The Devil's Dictionary of Chess

This blog is inspired by Ambrose Bierce’s 1911 book The Devil’s Dictionary, an example from which is the following.

Christian: One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.

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While I do not claim to have Bierce’s satiric wit, I hope some of you may find minor amusement in a few of these chess definitions.

Backward Pawn:     A pawn that doesn’t realize how good your position really is.
Blunder:                 The only way that you ever lose games.
Brilliancy:              The only way that you ever win games.

Calculation:         For many players, this refers to the mental process of visualizing the future course of the next move.
Checkmate:          A term mostly uttered in the hotel restaurant of the Australian Open.
Compensation:     Tactical barter.
Counterplay:        Female chess player’s response. (see Mating Net below).

Development:          Placing your pieces en prise faster than your opponent.
Discovered Check:   A move that is sometimes a surprise to both players.
Doubled Pawns      Serfs up.

Endgame:         Transition to the loss.
En passant:      French term for “drive-by shooting”.
En prise:          French for ‘a prize’.

Fianchetto:      An oft-mispronounced Italian term for ‘funky cleric.’
File:                 A dangerous place for royalty to hang out in the open.

Gambit:           Pouring a libation to the chess Gods.
Grandmaster:  A chess player whose sole skill exceeding your own is that of selecting a chess move.

Hypermodern:  Nimzovich on speed.

Isolated Pawn:  A pawn that is an island entire of itself, ringing a bell that tolls for he.

Luft:  An embarrassing noise that emanates from beneath the table when your opponent threatens your king.

Master:         An expert who has lost his humility.
Material:       Any information that may be collected into a good blog.
Mating Net:   A ring of desperate males who lurk on the edges of women’s open tournaments.
Middlegame:  Portion of the game that consists exclusively of Zwischenzugs.
Mobility:       The degree to which one can flee from a pawn storm.
Opening:              A position that occurs in every game during which you are the equal of any chess master.
Opposition:          A form of arm wrestling where the king that gets the jump loses.
Overprotection:   What pieces do when they suffer from neurotic paranoia.

Passed Pawn:     A serf with delusions of grandeur.
Patzer:              Anyone who thinks you are a patzer.
Pawn Chain:       A connected archipelago.
Pawn Island:       No pawn is an island entire of itself.
Poisoned Pawn:  A tempting morsel offered by Satan for the instruction of innocents.
Prophylaxis:      A chess move frowned upon by the Pope.

Rank:  Atmospheric condition of the hall at the end of a long tournament.

Sacrifice:  What a chess player’s spouse has to endure.

Skittles:      A casual game marked by players who vie for the cleverest insult.
Stalemate:  A skittles game where the players have exhausted their wit.

Tactics:  What you try to do when you are otherwise clueless.
Tempo:  The metronomic rhythm of pieces hitting the board during speed chess.

Zugzwang:      You are required to supply this definition.
Zwischenzug:  Any chess move modeled after the German military re-armament of the 1930’s.


  • 7 years ago


    Hillarious! esp en passant!

  • 7 years ago


    My favorite one was En Passante, I loled so hard at that one. Also, love Passed Pawn, Opening and Tactics. Some of the definition other people have posted were great, such as "Sicilian Defence" (SonofPearl) and "Center" (rainxdancer). Hilarious stuff!

  • 7 years ago


    Positional Play: Random rearangment of pieces, generaly initiated by the absence of excitment.

    Sacrifice: A blunder caused by the irrational believe that giving away your pieces will lead to the checkmate of your opponents king.

    Opposing Knight: Although technically they have identical moveing capabilities as your knights, they are over twice the strength. Generally thay are located between your king and your queen.

  • 7 years ago


    Fetched out of a magazine.

    Center: According to the hypermoderns, the squares a1, a8, h8, and h1.

    Grandmaster: Someone acclaimed for drawing all of his games.

  • 8 years ago


    En passant:      French term for “drive-by shooting”.


    LMAO !

  • 9 years ago


    anyone got anything new to submitt??
  • 9 years ago


    Middlegame: Gray area between Hope and Despair.


    Back-rank Mate: Stuck between a Rook and a hard place.


    Smothered Mate: Cross reference - See "Stop looking for it... only happens in puzzles"


    Ruy Lopez: Spanish for "Playing chess at work" named after the Spanish Bishop Ruy Lopez de Segura, who is not famous for doing anything religious.


    The Italian Game: Football


    French Defence: Trench warfare


    Armchair Grandmasters: People who routinely post on how easy the daily puzzle is..... but just can't keep from blundering away any chance of being above 1500 this year.


    Fritznoia: The irrational fear that everyone who plays better than you is cheating.




  • 9 years ago


    LOL, that is awesome.

    Checkmate: the Australian version of checking someone which usually forces their opponent to forfeit the game.

    Passed Pawn: the pawn that has to be taken off the board some time during the game, unless their opponent does the same with their king first

    Royal Fork: the fork given by a knight to an member of an royal family in order to poison them and/or to take their queen while their at it.

  • 9 years ago


    this is funny! i likethe sacrifice, en passant, and chackmate terms.


  • 9 years ago


    Ha! Clever. Had me giggling all through. I will show others. Some of these might actually cheer me up in the midst of a bad game :)
  • 9 years ago


    not bad
  • 9 years ago


    I was grinning here or there, but you got me with prophylaxis Laughing
  • 9 years ago


    I should probably add that Bill Wall has his own page of definitions. And why not? He has pretty much everything else!  I checked his list before I posted to make sure I wasn't subconsciously plagiarizing him. His are at: 

  • 9 years ago


    ZWIFENZUG  . . . You are headed out the door to your tournment, suddenly The King is met by a crossbody check ...his path is blockaded, and his escape square covered ~!  He spends the day on mowing and yardwork . . . 
  • 9 years ago


    These aren't mine but lifted from a book:


    ANALYSIS: Proof that you could have won a game that you lost

    CHECKMATE: Self-inflicted torture by players who don't know 'resigns'

    GOOD BISHOP: The one still on the board

    SACRIFICE: You left the piece en prise

    SPORTSMANSHIP, BAD: Unconcealed hatred

    SPORTSMANSHIP, GOOD: Concealed hatred


  • 9 years ago


    Very very good stuff. Thanks for sharing!
  • 9 years ago


    Interference - when the signal from the listening device you have in your ear is blocked.


    Analysis - what you need after 30 years of playing chess.


    Swiss Tournament - A tournament that runs like clockwork.


    Round Robin - An overweight crimefighting sidekick.


    Sicilian Defence - Black makes White an offer he can't refuse.


    Rapid Chess - A game that you lose even more quickly than usual.


    Blitz Chess - An obsolete form of the game favoured by the German National Socialist Party in the 1930's.


    Bullet Chess - A version of chess where the loser is shot. 


    Descriptive Notation - A secret code used by players over 30 years of age.


    FIDE - a global criminal organisation dedicated to destroying all forms of chess.


    Reykjavik - The 1972 venue for the world's biggest ever spelling test.

  • 9 years ago


    Superb stuff.
  • 9 years ago


    Doubled Pawns      Serfs up.



    *punches you in face* 

  • 9 years ago


    Counterplay:  Female chess player’s response. (see Mating Net below). 


    I was actually thinking of something else, but never mind - least I get a stern warning from AdminTongue out.

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