Funny chess stories?
Since I have started answering chess related questions on Quora, I have tried covering a broad variety of chess topics.
So far, my most upvoted answers have included some chess anecdotes from my own tournament experience.
That’s how I got the idea to write this post. During the last couple of years, I have heard and read a lot of chess stories that put a big laugh on my face.
I’ve decided that putting the most remarkable ones in one place might make a lot of sense.
I know you are probably wondering how can anyone use the words funny and chess in the same sentence.
But people have wondered the same about my own jokes and I am sure you all find them hilarious.
Aren’t you guys?
Have you heard it before?
I would like to start with a chess story I can easily relate to. It will become much more clear why after you read it.
“German grandmaster Wolfgang Unzicker loved to tell jokes, even at the most inappropriate occasions. He would often start telling one immediately after a chess game, while he and his opponent were still signing the scoresheet.
Once he tried doing that after a game against Vasja Pirc. He started with the customary: ‘Excuse me, grandmaster, but did I ever tell you this joke..’
‘Is it good?’ – asked Pirc.
‘ Oh, excellent.’- replied Unzicker.
‘Then it means you haven’t told it to me.’ “
A chess master
Wolfgang Unzicker wasn’t the only grandmaster with a developed sense of humour.
The fourth World Champion Alexander Alekhine also made some brilliant jokes throughout his life.
Once he found himself on the same banquet together with his big rival Efim Bogoljubow. Bogoljubow started trash talking Alekhine; the latter replied with the following joke:
“I have dreamt that I have died and arrived at the gates of heaven. Saint Peter approached me and asked me what have I done during my days on Earth.
‘I was a chess master and the Champion of the World.’
‘Chess master? I am sorry, we don’t accept chess masters in heaven.’
‘What do you mean. Here, there is Bogoljubow lying on this cloud.’
‘Bogoljubow? Oh, he is not a chess master. He only thinks he is one.’
Time is relative
“Long before the days of Fischer, main contenders for the USA crown were Samuel Reshevsky, and less famous player, James T. Sherwin.
During the USA Championship Sherwin was in excellent form and won all his games up to a certain point. Reshevsky was in a serious danger of falling behind since he settled for two draws in the early rounds.
At that moment, he addressed Sherwin with the following words:
‘I see you are playing well. If you continue to do so, I will have to beat you.’
‘Oh, and what if I beat you?’
‘That can happen in a thousand years’
Naturally, in the last round, Sherwin beat Reshevsky in their individual encounter.
When they were signing the scoresheets, he merely remarked:
‘ You know, grandmaster, time flies really fast..’ ”
The next one is probably my favourite one, as it describes typical shortcomings of a chess player 😀
“I remember once I was in Switzerland and my wife told me, ‘I put some of your stuff in the safe – the code is very easy to remember, it’s 2706, so you can take whatever you need.’
And I told her, ‘Well, 2706 is not really a good Elo rating. Normally it’s rounded off to the nearest 5 or 10’. So I told her I couldn’t see how I could remember that. She looked a bit shocked and then she explained to me that the 27th of June is our anniversary. “
The threat is stronger than the execution
Emmanuel Lasker and Aron Nimzowitsch were playing a game and Lasker had agreed not to smoke his cigars during the game because the latter was allergic to smoke.
About six or seven moves into the game, Lasker pulls out his cigar, bites off the end and puts it in his mouth. Nimzo immediately jumps up and tells the arbiter “Look, he is smoking!”
The arbiter says,”No, it is not lit,” to which Nimzo replies,”Ah, but he is threatening to smoke and everybody knows that the threat is stronger than the execution.”
(“The threat is stronger than the execution” is a famous quote from Nimzowitsch’s very famous book, My System.).
Source: Exeter Chess Club
You don’t know me
After Alekhine had taken the championship title from Capablanca, Capa spent quite a bit of his spare time hanging out in a specific cafe in Paris.
Friends, acquaintances, and others would often drop by, participating in games and libations with the former, charismatic, champion. One day, while Capa was having coffee and reading a newspaper, a stranger stopped at his table, motioned at the chess set and indicated he would like to play if Capa was interested. Capa’s face lit up, he folded the newspaper away, reached for the board and proceeded to pocket his own queen. The opponent (who apparently had no idea who Capablanca was) reacted with slight anger. “Hey! You don’t know me! I might beat you!”, he said.
Capa’s face lit up, he folded the newspaper away, reached for the board and proceeded to pocket his own queen. The opponent (who apparently had no idea who Capablanca was) reacted with slight anger. “Hey! You don’t know me! I might beat you!”, he said.
Capablanca, smiling gently, said quietly, “Sir if you could beat me, I would know you.”
Source: Exeter Chess Club
An interesting book
The next one should probably not be described as “funny” since it is controversial to an extent.
However, considering that Robert James Fischer has always behaved like a big baby, we can’t really be mad at him, can we?
” During the Interzonal tournament on Mallorca, Fischer, with burning eyes, informed Reshevsky, that he was reading a ‘very interesting book’.
‘What is it?’ – Sammy asked innocently.
‘Mein Kampf!’ Bobby replied…
(Samuel Reshevsky was born in the Polish village of Ozorkov into an orthodox Jewish family.)
Who do you think you are?
The next one is taken from a chessbase interview with Vishy Anand.
“What’s the most interesting conversation you’ve had during a tournament or while travelling?”
“The best would have to be one involving a co-passenger on a train in 1991. He asked me where I was working. I replied I played chess. He said, ‘that is ok, but what do you do?’ I again said I played chess. He got testy and asked, “Do you think you are Viswanathan Anand to play chess?”
To conclude this article on a self-advertising note, I would like to copy paste the Quora answers mentioned in the introduction, that served as an inspiration for this post.
Hope you will enjoy them 🙂
Nemec vs Zečević
In Croatia, there is a player who has become kind of a legend in Croatian chess circles.
His name isand he can be seen on the right side of the picture below.
Mr. Zečević is actually a very strong player. Some 10–15 years ago, his peak rating revolved somewhere around 2450 Elo rating points.
The first peculiar fact is his chess title. He has never gained any official FIDE titles and he still only has a Croatian Candidate Master title.
Word of the mouth says that he has never wanted a FIDE title in the first place because he wanted to be the strongest Candidate Master in the world.
I guess he probably really was at the time 😀
Nowadays, however, both his playing strength and his rating have declined. Partly this is due to age, but I think that the fact that he has started drinking before the games has even greater impact.
This is where I finally arrive at the answer to the question above. Last time I have played with Mr. Zečević, he arrived pretty drunk to the game.
So drunk, that during the later stages of the game, when he had some 20 minutes left on the clock, he actually fell asleep on the chair.
To be honest, I hadn’t noticed it until he started snoring.
I was quite shocked and didn’t know how to behave. Fortunately, there were some colleagues who maintained their presence of mind and they went on to wake him up, with the very tactful words:
“Zec, for the love of god, wake up. Your time is running out!”
Needless to say, I lost that game.
Nemec vs Atif
Considering that many chess players have peculiar personalities, it is not uncommon to hear harsher word exchanges, even trash talk and insults.
For instance, I vividly remember my game against International Master Dumpor Atif.
It was a blitz game in the last round of the team championship of the Croatian Chess Cup 2014.
The game was very significant; it was the last game of the match, the score was standing at 1.5–1.5 and the winner of the game would win the match, the third place in the championship and the monetary prize.
I managed to capture an exchange early in the opening and was completely winning. However, I screwed something up and landed in a lost position. However, I refused to resign and continued to resist out of pure inertia.
My opponent seemed rather annoyed with my stubbornness. However, he didn’t make any mistakes and continued to convert his advantage.
When the win was near, he made one particular move in a very determined fashion, looked me in the eye, and shouted:
“Oh, come on… you are still fighting?”
There was quite a number of spectators, and they all burst into laughter.
A couple of moves later, I resigned.