Generations of American players have contributed significantly to the game of chess. As they have inspired schools of thought, developed creative approaches for all phases of the game, and achieved brilliant wins while enduring difficult losses, they have influenced players around the world.
Looking at the body of work that U.S. players have created, its important to recognize how their gifts to the game of chess have enriched us all:
A foremost gift to the world chess scene is the play of Paul Morphy, who contributed significantly to the Romantic School, which emphasized quick, tactical moves. With his dazzling tactical and offensive play, Morphy is considered the first modern player. Named after him, the Morphy Defense of the Ruy Lopez continues to be the most popular variant of that opening. Considered by many to be an unofficial world champion, he played quickly and was hard to beat.
In the book My Great Predecessors, GM Garry Kasparov describes Morphy as the "forefather of modern chess" because his play was the next, more mature stage in the development of chess. The Opera Game, which Morphy played in 1858, is illustrative of his attacking genius.
His play was the next, more mature stage in the development of chess.GM Garry Kasparov, about Morphy
Several years after Morphy had played the Opera Game, a new generation of players began to reject the Romantic concept that attack was more worthy than defense. Although positional play was not a new notion, it did not become widely accepted until advanced by the Classical School with their ideas of defense-based chess. During this era, Harry Pillsbury and Frank Marshall rose to the top of world chess.
Pillsbury won the star-studded 1895 Hastings tournament. His superior performance at Hastings (+15 -3 =3) helped to popularize the Queens Gambit, which he played against Siegbert Tarrasch, a world-class player known for his defense against that opening. Pillsburys win is characteristic of Classical thinking.
Equally noted for his Classical style, Marshall is one of several American players who advanced opening theory considerably. Several opening variations, such as the Marshall Defense to the Queens Gambit, are named after him as a result. Prominent among them is the Marshall Attack in the Ruy Lopez that he had played before 1918, but that year was when his well-known game with Jose Capablanca was played. Although Capablancas defensive genius guided him to a win, Marshalls opening became extremely popular.
Other openings named for Americans are just as significant, including these examples:
King's Gambit Accepted, Fischer's Defense.
Gambits, special openings in which players sacrifice material to achieve advantages later, also have been inspired by American players and have been named after them as this brief list illustrates:
In addition to the players who contributed to the facets of the game just discussed, GM Rueben Fine was particularly instrumental in advancing chess theory. Inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1986, the charter class, Fine was one of the 17 players first awarded the grandmaster title by FIDE in 1950.
A prolific author, his books on the opening, middlegame, and endgame of chess are unsurpassed by any others. He was the first world-class player to edit the definitive Modern Chess Openings when he edited the sixth edition. One of the strongest players in the world from the mid-1930s until he retired from competitions in 1951, Fine continued his successful career writing about chess theory for many more years.
A brilliant chess tactician, GM Samuel Reshevsky was a remarkable player who was also superb at positional play and defeated seven world champions. He was a serious contender for the world championship from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960. (Read about Reshevskys prime years here.)
About a loss to Reshevsky in the 14th round of the 1948 World Chess Championship, a quintuple round-robin, eventual winner GM Mikhail Botvinnik writes in his book Achieving the Aim: An unpleasant defeatI had just been arguing that Reshevsky was not dangerous and now this. Reshevsky may become world champion, I said, but this would indicate that nowadays there are not strong players in the world."
Reshevsky may become world champion, but this would indicate that nowadays there are not strong players in the world.
GM Mikhail Botvinnik
Several years later, in the 1955 U.S.S.R. vs. U.S. team match, Reshevsky again faced Botvinnik, still the reigning world champion, four times. They drew three gamesand Reshevsky won the fourth (game below) for a positive score, which must have given him sweet satisfaction.
Beth Harmon in the miniseries The Queens Gambit remarked: Chess isnt always competitive. Chess can also be beautiful. However, during the Cold War, beauty was not always on display at a tournament. During the global competition between the West and the Eastern Bloc, the rivalrynot limited to weaponry and military alliancesextended to chess as well. As Benko once remarked: In the Soviets' view, chess was not merely an art or a science or even a sport; it was what it had been invented to simulate: war.
In the Soviets' view, chess was not merely an art or a science or even a sport; it was what it had been invented to simulate: war.GM Pal Benko
No one was as indispensable as Fischer, who also made numerous contributions to opening theory, for ending the Soviet grasp on world chess championships. When Botvinnik won the 1948 championship, his reign began the era of Soviet domination of world chess that lasted more than 20 years without interruption. For that championship, the U.S. delegation consisted of one personReshevsky (at the last moment, IM Lodewijk Prins, later a Dutch champion and an honorary GM, was permitted as Reshevskys second). In contrast, the Soviets had a contingent of about 21 that included players, their seconds, family members, chess officials, and a physician.
The rise of Fischer to become the 11th world chess champion was more than inspirational. The Game of The Century, which he played when just 13, is unsurpassed in instructional value for how it shows the power of harmonious pieces in materially imbalanced positions. As the youngest GM (at that time) and the youngest candidate for the world championship, the world knew that he would achieve great results.
In the 1972 championship match publicized as a Cold War confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Fischer succeeded in defeating GM Boris Spassky. Fischers victory did more than end Soviet domination; it launched a chess craze unrivaled until the chess boom spawned by The Queen's Gambit.In addition to his remarkable games, his other eternal gifts include his books and other contributions to chess literature, the process to add time increments after each move (that he patented in 1989), and inventing the variant of Fischer Random Chess (also known as Chess960).
Following in the footsteps of their predecessors, a new generation of Americans is now inspiring chess players at home and abroad. The 2016 and 2018 U.S. Olympiad teams finished first and tied for first respectively. Of the top-10 players in the world, two are Americans. (GM Fabiano Caruana, playing in the soon-to-be-resumed 2020-21 FIDE Candidates, is number two, and GM Wesley So is number eight.) Two others (GMs Leinier Dominguez Perez and Hikaru Nakamura) are in the top 20. Their play has increased the interest in time controls of bullet, blitz, and rapid as well as in variants such as Chess960.
American players are also propelling the worldwide boom in chess with their entertaining streaming channels, participation in events such as Pogchamps, and affiliations with esports organizations. Leading the way is Nakamura who has more than 1 million followers on Twitch and over 900,000 on YouTube(as of April 2021). In addition to promoting chess, his streaming channel has raised more than $1 million for the humanitarian agency CARE.
Nakamura has also coached players competing in Pogchamps and provided commentary during the games. About this series of Chess.com tournaments featuring streaming personalities, he said: Pogchamps is doing a tremendous job of promoting chess (Pogchamps 3 drew over 375,000 concurrent viewers at its peak). Nakamura, GM Andrew Tang, and the Botez sisters (WFM Alexandra and Andrea)signed by TSM, Cloud9, and Envy Gaming respectively, all elite esports organizationsare also early leaders in showing how to broaden the appeal of chess through these activities.
Pogchamps is doing a tremendous job of promoting chess.GM Hikaru Nakamura
The continuous contributions by successive generations of preeminent American chess players have significantly shaped how we understand and play the game today, and their gifts have enriched the world chess community. They leave a remarkable legacy that will continue to inspire us.
- Like in chess, protecting the King key for No. 6 Aggies in season opener - TexAgs - September 4th, 2021
- Trinidad and Tobago fail to advance to Online Chess Olympiad Division II - TT Newsday - September 4th, 2021
- If You'd Like to Learn How to Play Chess May I Suggest Doing It With a T-Rex via The Noble Collection's Jurassic Park Set? - The Mary Sue - August 23rd, 2021
- Ending years of feud, AICF and Chess Association of India announce merger - The Indian Express - August 23rd, 2021
- The 8 Best Movie-Themed Chess Sets to Buy Online - IndieWire - August 23rd, 2021
- Chess May be Banned in Afghanistan - World Chess - August 23rd, 2021
- Coach Of The Month: IM Kostya Kavutskiy - Chess.com - August 23rd, 2021
- The Guildford Chess Club celebrates its 125th anniversary! - Chessbase News - August 23rd, 2021
- Chess, PHILSPADA athletes to be honored in 27th SKC awards - Mindanao Times - August 23rd, 2021
- Harshit Raja, Indias 69th Chess Grandmaster - Gulte - August 9th, 2021
- Nas enjoys a game of chess in Rare visual - REVOLT TV - August 9th, 2021
- Star Trek 3D chess and more out-of-this-world ways to celebrate International Chess Day - ZDNet - July 25th, 2021
- How the game of Chess has helped mold Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux - NBC Sports - July 25th, 2021
- Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand Goes Down To Anish Giri In Croatia Grand Chess Tour - Outlook India - July 10th, 2021
- The Real Queens Gambit: Ashley Priores Nonprofit Aims To Give Women An Edge In The Male-Dominated World Of Chess - Forbes - July 10th, 2021
- Of Anand, simultaneous chess and the cheating controversy - The Hindu - June 28th, 2021
- Chess in The Parks held at Myrtle Park in Indian Orchard - WWLP.com - June 28th, 2021
- The Londoner Inviting a Guy Over to Play Chess - The Cut - June 28th, 2021
- Carol Jarecki: From chess mom to one of the game's greatest referees - Washington Times - June 28th, 2021
- NBA Playoffs 2021: The chess match between Trae Young and the Milwaukee Bucks' defence is only beginning - NBA CA - June 28th, 2021
- Chess Corner: Sitting on the 7th rank - Muskogee Daily Phoenix - June 11th, 2021
- Joe Burrow is so competitive he's trash talking teammates about...chess - Bengals Wire - June 11th, 2021
- PhosAgro Renews Strategic Partnership Agreements with FIDE and the Russian Chess Federation - PRNewswire - June 11th, 2021
- Nuclear powers must stop playing nuclear chess and atomic roulette - The Mail & Guardian - Mail and Guardian - June 11th, 2021
- Joe Burrow has Been Talking Crap About Chess to a Key Offensive Target - Sportscasting - June 11th, 2021
- Aamir Khan will face the chess with chess champion Viswanathan Anand - asume tech - June 11th, 2021
- 2021 Scholar-Chessplayer Award Winners Announced | US Chess.org - uschess.org - uschess.org - June 11th, 2021
- New tables give you the opportunity to play chess/checkers at two EC parks - WQOW TV News 18 - May 30th, 2021
- A Chess Game: Everyone will win or lose after the NATO summit | Daily Sabah - Daily Sabah - May 30th, 2021
- Xiong Wins May 25 Titled Tuesday - Chess.com - May 30th, 2021
- Grandmaster Judit Polgar to Appear in US Chess Women Girls Club - uschess.org - May 30th, 2021
- Chess event promotes solidarity between Jews and Arabs - The Jerusalem Post - May 30th, 2021
- Taylor Jenkins and Quin Snyder are in a NBA playoffs 'chess match' that's years in the making | Giannotto - Commercial Appeal - May 30th, 2021
- Mind games: Two intellectuals and chess on a football pitch - The Indian Express - May 30th, 2021
- Theatre review: Chess the Musical - InDaily - May 30th, 2021
- 10-Year-Old Chess Prodigy Who Overcame Homelessness Named National Chess Master - NewsOne - May 18th, 2021
- Top chess player in the world visits Indianapolis - WTHR - May 18th, 2021
- 10-year-old boy who once lived in a homeless shelter achieves remarkable title: chess master - USA TODAY - May 18th, 2021
- Ventura sweeps National Youth and Schools Online Chess Tourney - PhilBoxing.com - May 18th, 2021
- First Ever Chess-Focused Sports Agency Launched - World Chess - May 18th, 2021
- More than a game: How Cook County is using chess to prepare inmates for life on the outside - Daily Herald - May 18th, 2021
- The Queens Gambit Star Anya Taylor-Joy: Its Not About Chess, Its About Loneliness And The Price Of Genius Contenders TV - Deadline - May 18th, 2021
- Chess Market Is Expected To Expand At An Impressive Rate By 2027 KSU | The Sentinel Newspaper - KSU | The Sentinel Newspaper - May 18th, 2021
- Announcing The Botez Bullet Invitational On May 5 - Chess.com - May 5th, 2021
- New In Chess Classic: Carlsen Strikes - Chess.com - May 5th, 2021
- Jazz Cartier on His Chess Docuseries With Diddy, Skincare Line, and Next LP - Complex - May 5th, 2021
- Cover Stories with Chess Life #36: Taylor Kingston - uschess.org - May 5th, 2021
- Meet Tani Adewumi: The 10-year-old Nigerian refugee who became a national chess master | NewsChannel 3-12 - KEYT - May 5th, 2021
- Are the Rams trying to play chess with NFL Draft pick Tutu Atwell? - With the First Pick - May 5th, 2021
- The Chess Match Ahead in the East - Japers' Rink - May 5th, 2021
- Mother tongue and chess is there a connection? - Chessbase News - May 5th, 2021
- Great Moments in Chess: Kasparov Seizes the Crown - chess24 - May 5th, 2021
- 'A sport for the mind': New chess team a big hit at MHS - Yahoo News - May 5th, 2021
- All India Chess Federation launches initiative to help chess community fight COVID-19 - Firstpost - May 5th, 2021
- It's your move: Pittsburgh police invite the public to play chess in Market Square - TribLIVE - April 21st, 2021
- Aagaard on the Candidates - Round 9 | US Chess.org - uschess.org - April 21st, 2021
- The real story of women in chess - The Independent - April 21st, 2021
- Cops in Paraguay discover 20k worth of high purity cocaine bound for Ireland inside chess set... - The Irish Sun - April 21st, 2021
- Mike Tyson heads to Arnold Schwarzeneggers mansion for game of chess and golf along with UFC icon Henry C... - The Sun - April 21st, 2021
- Classic games like chess and Sudoku are now easier to play on iPhones and iPads - TechRadar - April 5th, 2021
- Clash Mini: Everything we know about Supercell's upcoming auto chess game - Pocket Gamer - April 5th, 2021
- Bucs decision to bring back Godwin and Barrett was a chess game - Bucs Nation - April 5th, 2021
- Artemiev Swindles Nakamura To Win Another Titled Tuesday - Chess.com - March 9th, 2021
- Chess lovers practice the art of the checkmate - KNBN NewsCenter1 - Newscenter1.tv - March 9th, 2021
- Play Chess With Agadmator, Nemo, Cramling, Canty, And More - Chess.com - March 9th, 2021
- Turkish chess group head works to inspire young girls - Anadolu Agency - March 9th, 2021
- Chess Player Koneru Humpy Is The BBC Indian Sportswoman Of The Year - Femina - March 9th, 2021
- He loves the chess aspect: is Rooney made to measure as a manager? - The Guardian - March 9th, 2021
- Battle of the Minds: 4 legends compete in chess and poker - chess24 - March 9th, 2021
- Wednesday Workout: Leveling Up Through the US Chess Rapids - uschess.org - March 9th, 2021
- John Leguizamo on Critical Thinking [VIDEO] | US Chess.org - uschess.org - February 20th, 2021
- Maharashtra Chess Association back as a governing body after 4 years - The Bridge - February 20th, 2021
- Chess and Artificial Intelligence (1) - Chessbase News - February 17th, 2021
- Rockford Chess Club Gets Revived Thanks to ' The Queen's Gambit' - q985online.com - February 17th, 2021
- Aaron Chess, District 1 council candidate, wants to bring hope back to the district - CIProud.com - February 17th, 2021
- Knight's Retreat Review - Chess but not! - TheXboxHub - February 17th, 2021
- Smashing Stereotypes - Marissa Saroca to play The Arbiter in CHESS THE MUSICAL | News - Aussie Theatre - February 17th, 2021
- Garry Kasparov at IMPROVATE Cybersecurity Conference is talking about Chess, IA and The Queen's Gambit - Yahoo Finance - February 17th, 2021
- Become a chess expert with these discounted grandmaster taught training bundles | TheHill - The Hill - February 15th, 2021
- When The Prison Banned Board Games, We Played Chess In Our Minds - The Marshall Project - February 15th, 2021