us, therefore, make a new effort and with the help of our imagination turn the struggle of technique into a battle of ideas.
Jose Raul Capablanca

For a game chess is too serious, for seriousness too much of a game.
Moses Mendelssohn 1729-86

Of chess it has often been said that life is not long enough for it - but that is the fault of life, not chess.
William Ewart Napier

In the Soviets' view, chess was not merely an art or a science or even a sport; it was what it had been invented to simulate: war.
Pal Benko

Chess never has been and never can be aught but a recreation. It should not be indulged in to the detriment of other and more serious avocations - should not absorb or engross the thoughts of those who worship at its shrine, but should be kept in the background, and restrained within its proper province. As a mere game, a relaxation from the severe pursuits of life, it is deserving of high commendation.
Paul Morphy

Chess is a terrible game. If you have no center, your opponent has a freer position. If you do have a center, then you really have something to worry about!
Siegbert Tarrasch

I believe that Chess possesses a magic that is also a help in advanced age. A rheumatic knee is forgotten during a game of chess and other events can seem quite unimportant in comparison with a catastrophe on the chessboard.
Vlastmil Hort

Chess is a game which reflects most honor on human wit.
Voltaire

The game gives us a satisfaction that Life denies us. And for the Chess player, the success which crowns his work, the great dispeller of sorrows, is named 'combination'.
Emanuel Lasker

It has been stated that a characteristic mark of a combination is surprise; surprise for the defender, not for the assailant, since otherwise the combination will probably be unsound.
Eugene Znosko-Borowski

In my games I have sometimes found a combination intuitively simply feeling that it must be there. Yet I was not able to translate my thought processes into normal human language.
Mikhail Tal

It is a profound mistake to imagine that the art of combination depends only on natural talent, and that it cannot be learned. Every player knows that all (or almost all) combinations arise from a recollection of familiar elements.
Richard Reti

Combinations have always been the most intriguing aspect of Chess. The masters look for them, the public applauds them, the critics praise them. It is because combinations are possible that chess is more than a lifeless mathematical exercise. They are the poetry of the game; they are to chess what melody is to music. They represent the triumph of mind over matter.
Rueben Fine

Tal's combinations often exert a sort of paralyzing influence on the opponent's play. It would seem that the element of surprise plays a big part in this.
Mark Taimanov

Listen, I don't want to boast but I do happen to be national champion in Scotland. It just isn't conceivable that you can design a program strong enough to beat players like me.
David Levy speaking in 1969

It was an impressive achievement, of course, and a human achievement by the members of the IBM team, but Deep Blue was only intelligent the way your programmable alarm clock is intelligent. Not that losing to a $10 million alarm clock made me feel any better.
Garry Kasparov

Chess is far too complex to be definitively solved with any technology we can conceive of today. However, our looked-down-upon cousin, checkers, or draughts, suffered this fate quite recently thanks to the work of Jonathan Schaeffer at the University of Alberta and his unbeatable program Chinook.
Garry Kasparov

Though I would have liked my chances in a rematch in 1998 if I were better prepared, it was clear then that computer superiority over humans in chess had always been just a matter of time.
Garry Kasparov

Chess is thirty to forty percent psychology. You don't have this when you play a computer. I can't confuse it.
Judit Polgar

I do not know whether computers are improving the style of play, I know they are changing it. Chess has become a different game, one could say that computers have changed the world of chess. That is pretty clear.
Vladimir Kramnik

If you are interested in improving, think of a draw offer as an offer to remain ignorant of what you would have learned in the remainder of the game.
Dan Heisman








A draw may be the beautiful and logical result of fine attacks and parries; and the public ought to appreciate such games, in contrast, of course, to the fear-and-laziness draws.
Bent Larsen

He played with enormous energy and great fighting spirit. Offering him a draw was a waste of time. He would decline it politely, but firmly. "No, thank you," he would say and the fight would go on and on and on.
Lubomir Kavalek on Bent Larsen

I know that with perfect play, God versus God, Fritz versus Fritz, chess is a draw.
Nigel Short

Repeating moves in an ending can be very useful. Apart from the obvious gain of time on the clock one notices that the side with the advantage gains psychological benefit.
Sergey Belavenets

The king is a strong piece - use it!
Rueben Fine

The great mobility of the King forms one of the chief characteristics of all endgame strategy. In the middlegame the King is a mere 'super', in the endgame on the other hand - on of the 'principals'. We must therefore develop him, bring him nearer to the fighting line.
Aaron Nimzowitsch

Endings of one rook and pawns are about the most common sort of endings arising on the chess board. Yet though they do occur so often, few have mastered them thoroughly. They are often of a very difficult nature, and sometimes while apparently very simple they are in reality extremely intricate.
Jose Raul Capablanca

It is a well known phenomenon that the same amateur who can conduct the middle game quite creditably, is usually perfectly helpless in the end game. One of the principal requisites of good chess is the ability to treat both the middle and end game equally well.
Aaron Nimzowitsch

Agreeing to draws in the middlegame, equal or otherwise, deprives you of the opportunity to practice playing endgames, and the endgame is probably where you need the most practice.
Pal Benko

It often happens that a player is so fond of his advantageous position that he is reluctant to transpose to a winning endgame.
Samuel Reshevsky

The amount of points that can be gained (and saved) by correct endgame play is enormous, yet often underestimated by youngsters and amateurs.
Edmar Mednis

The business of the endgame is maneuvering to control critical squares, advancing or blockading passed pawns, preparing a breakthrough by the king, or exploiting the subtle superiority of one piece over another.
Pal Benko

No one has ever played these endgames with such elegant ease as Capablanca.
Richard Reti

In the laboratory the gambits all test unfavorably, but the old rule wears well, that all gambits are sound over the board.
William Ewart Napier

I didn't picture myself as even a grandmaster, to say nothing of aspiring to the chess crown. This was not because I was timid - I wasn't - but because I simply lived in one world, and the grandmasters existed in a completely different one. People like that were not really even people, but like gods or mythical heroes.
Anatoly Karpov

Sometimes at lectures I am asked: how would the champions of the last century play today? I think that, after making a hurried study of modern openings, and watching one or two tournaments, the champions of the last century, and indeed the century before that, would very quickly occupy the same place that they occupied when they were alive.
David Bronstein

Youth has triumphed (upon defeating 86-year-old Dirk van Foreest).
84-year-old Jacques Mieses

In mathematics, if I find a new approach to a problem, another mathematician might claim that he has a better, more elegant solution. In chess, if anybody claims he is better than I, I can checkmate him.
Emanuel Lasker

A computer beat me in chess, but it was no match when it came to kickboxing.
Emo Phillips

Deschapelles became a first-rate player in three days, at the age of something like thirty. Nobody ever believed the statement, not even Deschapelles himself, although his biographer declares he had told the lie so often that he at last forgot the facts of the case.
Frederick Milne Edge

Nowadays tournaments are for nurseries. Look at those kiddies (pointing to Fischer, Spassky, and Larsen in 1966).
Miguel Najdorf

My opponent left a glass of whisky en prise and I took it en passant.
Henry Blackburne

Once when Blackburne was giving a simultaneous exhibition, his opponent had ordered and just been served a glass of whisky. Instead of making his move, Blackburne drank the whiskey and went on to the next board. How I would have loved to have known him personally!
Tony Santasiere

Of Chess it has been said that life is not long enough for it, but that is the fault of life, not chess.
William Ewart Napier

The pin is mightier than the sword.
Fred Reinfeld

The king, which during the opening and middlegame stage is often a burden because it has to be defended, becomes in the endgame a very important and aggressive piece, and the beginner should realize this, and utilize his king as much as possible.
Jose Capablanca

The King plays a most important part in the endgame, and gains in power and activity as the number of pieces on the board diminishes. Acting in eight different directions, he becomes, instead of the weakest piece, one of the most formidable units.
Eugene Znosko-Borowski

Even the laziest king flees wildly in the face of double check.
Aaron Nimzowitsch

The knight is renowned for, among other things, its suitability as a blockader. Because its strength lies in short-range operations it is not uncomfortable standing in a single spot for long periods, as the Bishop is.
Samuel Reshevsky

The weaker the player the more terrible the Knight is to him, but as a player increases in strength the value of the Bishop becomes more evident to him, and of course there is, or should be, a corresponding decrease in his estimation of the value of the Knight as compared to the bishop.
Jose Raul Capablanca

My sister bought me a set at a candy store and taught me the moves.
Bobby Fischer

The most intelligent inspection of any number of fine paintings will not make the observer a painter, nor will listening to a number of operas make the hearer a musician, but good judges of music and painting may so be formed. Chess differs from these. The intelligent perusal of fine games cannot fail to make the reader a better player and a better judge of the play of others.
Emanuel Lasker

People who want to improve should take their defeats as lessons, and endeavor to learn what to avoid in the future. You must also have the courage of your convictions. If you think your move is good, make it.
Jose Capablanca

Setbacks and losses are both inevitable and essential if you're going to improve and become a good, even great, competitor. The art is in avoiding catastrophic losses in the key battles.
Garry Kasparov

Most players ... do not like losing, and consider defeat as something shameful. This is a wrong attitude. Those who wish to perfect themselves must regard their losses as lessons and learn from them what sorts of things to avoid in the future.
Jose Capablanca

When Marx got into a difficult position he would get angry and losing a game would cause him to fly into a rage (on Karl Marx).
Wilhelm Liebknecht

Look at Garry Kasparov. After he loses, invariably he wins the next game. He just kills the guy. That's something that we have to learn to be able to do.
Maurice Ashley

If a chess statistician were to try and satisfy his curiosity over which stage of the game proved decisive in the majority of cases, he would certainly come to the conclusion that it is the middlegame that provides the most decisive stage.
Alexander Kotov

Even the most distinguished players have in their careers experienced severe disappointments due to ignorance of the best lines or suspension of their own common sense.
Tigran Petrosian

Has he some psychological antipathy to realism? I am no psychologist, and cannot say. The fact remains that Euwe commits the most inexplicable mistakes in thoroughly favorable positions, and that this weakness has consistently tarnished his record.
Hans Kmoch

Condemned by theory, the Allgaier (in the King's Gambit), certainly one of the most romantic of gambits, is generally successful in practice (and yet so rarely played). Why does the defender often seem hypnotized, quite demoralized?
Tony Santasiere

The attack and defence emanating from this classical opening produce some of the most beautiful chess it is possible to obtain. The Queen's Gambit possesses the merit of being the soundest of all the openings.
Frank Marshall

To prevent the threatened Marshall Gambit I always play this move. If Fischer on principle always allows the gambit, which has been revived by Spassky, I avoid it - also on principle! (upon playing 8.a4)
Borislav Ivkov

Having spent alarmingly large chunks of my life studying the white side of the Open Sicilian, I find myself asking, why did I bother?
Daniel King

The main line of the Yugoslav Attack has become just too vast for most players to study in depth, and anyone intending to venture into such tricky waters needs to have an intimate knowledge of all the hidden reefs.
John Nunn

Among top grandmasters the Dutch is a rare defense, which is good reason to play it! It has not been studied very deeply by many opponents, and theory, based on a small number of 'reliable' games, must be rather unreliable.
Bent Larsen

When you sit down to play a game you should think only about the position, but not about the opponent. Whether chess is regarded as a science, or an art, or a sport, all the same psychology bears no relation to it and only stands in the way of real chess.
Jose Capablanca

For my victory over Capablanca I am indebted primarily to my superiority in the field of psychology. Capablanca played, relying almost exclusively on his rich intuitive talent. But for the chess struggle nowadays one needs a subtle knowledge of human nature, an understanding of the opponent's psychology.
Alexander Alekhine

He who has a slight disadvantage plays more attentively, inventively and more boldly than his antagonist who either takes it easy or aspires after too much. Thus a slight disadvantage is very frequently seen to convert into a good, solid advantage.
Emanuel Lasker

You can't overestimate the importance of psychology in chess, and as much as some players try to downplay it, I believe that winning requires a constant and strong psychology not just at the board but in every aspect of your life.
Garry Kasparov

Occasionally an opening is used against an opponent who is known to favor it himself. The idea is to force him to fight against his own weapons, when he will have to face not only real dangers but very often imaginary ones as well.
Tigran Petrosian

Genius. It's a word. What does it really mean? If I win I'm a genius. If I don't, I'm not.
Bobby Fischer

Too many times, people don't try their best. They don't have the keen spirit; the winning spirit. And once you make it you've got to guard your reputation - every day go in like an unknown to prove yourself. That's why I don't clown around. I don't believe in wasting time. My goal is to win the World Chess Championship; to beat the Russians. I take this very seriously.
Bobby Fischer

Ultimately, what separates a winner from a loser at the grandmaster level is the willingness to do the unthinkable. A brilliant strategy is, certainly, a matter of intelligence, but intelligence without audaciousness is not enough. Given the opportunity, I must have the guts to explode the game, to upend my opponent's thinking and, in so doing, unnerve him. So it is in business: One does not succeed by sticking to convention. When your opponent can easily anticipate every move you make, your strategy deteriorates and becomes commoditized.
Garry Kasparov

Reti took his hard-earned honors with becoming modesty, but he was the lion of the hour. Such moments are to chess players what the flush of victory is to generals in the field (on Reti's sensational defeat of Capablanca in New York, 1924).
Hermann Helms

Chess, like any creative activity, can exist only through the combined efforts of those who have creative talent, and those who have the ability to organize their creative work.
Mikhail Botvinnik

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

It's a funny thing, most players think that if they can get a higher rating, they become a better player, but it's the other way round.
Stewart Rueben

Though most people love to look at the games of the great attacking masters, some of the most successful players in history have been the quiet positional players. They slowly grind you down by taking away your space, tying up your pieces, and leaving you with virtually nothing to do!
Yasser Seirawan

A championship contender in the early twentieth century needed charisma and a knack for cultivating sponsorship, and Rubinstein was the epitome of the shy and unsocial chess player. Now matter how great his chess skills, he lacked the people skills to be a self-promoter and fund-raiser.
Garry Kasparov

The chess world is obligated to organize a match between the champion of the world and the winner of this Carlsbad tournament - indeed, this is a moral obligation. If the world of chess should remain deaf to its obligation, on the other hand, it would amount to an absolutely unforgivable omission, carrying with it a heavy burden of guilt (upon finishing clear first ahead of Capablanca in Carlsbad 1929).
Aaron Nimzowitsch

Moving On






More than a few of those made me smile. You can't say they don't have a sense of humor in the chess world. There is no little wisdom lurking in there too.


The sheer volume of quotes by chess people over the years is astonishing. It was very hard to narrow it down to the final cut. You could have three more of these pages really if you wanted to. Hopefully we ended up with a nice blend in the end.


Long ago people could only play chess on a board with others who were with them in the same place. Of course with computers nowadays you can play chess in real time with people on the other side of the world. But people didn't have to wait for technology to play against opponents vast distances away. They used to mail the moves to each other in what was called postal chess.


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