Fun Stuff / Trivia

How Many Possible Moves are There in a Chess Game?

The answer is pretty astounding. We were intrigued by a recent article in the UK Guardian on the subject. Surprisingly, after doing some additional research, we found there are a number of conflicting answers to the question. This is most likely due to the amount of questionable information on the internet.

To keep things simple, we will report on a different question where we found a consensus of answers. How many possible positions are there after each player has made three moves?

The answer is surprising if you are not familiar with how fast numbers grow using permutations and combinations to calculate these types of answers. Does anybody remember this formula?


There are over 9 million combinations of moves after each player has had three turns. But the number of unique positions is much smaller, only 311,642.

That is why it took a long time for people to develop a computer program that could play chess well. Humans have the ability to discern the difference between good and bad moves based on their knowledge of strategy or even after they have played a game a few times. Computers need to crunch all of the numbers and use an evaluation system to figure out which of the many combinations of moves makes sense.

World Championship $

We did a little digging to find out how lucrative it has been to be the world chess champion. Test your knowledge on the prize money world champions have received over the years.

We’ll try to help you get off on the right foot with this piece of trivia – back in the 1800’s the tradition was that both sides would put up a stake towards the prize money. For the 1843 championship match between Staunton and St. Amant, each side put up £100.

Here are some more questions regarding championship money:

1. In 1886 for the Steinitz-Zukertort match, both sides put up a stake. How much did each side contribute?

a. £200

b. £400

c. £600

2. For the 1927 match, Capablanka shook things up and advised that he would not put up any $ towards the championship. He issued an ultimatum that he would only play if his opponent came up with all of the prize money. How much did he ask for?

a. $5,000

b. $7,500

c. $10,000

3. When Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spasky, how much prize money did he collect?

a. $250,000

b. $400,000

c. $1,000,000

4. The prize fund for the Kasparov-Karpov title match in 1990 was $3,000,000. How much money was awarded to the winner?

a. $1,500,000 (50%)

b. $1,875,000 (62.5%)

c. $2,250,000 (75%)

5. The upcoming world championship will be held in 2012 in Russia. How much is the total prize fund?

a. $2,550,000

b. $3,375,000

c. $4,123,000

Rules of Chess Quiz

Below are some trivia questions on official chess rules (per the USCF Official Rules of Chess 5th Edition).  Test yourself and see if you are a grandmaster of chess rules:

Piece Movement

1. Piece Displacement: It is your turn to move.  Your opponent decides to make a note on his score sheet and accidentally knocks over a couple of pieces.  What should you do?:

a. Give him a dirty look, check your score sheet and reconstruct the position.

b. Hit the clock, and ask him to fix the pieces, the restart the clock on your time once he has corrected the situation.

c. Call the tournament director and ask him to assess a 2 minute penalty.

2. Castling: You decide to castle kingside and move your Rook first, then move the King to complete the maneuver.  Your opponent claims this is an illegal move and advises you must move the rook.  Is he correct?

a.  Yes.  You must move the Rook two squares and leave the king in its original position.

b.  Yes, but you have the option to move the rook one or two squares.

c.  No. There is no penalty (unless castling is illegal because one of the pieces has been moved already).

3. Touch-Move: While reaching for a Knight, your opponent’s forearm brushes the Queen and knocks it over.  What is the correct ruling.

a. There is no penalty.  Your opponent should put the queen back in place, then make his intended move.

b. He must move the queen since he touched it first.

c. There is no penalty, but the director should issue a warning.  If it happens again, your opponent must move the   piece he touched.

4. Drop-Move: A player in the process of moving his bishop, accidentally drops it on a legal square.  What’s the ruling?

a. The bishop must remain on the legal square.

b. Since it was an accident, he can pick up the piece and move it to the intended square.

c. The director should poll players on neighboring boards to see if anybody observed the move.  If he has sufficient evidence that the piece was accidentally dropped, the player can pick up the piece and move it to a new square.

5. Pawn Promotion: A tense game between two masters is in progress.  Player A moves his pawn to the promotion square, not realizing that player B has set a trap.  If player A chooses a queen, the game will be a stalemate.  Player A picks up a queen on the side of the board and sees the trap.  He then puts the queen down on the side of the board and chooses a rook instead, placing it on the promotion square.  Player B claims a draw since player A touched the queen first.  Is player B correct?

a. Yes.  The touch-move rule applies here.

b. Yes.  Once a player picks up a piece, it cannot be deemed an accident.

c. No.  For pawn promotions, the move is not determined until the player chooses a piece and releases it on the promotion square.

Draws & Stalemates Quiz (see below for answers)

1. Stalemate question: Player “A” picks up his knight and places it on a square.  Shortly after releasing the piece and hitting the clock, the flag falls on his opponent’s clock.  The opponent, Player “B”, notices that the last move put him in stalemate.  What’s the correct ruling?

a. Player A is the winner.  The other player needs to make the stalemate claim before his flag falls.

b. Player A is negligent.  He must announce stalemate after making the move.  The director can rule the game a forfeit due to his lack of proper etiquette.

c. The game is drawn.  The stalemate occurred before the flag fell.

2. Draw offer etiquette:  What is the proper procedure if you would like to offer a draw?

a. When it is your move, after you hit the clock.

b. When it is your move, before you have hit your clock.

c. After your opponent has moved and hit his clock.

d. Extend your hand to your opponent, if he shakes it, the draw is official

3. Triple Occurence: Player A, notices that the same position will occur after he makes his next move.  What is the proper way to claim the draw?

a. Announce “The game is drawn” and extend his hand.

b. Find the Tournament Director and ask him to review the score sheets to determine the claim.

c. Make the proper move, hit the clock, and claim the draw.

d. Write the move down, stop the clocks and state the game is drawn.

4. Triple Occurence (sudden death): A game between players A and B has entered sudden death.  Both players have less than five minutes left on their clocks and have stopped taking notation.  Can either of the players claim a draw based on triple occurence?

a. Yes – the player wishing to make the claim, may stop the clocks and have the director make a ruling by demonstrating the ability to force the triple occurence.

b. No – once notation has stopped, there is no way to verify the claim.

c. Yes – the player who wishes to make the claim should announce, “once” then “twice” and finally “thrice” as the three positions occur.  He can then claim the draw based on the prior announcements.

d. Yes – as long as both players have more than 60 seconds left on his clock.

multchoicetestChess Celebrity Quiz

Match the following chess players with the chess fact that applies to them.  Answers are posted at the bottom of this page.

1. Vitaly Klitschko                                   a.  Used to hustle games in Toronto, also plays the Bass Guitar

2. Keanu Reeves                                       b. Has a Scottish chess coach

3. Bono                                                         c. Used to play chess between movie shoots in their trailer

4. Madonna                                                d. Once sponsored a tournament that sent the winner to Hawaii

5. Sean Alexander                                   e. Manager use to hide their chess pieces so they would focus on their career

6. Arnold Schwarzenegger                  f. Studied grandmaster games when he/she was 12 years old

7. Lennox Lewis                                      g. Has a doctorate in physical education, helped Kramnik prep for a tournament against Fritz


Chess Jokes

Correspondence Chess Joke (courtesy of the Chess Zone)

Two chess players, Vlad and Igor, decide to play a game of correspondence chess. The only problem is that Vlad is at the North Pole and Igor is at the South Pole, both at totally remote outposts.

However, they have devised an ingenious scheme where every month, they arrange for a team of huskies to battle the elements from the respective base camps to the outposts in order to deliver the moves inside a weatherproof vial, strapped to a dog’s neck.
This plan works fine for a few years. By move 27, the game is reaching the critical middle game point, where a wrong move would mean disaster for either player.  It is Vlad to move, and for some reason, Igor does not receive his move on the normal date.

Two months pass, then three, then six, then a complete year. By now, Igor can hardly stand the suspense and is climbing the walls with frustration. Suddenly, he sees a team of huskies approaching through the blizzard outside. He rushes out, and with trembling hands, opens the container. He unfolds the paper and can hardly bear to look at it. He tentatively opens his eyes and scans what is written on the paper:  “j’adoube”


(Two old friends get together after work for drinks and catch up on things)

  • Joe:  “How are things, do you still play chess like we did in the old days?”
  • Larry:  “Sure do.  In fact, I play almost every weekend down at the club.”
  • Joe:  “That must be tough on your personal life.”
  • Larry:  “A couple of months ago, I told my wife that I was going to play in a tournament on our anniversary.  She told me that if I went to the club that night, our marriage would be over!”
  • Joe:  “Wow.  So what did you do?”
  • Larry: “I played Nf3.  I always play the Kings Indian Attack!”




For MORE chess jokes – click this link: More Chess Jokes

Top 10 Lists

Top 10 questions I’ve heard when I tell people I play in a local chess club

10.          Did you every play against a Grandmaster like, Flavor Flav? (ok, I made that one up, but the rest are true!)

9.           I have a friend (or … uncle, nephew, son, classmate, cat, dog, pet rock) that likes chess too, would you like to play them sometime?

8.            How many games do you play in one night?

7.            Why don’t you just play on the internet?  (Yahoo has a good site)

6.            Do you ever play in Washington Square Park?

5.            Do you play checkers too?

4.            How many moves do you think ahead?

3.            Have you seen Searching For Bobby Fisher?

2.            How much time do you have per move?

1.            Chess club? Like a place where you smoke cigars and drink beers?

Top 10 reasons chess is better than baseball:

10. Diamonds are overrated

9. It’s much easier to figure out late game substitutions

8. No pitch counts

7. Grandmasters don’t have to deal with hordes of chess groupies

6. You don’t have to worry about which base to cover on a double play

5. There are no extra innings

4. It’s really fun to say Zugzwang and Zwischenzug!

3. You can be mentally unbalanced and still be a revered Grandmaster

2. You get to sit for 3 hours in complete silence and mental anguish – and it’s not a congressional hearing on steroids

1. Every patzer has his day

Quiz Answers

All Grandmasters Have Chauffeurs (11/13/13 blog post):

1. F – the players would keep their titles if they refused to play, but they would be replaced in the tournament. Boris Gelfand would replace Anand and Vladimir Kramnik would replace Carlsen.

2. F – both players have access to the same toilet facility (hopefully they both don’t need to use it at the same time!)

3. F – no cell phones are allowed in the playing area, in fact FIDE has the option to ask the organizer to arrange to block all mobile phone signals around the playing area.

4. T – players must submit to a security check each day.

5. T – no draws claims are allowed before the 30th move, unless there is a repetition as in the first game.

6. F – if a player skips the closing ceremony, they must forfeit 5% of their prize to the organizer and 5% to FIDE as a penalty.

7. F – the organizer doesn’t have to give free snacks to the press! (but FIDE strongly suggested that they should).

8. F – players will be fined 1,000 euros if they don’t sign their score sheet.

9. T – the arbiter is required to submit a report to FIDE at the end of the match.

10. F – players must wear suits for the match (no word on what a female contender would be required to wear)

11. T – the winner’s share will be reduced to 55% if the match goes to a tie break

Celebrity Chess Quiz

1. g, 2. a, 3. f, 4. b, 5. d, 6. c, 7. e

Piece Movement Quiz:

Question 1 = b: A player should not lose time on his clock because his opponent has displaced pieces on the board. Since the player not on the clock has knocked the pieces over, it is appropriate to start his clock and ask him to remedy the situation.

Question 2 = c: Despite what some people might tell you, there is no penalty for moving the rook first while castling.  However, if castling is illegal due to the previous movement of the pieces, the player must now move his rook.

Question 3 = a: Accidentally brushing a piece while reaching for another does not meet the requirements for touch move.  The player may move the piece he intended to after fixing the piece that was knocked over.

Question 4 = a: This is a special case.  Since the piece was legally touched and was then dropped on a legal square, this would be ruled as a completed move.

Question 5 = c: For pawn promotions, a move is not determined until a piece is selected and released on the promotion square.  The first player is allowed to change his mind as long as he has not placed the piece on the promotion square and released it.  Changing the selection and placing the rook on the promotion square is legal.

Draws & Stalemates Quiz:

Question 1 = c: USCF rules state that once the piece is released on the square, the move is “determined”.  If this results in a stalemate, the game is over immediately.  So if the player completes the move by pressing his clock and the opponent’s flag falls, that is irrelevant as the stalemate has already occurred.

Question 2 = b:  The proper etiquette is to “determine” you move by placing a piece on a square and offering a draw.  Then you can complete the move by hitting your clock.  Note that a draw offer may not be withdrawn, so once you offer it, your opponent may consider it for as long as he likes until he makes his next move.  If you offer a draw before moving your piece, the opponent may accept it immediately OR he has the right to ask you to make your move first – then he can still consider the merits of accepting or declining the offer before he makes his next move.  Offering a draw during your opponent’s move is considered bad etiquette, however once the offer is made, he can still consider it and accept it.

Question 3 = d:  The proper way to make a claim in this situation is to write the move down and stop the clocks.  If your opponent does not agree with the claim, you may summon the director to verify the claim.

Question 4 = a:  This is the only correct answer.  The player stopping the clocks can call over the director and if an impartial witness or deputy director has observed the sequence of moves, the draw can be upheld.  Alternatively, as noted here, the player can ask the director to observe the match and they can play on.  If he can demonstrate the triple occurrence the director may rule the position a draw.

Chess Prize Money Quiz Answers:

1. b

2. c – Alekhine was one of many candidates, but he was the only one who came up with the money!

3. a

4. b – 5/8 were distributed to the winner

5. a – surprisingly, the prize money has declined since 1990 (even more so if you take inflation into account).


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