Castle Thingys, Horsies, and Pointy Guys (Chess)
We make some moronic moves in the world's brainiest game.

Dan Van Oss Complete Columns, History, Sports 2 Comments

Chess is a classic two-person strategy game designed to show players that they really weren’t as smart as they thought they were. Once considered the only game of choice for non-football-playing high school boys or college grad students who knew all of the lines from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — which, come to think of it, are pretty much the same person — chess has achieved broader appeal in recent years. It is now played online, in schools, coffee houses, and even urban parks, where it is not uncommon to see groups of bespectacled squirrels quietly pondering whether to take their opponent’s rook, or just eat a nut.

Gregorian smallpox and the castle thingy

Regarded as one of the most challenging of board games, the earliest evidence of chess’s existence dates to around AD 600 (Official Motto: “Smallpox, Schmallpox; Check Out This Groovy Gregorian Chant!”). The roots of the game can be traced even further back to Eastern India, where the earliest form of the game utilized pieces that represented the four branches of the Indian military: infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariotry. Later versions of the game did away with the elephants, as the pieces weighed over 4 tons each and made play impossibly slow, but the four general forms remained, and evolved into the modern pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, or “castle thingy” pieces.

Horsey Thing to King’s Bishop Three

The game is begun by having one of your friends convince you that it will actually be fun.
The game is begun by having one of your friends convince you that it will actually be fun, and he won’t beat you in five moves like last time, and by reminding you yet again that yes, the “horsey” can move like an “L”. The board is laid out in a grid of sixty-four equally-sized black and white squares, or, in the case of some of the more extreme politically correct versions, just one, big, vaguely tan square with all of the pieces melted together in a symbolic group hug. Play begins when you decide you’re really going to devote the next three hours of your life to this, and you move a pawn forward, only to have it snatched away by your opponent, who is already snickering because they know you’ve already lost the game with your noob opening move. The objective is to pressure your opponent’s most important piece, the board, into falling off the table when you “accidentally” bump it, thereby mercifully ending the game. Barring that, your goal is to force his king into checkmate, a condition where the king cannot move without being captured, and so has no choice but to write a check out to the opposing king, providing compensation for the deceased pawn’s families, the cleanup of dead horses and various priests, emotional damages, etc. Each piece has only specific movements that they are allowed to do; for example, the knight can only move 3 squares forward and two squares to the side, while the rook moves horizontally or vertically across the board. The queen can sashay wherever she wants, making her the most powerful piece on the board, unlike the king, who is typically so fat and lethargic he can only move one square at a time, provided he’s even awake. Thousands of books have been written on the extensive possible strategies of the opening, middle, and end of the game, most of them using the cryptic chess-piece-moving language you probably have heard used as passwords on old TV spy shows, such as “Queen to Queen’s Knight Pawn”, “Knight to King’s Bishop Three”, or, as I prefer to say it, “Horsey Beats Up Castle and Knocks Over the Pointy Guy”. This method allows for chess opponents to play each other at great distances, even over many years, making it one of the few sports where you only have to move your brain in order to play.

Chess facts

  • The number of possible ways of playing the first four moves in a game of chess is 318,979,564,000, which is also, coincidentally, the country code and telephone number for Boris Spassky.
  • According to the America’s Foundation for Chess, none of them has had a date in over ten years.
  • The longest chess game in history occurred in 1989. It ended after 269 moves when one of the players decided he wanted to live, really live his life, so he grabbed the nearest woman and kissed her.
  • There are 169,518,829,100,544,000,000,000,000,000 ways to play the first 10 moves in chess, which is equal to the number of electrons your brain needs to decide that you really aren’t good at math.
  • The first chess game in orbit was played by the crew of the Soyuz 9 on June 9, 1970. It ended in a draw when all of the pieces immediately floated into space.
  • The folding chessboard was invented by a priest who was forbidden to play chess, so he made a chessboard that, when folded together, disguised itself as a copy of Sports Illustrated.
  • In 1985, a man named Eric Knoppert played 500 games of 10-minute chess in only 68 hours. He lost every one.
  • There are over 1000 opening moves in chess, such as the “Sicilian Defense”, the “Queen’s Gambit”, and the always popular “I don’t want to play chess!” arm sweep across the board.
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  • David Dellinger

    “… he won’t beat you in five moves like last time.” Yeah. Been there. It’s a humiliation from which one never fully recovers.

    • Dan Van Oss

      That’s why I stick to just checkers now.