A Chess Glossary
of these "definitions" were compiled by
U.S. Master Eliot Hearst
and were first published in an article titled
"A Gentle Glossary"
in the July 1962 issue of Chess Life.
The ones appearing in green are my own.
Adjournment: an interruption in play to enable both players to obtain analytical help from their chessmaster-friends, chess libraries, or chess computers.
Adjudication: a binding decision about the outcome of an unfinished game, made by someone who is rated 200 points below you and who renders his judgment after spending a total time to only 5% of the the time that you devoted to the game.
Algebraic Chess Notation: a system of recording chess moves which is so logical and mathematically neat that it's amazing that it actually became popular here in the U.S.A.
Amateur: in chess, someone who plays only for money (cf. Professional).
Analysis: irrefutable proof that you could have won a game you lost.
Annotator: 1. a "friendly guide" to the complexities of master play, who first cites the MCO column for the game under review, then remains silent until White is a rook ahead, and finally, points out how Black could have held out longer; alternately, someone whose grasp of chess books doesn't extend beyond his library on the opening. 2. a GrandMaster of clichés.
Attacking Moves: moves that my opponent seems to make much more frequently than I do.
Bad Bishop: the one that you still have left on the board.
Bird's Opening: 1. f4. Opening named after a strong but nearsighted English master who frequently reached for the wrong pawn.
Black-square Weakness: a term usually given to describe the state of the dark colored squares surrounding ones own king (cf. White-square Weakness).
Blindfold Chess: a skill, through which minor masters can gain a world-wide reputation; outlawed in Russia because Morphy and Pillsbury died crazy.
Blitz: a an extreme form of rapid transit chess, where the players move faster than they can think -- thus ensuing the game a rare profundity.
Blunder: Sacrificing for a tactical disadvantage.
Bobby Fischer: A player who makes an appearance every twenty years to defeat Boris Spassky in a match.
Book-Player: a chess slave, who fills a relatively empty head with information that makes it even emptier.
Botvinnik: a Russian king, revered by communist society.
Brilliancy: a combinative sequence which is understandable to anyone once the solution is revealed.
Bughouse Chess: a game gaining in popularity since you can always blame all of your losses on your partner's play.
Bye: in Swiss System tourneys, a full point given to an odd player.
Castling: a defensive move played by a cowardly opponent.; a special move solely done for king's safety only to be dismantled by your opponent later.
Center: according to the hypermoderns, the squares a1, a8, h1, h8.
Challenger's Tourney: a tournament to decide which Russian will play another Russian for the world championship.
Champion: someone who has attained success in chess only because he has had more time to devote to the game than you have.
Cheapo: a phrase coined by U.S. Master Dr. Karl Burger, who has won a large percentage of his games by such a maneuver; a move which threatens something so obvious that only an idiot would fall for it, and he does.
Checkmate: a self-inflicted torture by novices who don't know the word "resigns."
Chess: a most intriguing intellectual challenge, played in a cultured manner according to strict rules and regulations. The object of the game is to crush your opponent.
Chess Fever: a disease common among adolescent members of the Manhattan Chess Club; characterized by jagged fingernails, bulging eyes, and an unsteady hand.
Chess Life: a magazine that comes out late once a month.
Clock, Chess: a mechanical device used to time tournament games which no one ever pays attention to until that little red marker is about to fall.
Club, Chess: a group of devotees of the Royal Game, whose meetings are characterized by brotherhood and good sportsmanship and where never is heard an encouraging word.
Combination: any long series of moves that the average player cannot understand.
Compensation: something that I tell myself that I have for being down that pawn.
Connoisseur, Openings: an understanding authority, who thinks one opening is better than another.
Correspondence Chess: a system of play which in gaining in popularity because you cannot lose USCF rating points in this sort of competition; a method of play to determine who owns the strongest chess computer.
Cramped Position: that which you must obtain as a necessary preliminary to freeing your game.
Duffer: anybody who can beat you three times in a row.
Egotist, Chess: someone who is more interested in describing his own victories than in listening to yours.
Endgame: your last opportunity to miss a win or a draw.
Ethics, Chess: undefined (we could find no examples of this).
En Prise, To Leave: a method of relieving oneself of extraneous material.
Euwe, Max: that Dutch master whose name I can't pronounce.
Fianchetto: an Italian method of developing bishops; popularized by Russians.
Fischer, Robert: an American chess veteran who had been U.S. Champion eight times. His victims accused him of bad manners; his conquerors thought of him a fine sport.
Fish: a player who falls for all your traps and still wins.
Fool's Mate: the logical conclusion to any game of chess; a chessplayer's spouse.
Foresight: the ability to play in only those tournaments you are sure of winning.
Fork: "an instrument used chiefly for the purpose of putting dead animals in one's mouth" (A. Bierce).
Gambit: any unsound sacrifice in the opening.
Good Bishop: your opponent's bishop.
Grandmaster: anyone who has reached the point in chess where he is acclaimed for drawing all his games.
Grandmaster Draw: a friendly conclusion due to mutual fear.
Giuoco Piano: playable, but not quite so good as a Steinway.
Hypermodern Play: any opening system where an early checkmate is impossible.
If-move: a method of shortening a typical correspondence game from nine months to just eight months and three weeks.
Internet Chess: a method of playing chess in which you can pay a monthly fee, tie up your phone line, all to play your neighbor across the street.
Isolated Pawn: a pawn that will queen in the endgame (cf. Passed Pawn).
J'adoube: 1. a phrase customarily emitted when you are caught starting your opponent's clock on your move. 2. French for "What am I doing?" If I move that piece I'm lost!"
Kibitzer: someone who gives good advice to your opponent and bad advice to you.
King's Indian Reversed: naidni sgnik.
Lost Game: something your opponent had before he won.
Marshall Counterattack: an aggressive defense to the Ruy Lopez, devised by Frank. J. Counterattack.
M.C.O.: Modern Chess Oblivion.
Median System: a way of breaking Swiss System ties which requires a knowledge of mathematical statistics and algebra, but which is much simpler than any other system.
Middlegame: in postal chess, the first move after published analysis is exhausted.
Modesty: 1. a virtue that grandmasters rarely cultivate. 2. "When I am White I win because I am White; when I am Black, I win because I am Bogoljubov."
Moral Victory: Any victory less than a total victory. The term is usually used to make a loser feel better.
Opening: that phase of the game in which intelligence plays no part.
Open File: a file cleared of pawns - a worthy objective since it is then easy to exchange a pair of rooks and obtain an easy draw.
Opponent: a slimy individual with an ugly face.
Open Tournament: a tournament open to all; a weak tournament.
Overprotection: first emphasized by the well-known theorist Nimzovich, this positional theme symbolizes Nimzo's relationship with his mother.
Passed Pawn: a pawn that never queens. (cf. Isolated Pawn).
Patzer: a good-natured term with which you describe anyone you can beat; but an insulting epithet when used by certain wise guys to describe you.
Pawn-Snatcher: a defensive genius.
Perfect Game: a way of describing all of one's victories.
Petrosian: See Grandmaster draw.
Pin: a sharp move.
Planning: The period of time where in the beginning you are hoping for a mate, by the middlegame you are hoping to have an advantage, by the endgame you are hoping not to get killed, and by the next morning you are hoping that they will not laugh at you.
Positional Sacrifice: a move so profound that if the annotator isn't your friend he calls it a blunder.
Principles of Chess: an archaic term; shown to be useless by Mikhail Tal.
Problem, Chess: any chess position that could never occur in an actual game.
Professional Chessplayer: anybody who cannot make a living at chess (cf. amateur).
Rating System: an objective method of ranking chess players which does not take into consideration the inherent beauty of a rose.
Reshevsky, Sammy: an eighty-year-old chess prodigy.
Resigns: a way of terminating a game, unknown to weak players.
Round-Robin Tournament: a competition in which you cannot talk the tournament director out of pairing you with someone you are afraid of.
Ruy Lopez: a Spanish bishop, usually placed on b5.
Sacrifice: any piece left en prise.
Seventh Rank: discovered by Nimzovich.
Sicilian Defense: a defense originated by members of the Mafia, embodying their highest principles.
Simultaneous Exhibition: a demonstration of ego, where one individual seeks to display his chess prowess by beating 40 beginners simultaneously.
Sportsmanship, Good: concealed hatred for a victorious opponent.
Strategy: any idea longer than one move deep (cf. Tactics).
Swindle: the only way anyone can be defeated.
Swiss-System: a pairing system full of holes, like some other Swiss products.
Tactics: a one-move threat (cf. Strategy).
"The board is set up wrong": quote invariably heard mentioned by any chess player when watching any movie or television show which shows a chess set.
Theoretical Novelty (TN): A new or long forgotten move which always causes a master to get excited
Trap: Something you saw but forgot about until you fell into it.
Unclear Position: 1. a position where both players have absolutely no clue as to what is going on. This usually results in a draw. 2. A term describing the position at just about any point during my last game.
Weekend Tourney: a tournament for which a player travels 300-500 miles in order to be paired with players from his home town.
White-square Weakness: a term usually given to describe the state of the lighter colored squares surrounding my king (cf. Black-square Weakness)
White: since recent Supreme Court decisions, not so big an advantage as it once was.
World Champion: a title that is lately being given to a number of players, some of which haven't played a single game in years.
Win: to make an enemy.
Won Game: any game you lost.
Woodpusher: a way of describing one's play so as to make opponents overconfident.
Zugzwang: there is no definition of this word.