Good chess quotes are easy to come by. But we’ve tried to narrow it down even further by just including the best of the best.
People are introduced to chess in a variety of ways. Perhaps a family member is looking for a game. Or, one of your friends plays. Recently, many folks have taken an interest in chess because of a popular Netflix series.
The Queen’s Gambit tells the story of an orphan girl who becomes a chess prodigy. During the Cold War era, the seven-part series featured plenty of chess competitions and seems to have renewed interest in the game.
Since chess is such a strategic game, some of the insights from chess masters provide a great perspective on chess, business, and life. We hope you enjoy these quotation selections.
Great Chess Quotes
Some of the best chess quotes speak to playing the game and moments in life.
1.) “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”
When Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote this, it seems he was speaking of the idea of being aggressive and taking chances. Seldom does one win by staying in place or retreating. You have to be daring to win the game.
2.) “The winner is the one who makes the next-to-last mistake.”
Savielly Tartakower, of Russian descent, was an International Grandmaster and a chess journalist during the 1920s and 1930s. He realized that in chess, mistakes lead to victory. His famous quotes on the topic include, “The mistakes are there, waiting to be made,” and “Chess is a fairy tale of 1,001 blunders.” And, one more, “Chess is a struggle against one’s own errors.”
See the “Is Chess a Sport?” article.
3.) “To avoid losing a piece, many a person has lost the game.”
This is another Tartakower quote in which he cautions players to look at the big picture. Tartakower had a way with words, as evidenced by this famous chess quote, “An isolated pawn spreads gloom all over the chessboard.” Here’s another good one, “The move is there, but you must see it.”
4.) “In life, as in chess, forethought wins.”
Buxton’s message: To win at chess and any major endeavor, it helps to plan. Buxton was also quoted as saying, “In life, as in chess, one’s own pawns block one’s way. A man’s very wealth, ease, leisure, children, books, which should help him to win, more often checkmate him.” I wonder if the last quotation resulted in some difficult conversations at the dinner table.
5.) “Not all artists are chess players, but all chess players are artists.”
Chess players see the board in various ways, much like an artist paints a subject. While chess has a competitive sport aspect and a pure science component, it is also artistry. Just like a good book or movie can bring back memories, a well-played chess move can prompt one to recall one’s own experiences or memories of playing. So, the originator of this quote, Marcel Duchamp, got it right. Duchamp was a French-American painter, chess player, and writer.
6.) “Play the opening like a book, the middle game like a magician, and the endgame like a machine.”
If you’re new to chess, the game is typically broken down into three phases: The opening, e.g., The Queen’s Gambit, the middle game, and the end game. The opening shifts to the middle game when players begin attacking each other’s pieces. The end game commences when most of the pieces are off the board. Rudolf Spielmann, who wrote this line, was a lawyer but never worked as one. He was a chess player who won 33 tournaments of the 120 that he played.
Best Chess Sayings
Here is some food for thought before your next game.
7.) “When you see a good move, look for a better one.”
There are more possible ways for a chess game to play out than atoms in the observable universe. Wow! Think about that. As such, a chess player is faced with many choices. You might have what you think is a powerful move. But still, there may be one or several moves that are even better.
Emanuel Lasker was a German chess player who held the World Chess Champion title for 27 years. Lasker played contract bridge, Go, and his own game, “Lasca,” a variation of checkers.
8.) “The most powerful weapon in chess is to have the next move.”
A big advantage can be gained with one move, and as such, the player with the next move is frequently in a position to advance.
David Bronstein was a Soviet chess player who passed away in 2006. His book on chess, Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953, is one of the best chess books.
9.) “An hour’s history of two minds is well told in a game of chess.”
A chess prodigy, Jose Raul Capablanca, was the world chess champion from 1921 to 1927. Born in Havana, Cuba, he beat the Cuban champion two days before he became a teenager. As you might describe chess as the ultimate thinking game, one’s mind is definitely on display in a game.
10.) “Chess is a war over the board. The object is to crush the opponent’s mind.”
Many regarded Bobby Fischer as the best chess player of all time (although Magnus Carlsen fans may disagree). Born in Chicago in 1943, he passed away in 2008 in Iceland. Of Fischer, Miguel Najdorf said, “Bobby just drops the pieces, and they fall on the right squares.” Fischer thrived on the competition once, saying, “I like the moment when I break a man’s ego.”
11.) “Every chess master was once a beginner.”
Irving Chernev said this about chess, but it fits in just about any other area of interest. Everyone was a beginner at one time. You have to make mistakes, learn from mistakes, and practice to advance. Chernev was a national master-strength player and wrote 20 books on chess.
The Shortest Game Magnus Carlsen Played Video
Short Chess Quotes
13.) Pawns are born free, yet they are everywhere in chains.
14.) Those who say they understand chess understand nothing.
15.) In chess, as it is played by the masters, chance is practically eliminated.
16.) I have always a slight feeling of pity for the man who has no knowledge of chess.
17.) When the chess game is over, the pawn and the king go back to the same box.
18. I used to attack because it was the only thing I knew. Now I attack because I know it works best.
19.) In life, as in chess, forethought wins.
20.) Play the opening like a book, the middlegame like a magician, and the endgame like a machine.
21.) Chess is as much a mystery as women.
Inspirational Chess Quotations
22.) 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.
José Raúl Capablanca
23.) The pin is mightier than the sword.
24.) Chess holds its master in its own bonds, shackling the mind and brain so that the inner freedom of the very strongest must suffer.
25.) I am convinced the way one plays chess always reflects the player’s personality. If something defines his character, then it will also define his way of playing.
26.) Half the variations which are calculated in a tournament game turn out to be completely superfluous. Unfortunately, no one knows in advance which half.
27.) Chess is the gymnasium of the mind.
28.) Chess is the art of analysis.
29.) The only thing chess players have in common is chess.
30.) It’s always better to sacrifice your opponent’s men.
31.) Of chess, it has been said that life is not long enough for it, but that is the fault of life, not chess.
32.) A win by an unsound combination, however showy, fills me with artistic horror.
33.) The pin is mightier than the sword.
34.) The passed pawn is a criminal who should be kept under lock and key. Mild measures, such as police surveillance, are not sufficient.
35.) There is no remorse like the remorse of chess.
H. G. Wells
36.) Give me a difficult positional game, I will play it. But totally won positions; I cannot stand them.
37.) After a bad opening, there is hope for the middle game. After a bad middle game, there is hope for the endgame. But once you are in the endgame, the moment of truth has arrived.
38.) Modern Chess is too much concerned with things like pawn structure. Forget it; checkmate ends the game.
39.) Chess does not drive people mad; it keeps mad people sane.
40.) The game of chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it…Life is a kind of Chess in which we have often points to gain and competitors or adversaries to contend with.
41.) I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.
42.) The hardest game to win is a won game.
43.) Chess is so inspiring that I do not believe a good player is capable of having an evil thought during the game.
43.) Becoming successful at Chess allows you to discover your own personality. That’s what I want for the kids I teach
44.) The combination player thinks forward; he starts from the given position and tries the forceful moves in his mind
45.) For in the idea. of chess and the development of the chess mind, we have a picture of the intellectual struggle of mankind.
46.) Checkers is for tramps.
47.) The beauty of chess is it can be whatever you want it to be. It transcends language, age, race, religion, politics, gender, and socioeconomic background. Whatever your circumstances, anyone can enjoy a good fight to the death over the chess board.
48.)The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake.
49.) Chess is a sea in which a gnat may drink and an elephant may bathe.
50.) Chess is a terrific way for kids to build self-image and self-esteem.
51.) The essence of Chess is thinking about what Chess is.
52.) As proved by evidence, [chess is] more lasting in its being and presence than all books and achievements; the only game that belongs to all people and all ages; of which none knows the divinity that bestowed it on the world, to slay boredom, to sharpen the senses, to exhilarate the spirit.
53.) Unlike other games in which lucre is the end and aim, [chess] recommends itself to the wise by the fact that its mimic battles are fought for no prize but honor. It is eminently and emphatically the philosopher’s game.
Strategy and Tactics
54.) The most important feature of the Chess position is the activity of the pieces. This is absolutely fundamental in all phases of the game: Opening, Middlegame and especially Endgame. The primary constraint on a piece’s activity is the Pawn structure.
55.) Chess is the art of analysis.
56.) Chess, it’s the struggle against the error.
57.) Unlike other games in which lucre is the end and aim, [chess] recommends itself to the wise by the fact that its mimic battles are fought for no prize but honor. It is eminently and emphatically the philosopher’s game.
58.) Avoid the crowd. Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece.
59.) Chess helps you to concentrate and improve your logic. It teaches you to play by the rules and take responsibility for your actions, how to problem solve in an uncertain environment.
60.) Life is a kind of chess, with struggle, competition, and good and ill events.
Funny Chess Quotes
61.) Nobody ever won a chess game by resigning.
62.) I don’t believe in psychology. I believe in good moves.
63.) Life is too short for chess.
Henry James Byron
64.) After a bad opening, there is hope for the middle game. After a bad middle game, there is hope for the endgame. But once you are in the endgame, the moment of truth has arrived.
65.) It will be cheering to know that many people are skillful chess players, though in many instances, their brains, in a general way, compare unfavorably with the cognitive faculties of a rabbit.
66.) Chess is a sea in which a gnat may drink, and an elephant may bathe.
67.) Amberley excelled at chess—one mark, Watson, of a scheming mind.
Arthur Conan Doyle
68.) Chess doesn’t drive people mad; it keeps mad people sane.
69.) 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 change, and that of persevering in the search for resources.
70.) Up to this point, White has been following well-known analysis. But now he makes a fatal error: he begins to use his own head.
71.) The blunders are all there on the board, waiting to be made.
Chess Quotations About Pawns
72.) Pawn endings are to chess what putting is to golf.
73.) Pawn endings are to chess what putting is to golf.
74.) Pawns are the soul of the game.
François-André Danican Philidor
75.) In life, as in chess, forethought wins.
76.) Those who say they understand chess understand nothing.
77.) Modern chess is too much concerned with things like pawn structure. Forget it; checkmate ends the game.
78.) Pawns not only create the sketch for the whole painting, they are also the soil, the foundation, of any position.
79.) An isolated pawn spreads gloom all over the chessboard.
80.) The passed pawn is a criminal who should be kept under lock and key. Mild measures, such as police surveillance, are not sufficient.
Competitive Chess Quotes
81.) One bad move nullifies forty good ones.
82.) Even a poor plan is better than no at all.
83.) Chess is beautiful enough to waste your life for.
84.) One doesn’t have to play well; it’s enough to play better than your opponent.
85.) The pin is mightier than the sword.
86.) It is not a move, even the best move, that you must seek, but a realizable plan.
87.) Magnus (Carlsen) has many good qualities – he is very versatile, and he can play a lot of positions at a very high level. He’s also very flexible. And he has this amazing talent for grinding on, as you say. So that combination I was unable to deal with.
Viswanathan Anand, after playing Carlsen in the 2013 World Championship
88.) When you play chess, the idea is to make good moves, not quick ones!
89.) It doesn’t matter how strong a player you are; if you fail to register some development in the opening, then you are asking for trouble.
90.) If winning, clarify; if losing, complicate.
91.) Stay flexible. Be ready to transform advantages from one type to another.
92.) What I admired most about him was his ability to make what was, in fact, so difficult look easy to us. I try to emulate him.
Magnus Carlsen on Bobby Fischer
Memorable Chess Quotes
93.) When you see a good move, look for a better one.
94.) Towering genius, riches, international fame, and a far-from-normal childhood might be too heady a mix for anyone to handle. For him, they proved fatal.
Dick Cavett on Bobby Fischer
95.) 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
96.) It’s just you and your opponent at the board, and you’re trying to prove something.
97.) Openings teach you openings. Endgames teach you chess!
98.) Chess is mental torture.
99.) You have to have the fighting spirit. You have to force moves and take chances.
100.) All I want to do, ever, is just play chess.
101.) Life is like a game of chess, changing with each move.
102.) In chess, bigamy is acceptable, but monarchy is absolute.
FAQ Chess Quotes
Here are some frequently asked questions about chess quotes.
“The pin is mightier than the sword” by Fred Reinfeld and “Play the opening like a book, the middle game like a magician, and the endgame like a machine” by Rudolph Spielmann are a couple of good chess quotes.
Bobby Fischer wrote, “Chess is a war over the board. The object is to crush the opponent’s mind.” Another good chess quote from Fischer is, “It’s just you and your opponent at the board, and you’re trying to prove something.”
Garry Kasparov said, “I used to attack because it was the only thing I knew. Now I attack because I know it works best.”
We hope you enjoyed these insights on the game of chess. It’s your move.
By Mike O’Halloran
Mike is the founder and editor of Sports Feel Good Stories. He learned to play chess at a young age. When a friend of his older sister, a Belgium foreign exchange student, visited his house, he chose to play Mike with his back to the board. Mike lost.
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