5 Amazing Facts About Chess You Never Knew

Bryce Gallo   ·   May 24, 2021   ·   3 min read

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The game of chess has been around for a very long time, over 1,500 years in fact. With a game so old it shouldn't be surprising that there are some little-known facts about the game. Today I'll be sharing with you 5 Facts About Chess You Never Knew. Off we go!

1. The Second Book Printed in the English Language

The 2018 republished copy of 'The Game of Chess'

This one came as a surprise to me, but it is true! Following the printing of 'The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye' in 1473, William Caxton translated 'De Ludo Scachorum' from French to English under the title 'The Game of Chess'. Thus, the second book ever printed in English was about chess!  

2. Five Moves  = 69,352,859,712,417 Different Games!

What beautiful creation we live in.

Chess contains an extraordinary number of potential moves and possible distinct games. In 1950, mathematician Claude Shannon estimated that there are 10^120 unique chess games that can be played. That is especially impressive considering that there are only 10^78 to 10^82 atoms in the observable universe. After the first five moves played by each side, there are 69,352,859,712,417 ... that is 69.35 Trillion possible games of Chess! This means that humans and chess computers combined will likely never play out every possible game simply because there are too many possibilities. Unless you have a game memorized, or have the game's PGN (Portable Chess Notation), you never have to worry about playing the same game twice!

3. An Estimated 605 Million Play Chess Worldwide

Now that's a lot of people

This one may come as a bit of a surprise when I tell you that an estimated 605,000,000 people play chess regularly worldwide. The game has grown massively over the 1,500 years that it has been around and shows no signs of dying off as an 'old game'. With the recent Covid-19 pandemic, an increased amount of online chess was played on sites like Lichess.org, Chess.com, and Chess24.com, boosting the numbers of active chess players across the world. Online tournaments by top Grandmasters and public cash events helped chess to skyrocket and grow immensely. This likely inflated the number of regular players from this 2013 estimate.

4. The First Board Game Ever Played in Space

Sven Bachstroem / Pixabay

On June 9th 1970, Cosmonauts Vitaly Sevastyanov and Andrian Nikolayev played a game of chess from the Soyuz-9 spacecraft while in orbit against their ground control. The ground control team was made up of Viktor Gorbatko and Nikolai Kamanin. The game lasted for 6 hours and ended as a draw.

5. So Many Openings!

RickJbrown / Pixabay

If you've ever studied chess openings you know that there are hundreds to choose from and many sub-variations, but exactly how many are there? 

There are over 1,327 chess openings to play, most of which are covered in The Oxford Companion to Chess. The book goes over the 1,000+ openings available plus biographies of great chess players and a variety of chess problems.

I hope that you found these 5 little-known facts about chess to be interesting and useful! Thanks so much for reading and I will see you in my next blog post.

Posted May 24, 2021 by Bryce Gallo

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