Best Chess Quotes You've Never Seen

For years I have enjoyed collecting interesting quotations as I encounter them in books, and in the past four years since my chess interest began, that collection began to include epigrams on chess.  There are many famous quotations that others have collected and made available on the web.  Bill Wall, who collects everything worth collecting regarding chess, has a marvelous set on his own page.

While my own collection that follows may not include as many well-known and highly regarded witticisms, I do believe that you will find many of them just as intriguing.  For minor interest, I include a sentence or two regarding the source of each.

We begin with Garry Kasparov, the world champion who said this of another world champion, Anatoly Karpov.

1. Karpov’s strongest point, and maybe his weakest, is that he doesn’t look for the best move.

For those of you who enjoy reading chess books, the best chess author of the 20th century was Irving Chernev, who gives us an observation on masters, followed by two more observations from Aron Nimzowitsch and Andrew Soltis, both masters.

2. A master looks at every move he would like to make, especially the impossible ones.

3. It is when working under limitations that the master reveals himself.

4. Masters…know when to panic.

The second official world champion was German Emanuel Lasker, who held the title for an astonishing 27 years.  Perhaps he was able to retain the title so long because of his attitude.  He wrote in his Manual of Chess that

5. Chess "would be laughable, were it not so serious."

There are two Laskers to know about in chess.  In addition to Emanuel, there is the wonderful author Edward Lasker, who supplies us with the next truism.

6. A single exposure [to chess] is apt to make an addict of anyone with a sense of adventure.

Edward also supplied this next one, which I have often mentioned to others, though I have not verified its veracity.  But when you find a quote like this, you really don’t care whether it’s true or false, you just want to share it.

7. An intriguing phenomenon which links mathematics, music, and chess is the fact that child prodigies have been known in only these three fields.

My current reading includes Tal’s book on the match where he wrested the world title from Botvinnik.  In this classic, Tal vs. Botvinnik, he writes

8. Modern chess has attained such a high standard that knowledge of a single skill turns out to be insufficient.

Frank Brady wrote a biography of Bobby Fischer, and it is in Bobby Fischer: Profile of a Prodigy that I found the next, which I feel is wonderful.  Take a moment to think about it.

9. Chess is one of the few arts where composition takes place simultaneously with performance.

Daniel King wrote a book about the first computer to defeat a world champion in match conditions.  I recently wrote a blog about this match that is described in the book Kasparov vs. Deep Blue, where King writes:

10. It is a curious fact that great advances in the development of chess theory have often taken place in cities and countries where there has been a general flowering in culture or advancement in learning.

For history buffs, here is an amusing nugget of wisdom from Aron Nimzowitsch, the great proponent of positional play.

11. The center is the Balkans of the chessboard; fighting may at any time break out there.

Rudolf Spielmann, although not as widely known as Nimzowitsch, was nevertheless a first-rate chess player who played the way he advises in the following.

12.  Play the opening like a book, the middle game like a magician, and the endgame like a machine.

J. C. Hallman recently published a book that caught my eye.  In The Chess Artist he describes his trip to Kalmykia, and the chess city therein.  When I read the following, I couldn’t help but laugh.

13.  I would come to learn that chess tended to trail only the military and pornography in the exploitation of new technology.

Author of horror stories, H. R. Wakefield supplies us with the next one.

14.  Chess…is, in my opinion, one of the few supreme products of the human intellect, if, as I often doubt, it is of human origin.

In one of Chernev's books, there is a chapter about great chess players who also wrote about chess.  It was in that chapter that I discovered the beauty of Richard Reti’s writing.

15.  [Chess] is the triumph of the intellect and genius over lack of imagination; the triumph of personality over materialism.

It was in the same book by Chernev that I chanced upon this quotation from Weiss.

16.   Nature supplies the game of chess with its implements; science with its system; art with its aesthetic arrangement of its problems; and God endows it with its blessed power of making people happy.

Reti, who was the first person to defeat Capablanca after the Cuban became world champion, also made the following observation that made me pause for a long moment when I read it.

17.  Chess is particularly the game of the unappreciated, who seek in play that success which life has denied them.

And since we just mentioned Capablanca, whose name comes up often in chess circles, he wrote the following, which forever gives me hope.

18.  You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win.  You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player.

You can find Capablanca losing not hundreds, but 70 games if you click here.

Our penultimate quotation is from yet another world champion, Max Euwe, who tells us how not to become a good player.

19.  Whoever sees no other aim in the game than that of giving checkmate to one’s opponent will never become a good chess player.

We will end with what is by far my favorite quotation, which is destined to become collected by many.  The author is a wise, but unknown student of the game.

20.   Choose your move carefully, in chess as in life.


  • 2 years ago


    Chess will make you believe in memory. Mainly if you miss it.

  • 2 years ago


    Monkey playing will lead to nothing. Jacques De Schryver

  • 2 years ago


    Making a winning mistake is pure bliss. Jacques De Schryver

  • 4 years ago


    "We learn by Chess: the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs, the habit of hoping for a favorable chance, and that of persevering in the secrets of resources." -B. Franklin

  • 5 years ago


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


  • 5 years ago



    The opening is when you hope to gain an advantage.

    The middle game is when you think you have an advantage and

    The end game is when you know you are going to lose!


    The winner is he who make the second to the last blunder!

  • 7 years ago


    Thanks alot for these quotes, they are amazing.

    My favorite is the one that gives you hope:

    18.  You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win.  You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player.


    That is genious, and he isn't the only one, one of the scientists I don't recall his name said it about his invention, that he tried 100 he said he learned from every time how not to make that invention, I hope this is how it went ^^'

  • 7 years ago


    all were just excellent..

  • 9 years ago


    As far as #7 goes, I'm not sure that child prodigies are found only in mathematics, music and chess.  Have you seen those videos of Tiger woods playing golf when he was about 6?  
  • 9 years ago


    Yes 17 goes for alot of things. I play tennis (sorta played, trying to get back on the court desperatly) and it gives me an escape from anything and everything. I have just recently thought about how everyone has an escape, and the thought came up when i was talking to a girl about her intersts and i asked y she enjoyed acting so much. Her answer was it let her be someone else; she practicly said it let her escape from reality. This subject as intersted me for quite some time because no matter how good you have it or how bad you have it you still long to escape reality.

    Ahhhh, the human mind continues amazing and intriguing me

  • 9 years ago


    #18 gives me hope that I might yet become a good chess player.  Tongue out

    Your blogs always seem to get better and better, Mr. Godden.  Good luck making your next one even better than this.  :) 

  • 9 years ago


    Kurt, Very interesting~! I especially liked numbers 2, 3, & 4 as being particularly astute and applicable. I've had the good fortune, as an attacking player that, as in #2, the first moves I will see ARE the impossible looking move or sacrifice. And as a Defender, unfortunately may be the Last thing I Ever See~! Smile


    As a corollary to #3, I would offer that, "Mastery is knowing when The Exceptions apply, and doing so proficiently".


    Number 4, "Masters know when to panic" ( ...and that is on the move before their opponent notices that they Should~! :) 

  • 9 years ago


    I believe quote #12 applies to life in general. Great quotes.
  • 9 years ago


    in #17, replace the word chess with any other activity and it makes just as much sense. Everybody has an "escape" and there are MANY to choose from (drugs, books, sex, celebrity gossip, fastfood, etc). What I find more profound is that the first two people to comment chose #17, evidently this theme strikes a chord with people...

  • 9 years ago


    Quotation #17 sounds very true, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that, for psychologists, chess, as an addiction, is a way to escape real life demands and pressure on a bruised ego...
  • 9 years ago


    My pick – 17) = very interesting!

Back to Top

Post your reply: