U.S. Chess Mates
                                                                      Top 10 Myths About Chess
                                                                             By: Mark Weeks
People,  especially  chess  players  themselves,  say  the  darnedest things about chess and about chess players.
Here are some of our favorite myths about the royal game. Some of these  sayings are definitely  untrue,  some of
them are uninformed opinion,  and  some of them are controversies that might or might not be true.

1. Chess is hard to learn
Chess  may  not  be  the  easiest  game to  learn, but it is far from the most difficult. You have to learn the moves
of  the  six  pieces,  where  the  piece with the  least value, the Pawn, has the most complicated moves. Then you
have  to  learn  the rules about attacking and defending the King, including castling.  Then  there  are  a  few  
rules  about games where neither player wins.

• One aspect of this myth is true -- it  is  hard, very hard, to learn to play chess well. One player in a hundred
achieves mastery.

2. Chess is thousands of years old
We can reliably date the direct ancestors of chess to around 600 A.D. This makes  the  game  1400  years old. If
chess survives another 100 years we can then round up  to  2000  years  old,  making  the  game  'thousands  of
years old'.

• We can reliably date chess as we know it, where Queens and Bishops move like the modern pieces, to the end
of the 15th century, around the the  time  that  Christoph Columbus discovered America. This makes the modern
game a little more than 500 years old.

3. Chess is a waste of time
This is better classified as an opinion than as a myth. Of course, chess is 'only a game'. Unlike many games, it
also incorporates elements of logic and art. If these are wastes of time, then so is chess.

• For many people in our  modern world,  anything not related to economic  development  is  a  waste  of  time.  
For  those people, chess is certainly a waste of time. So be it. Let each person choose his or her pleasures in life.

4. You have to be smart to play chess
There is some relationship between chess ability and general intelligence. Minimum  smarts  are  required. Cats
and dogs will never learn the basics; no one has tried teaching dolphins and chimpanzees. Chess does involve,
after all, using  various  advanced compartments of the brain as efficiently as possible.

• People from all walks of life enjoy playing chess, many attaining mastery. Some very smart people enjoy playing
but never go beyond beginner.

5. Chess is for nerds
In fact, this isn't  a myth, since  chess is for everyone. It is for nerds, geeks, eggheads, and boffins, as much  as it
is for anyone else. People who need to call other people unpleasant  names should better say, 'chess is only for
nerds', but this is decidedly false.  Even  if  it  were  true,  so  what?  Smart, awkward, quirky people have made
more contributions to the advancement of  humanity  than  have  the  rest.  If  they  want  to  play chess, that's
their business.

6. Chess has been solved by computers
Computers have made impressive  strides  chipping  away  at the front and back ends of chess. Opening theory
extends beyond 10-15 moves in some popular openings, endgames of up to five pieces (counting  the  two Kings)
have been perfectly solved by gigantic  databases,  and  endgames  of  six pieces are also yielding their
secrets.  
In  contrast,  computers  have  made little  progress tackling  the  intractable  complexities  that  lie  between  the
opening and the endgame. Chess is not a simple game.

7. Computers play chess better than humans
In 2006, the best computers play chess better than 99.99% of humans, but are evenly matched in games against
the best humans. If, as some experts consider, computers are gaining 20 - 30 rating points per year, the time will
soon come when humans have  no  chance  against the best machines.

• It   should  not  be  overlooked  that  computers  are  always  trained  by teams of human specialists who
program them in psychological areas like opening repertoire. Removing this advantage would erase their
superiority.

8. Chess is a sport
Here we run  the  risk  of  upsetting the many outstanding chess organizers who   have   spent  years  trying  to  
convince   the   International   Olympic Committee (IOC) that chess should be included as an Olympic sport. Lifting
little  pieces  of  wood  or  clicking   quickly  on  a  computer  screen  is  not physically  demanding  activity.  As  
any number of photos from recent high level chess events will show, chess players  don't  always  cut  a  slim,  
trim, athletic profile.

9. Chess isn't a sport
Here  we  try  to  make  amends  with  those  same organizers who almost convinced the IOC  that chess is a
sport. Chess has been included  as  a medal sport for the 2006 Asian Games.

• A game between two  top chess masters  is  full  of  tension,  where good nerves  can  make  the  difference  
between  a  winner  and  an  also - ran. Grandmasters have been known to lose a lot of weight during the course
of a month-long match.

10. Women can't play chess as well as men
To date it is true that women have not performed as well as men in chess events. There are many  possible
reasons for this. One may be that male players are often expert at  making female players  feel  uncomfortable at
chess events. The Polgar sisters have gone a long way  to  convince  the chess  world  that  women  can  play  
very  well.  Perhaps  one day we will discover that women can even play better than men. No one really knows.