Watching a game of chess being played, as a layperson, can be baffling and even boring. But the game is more mentally challenging than we realise.
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Synonymous with mental fortitude, strategy and patience, chess is played by millions around the world, but only a few are able to excel at it. So, what makes it so mind-boggling and awe-inspiring?
Here are five reasons to learn more about the game:
1. The Shannon Number
There are between 1078 to 1082 atoms in the observable universe, according to UK-based Liverpool Museums website. But amazingly, there are even more possible variations of chess games than there are atoms in the observable universe! Called the Shannon Number, an estimated 10111 to 10123 positions – including illegal moves – exist in chess. Only one other game has more possible moves – called Go, it originated in China over 4,000 years ago.
2. Longest game
The longest possible game of chess can last for about 5,900 moves, when you take into consideration all the possible variations players could employ. In fact, there are over 1,000 different opening moves alone!
3. Blindfolded chess
If you thought regular chess was hard, consider playing it blindfolded. Most strong players have the skill of picturing the entire chess board in their mind. Some grandmasters have even been able to successfully play about 50 games blindfolded – simultaneously.
The word ‘checkmate’ originates from the Arabic ‘shah mat’ (meaning, ‘the king is dead’). The term is meant to announce that the opponent is now helpless and has nowhere to go. However, professional chess players don’t usually say ‘checkmate’ after a win, to keep things friendly. They usually just shake hands and say ‘good game’.
5. First game in space
Chess was the first game to ever be played in space, when Soviet Union astronauts Vitaly Sevastyanov and Andrian Nikolayev played it against ground control, from aboard the Soyez-9 space shuttle in June 1970. The game made headlines at the time, and eventually ended in a draw.