Questions and Answers:

Q:Who is the current Chess World Champion? 
A:The current World Champion is Magnus Carlsen from Norway. He won the title quite convincingly from Vishy Anand, from India in November 2013. He is by far the highest rated player in the world. In a return match between Magnus and Vishy for the World Championship Match in October 2014, Magnus Carlsen won not easily but convincingly.

Vishy Anand                             Magnus Carlsen

Q:When did Garry Kasparov stop being World Champion?
A:For most of my childhood and adult years Garry Kasparov was World Champion (it was actually 1985-2000), in the year 2000 Vladimir Kramnik beat him in a match to become Champion. He has since retired from serious chess.

Garry Kasparov

Q:How good are computers at chess?
A:The average computer these days running a top program, which you can buy from a chess equipment provider, like Fritz 14, can beat the World Champion human player most times, in fact he would be lucky to get a draw. At speed chess their ability is multiplied and they are practically unbeatable. Their strength lies in calculating a number of moves ahead but they also have inbuilt databases which help with the openings and endgames which they play perfectly.
Q:How do players compare their ability?
A:We have a rating system, one for international players called the fide rating system (fide being the governing body of international chess) and this runs from about 1000 to the highest rated person in the world, the young genius from Norway, Magnus Carlsen at around 2867. Bobby Fischer was rated 2780 maximum and Garry Kasparov 2851 -the current World Champion, Magnus Carlsen has the highest ever rating, although it is a debate whether that means he is the strongest ever player as the rating system only compares your abilities against contemporaries.
Q:Is there a British rating system?
A:In Britain there are different rating systems depending on nationality, in England we have the ecf grading system, ecf standing for English Chess Federation. These numbers are much smaller than the fide rating numbers but can be converted into an international rating with the equation: fide rating = 650+(ecf grading x 8). The ecf grade runs from 0 to around 290, all games with a maximum time of 2 hours or over (ie 60 mins each side) go towards a twice yearly grade (one in january and one in July) which gives an estimate of playing ability. My grade (the webmaster) is  131, the top in barrow is 181. Grades can be seen in the home page of this website for Barrow and Ulverston clubs.
Q:Is there anything I should know about playing the game?
A:In modern chess various things need to be learnt that are different from playing chess at home. First we have a a special chess clock, this records the time spent for each of the two players individually and after you make a move you press on top of the clock on a button which sets off your opponents time, so only one persons time is going at once (ie the person thinking about his move). Another important aspect of modern chess is in the rules it stipulates you must record the game (for graded games) on a scoresheet both your move and your opponents.


Chess Clock

Q:How do you record moves?
A:This is complicated, every column in chess is known as a file (labeled a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h) and every row as a rank (labeled 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8). The destination square then becomes what is recorded, ie if the rook moves to the e4 square, then we record Re4, the pieces are given descriptions of nothing for the pawn ie just the destination square eg e4, N for the knight eg Ne4, B for bishop eg Be4, Q  for Queen eg Qe4, K for king eg Ke4. If a piece takes another on the destination square a x is used eg Kxe4 would be the king taking a piece on the e4 square. Also if it is ambiguous as to which piece is moving, ie their are two rooks which can move to the e4 square say, then we record the rank or file which the piece in question came from as well as the destination square eg Ree4.
Q:What type of competitions are there in chess at club level?
A:There are inter county games, county league games between different clubs (in Cumbria we have 4 man teams in 2 divisions), club championship matches, Knock out cups, British, Scottish and Welsh Championships, and weekend tournaments for money -one of those locally is the South Lakes Chess Congress held in Grange-over-Sands every year in June, (all of which last a number of hours each game). There are also quick play tournaments etc. A normal Weekend Congress is split into sections which have upper rating limits, prize money is spread between those limits The names given for various sections (in Britain) are usually minor II, minor I, intermediate, major and open (in increasing order of difficulty). The open being as the name suggests in theory open to all but sometimes lower ranked players are dissuaded from entering it.

The South Lakes Chess Congress

Q:Can I play chess online?
A:You can play chess online against various human opponents from around the world in usually pretty fast games. The main websites for this are and the ICC (internet chess club)- Many master players play on them.
Q:What does the title Grandmaster actually mean?
A:Well there are actually four levels of title given to chess players. The lowest level of mastery is National Master(NM) award the top players in the country achieve this, although its not recognised in Britain, the next level is Fide Master(FM) -around the top 2000 players in the world achieve this, around the top 1000 players achieve the rank of InternationalMaster(IM), while only around the top 600 players in the world are Grandmasters(GM). Britain has more than its fair share of Grandmasters with around 40.
Q:Where is chess played the most?
A:Chess in the west took off after Bobby Fischer became world champion in 1972, but it is still in the old soviet union countries (mainly Russia) where chess is by far the most played sport. It is estimated that the Russian Federation has over half the people playing chess in the world and it is no surprise that they still dominate the chess world. Azerbaijan and Armenia are particularly strong at chess.
Q:Where can i find chess in popular literature or films?
A:There are a few books in recent literature about chess. 'Searching for Bobby Fischer' is a 1990's film and book (the film is titled 'Innocent moves' in britain), it is a film about Josh Waitzkin a young genius from New York and his relationship with his parents, it stars Ben Kingsley as the boys chess teacher. Another great film and book is 'The Grass Arena' about a down and out who finds solace in chess. There was also a Columbo episode about a chess Grandmaster and a 1960's Mission Impossible TV series about a Grandmaster. The actor Peter Faulk from Columbo was actually an avid chess player and in the late 60's after filming an episode he went to the US Champonships but nobody noticed him because Bobby Fischer was there. Some other Films I have enjoyed about chess include 'The Luzhin Defence' about a Chess prodigy when he grows older and falls in love and a great film entitled  'Knights of the South Bronx' about a teacher who teaches his Bronx pupils chess so that they have the confidence to cope with being a success in life, based on a remarkable true story. Another true story quite similar but with older children in Black America is the film 'Life of a King' about a man just released from prison who teaches Black kids there is a better way in life than life on the streets based on the great story of the Big Chair Chess Club set up by Eugene Brown in Washington DC. Recently released (onto DVD) is the TV chess tournament series by the BBC from the early eighties called 'The Master Game' -it is compulsive viewing as every episode has a game explained by the players themselves with their own thoughts on the game as it is played.

Innocent Moves film

Q:Where can i buy chess related items?
A:Chess Direct are a good wholesalers of chess items, or the London Chess Center. The best chess magazine is called the BCM (British Chess Magazine) and their is another good one called simply Chess. If you want a good quality chess set don't go to your high street they are not good value, check out the sets from a specialist site like Chess Direct.
Q:How many people play chess at clubs?
A:Around 3 million people in the world play chess at clubs. In Britain the number is around 15000, in Cumbria around 100 and in Barrow around 20.
Q:Whats the quickest possible game?
A:It is posible for Black to checkmate in 2 moves known as fools mate it goes 1 f3 e5 2 g4 Qh4 and its mate. Another more common mate at junior level is Scholars mate which goes 1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 d6 3 Qf3 Nc6 4 Qxf7 and its mate. This is rare at club chess as everyone knows about it and getting your Queen out early can often cost you the game anyway at our level, ie it becomes a target.

Fools Mate

Scholars Mate

Q:What are the best Books for learning chess?
A:Paul Littlewood, the British International Master wrote a great book on chess tactics entitled simply 'Chess Tactics', and the Russian Grandmaster Kotov wrote three great books 'Think like a Grandmaster', 'Play like a Grandmaster' and 'Train like a Grandmaster', other good books are Bronsteins book on the Zurich 1953 World Championship Candidates (ie Challengers) Tournament. I have read a few great books on chess one entitled 'The life and games of Mikhail Tal' which is a compendium of games of Tal (world champion 1960-1961) in which he often makes a brilliant sacrifice of material, ie gives away pieces for a winning attack. another book I am reading is the 5 volume series 'My Great Predecessors' by Garry Kasparov. 'Batsford Modern Chess Openings' is a good book to learn the current and latest theory on how to start a game with different sequences of moves.
Q:What does the word Endgame mean?
A:The word Endgame refers to one of the three parts of chess namely, 'the opening' = the first 10 to 20 or so moves when players are developing their pieces onto good squares from their initial (undeveloped) positions in the most efficient manner. These are called book moves or home analysis as they are usually memorized from a book at home beforehand. Each opening has a name like the Queens Gambit Declined, The Sicilian or The Ruy Lopez. 'the middlegame' = the complex part of the game where players must concentrate hard and either out maneuver each other or think a move ahead of your opponent. 'the endgame' = again memory plays a big part in this it is the final motions of the game when few pieces are on the board and the kings are strong. This is because the positions are usually well known and an endgame book will show how to play various common endgames, these positions are memorized by the best players.
Q:How does the prize money compare between chess and other major sports?
A:Only a select few of around 100 of the top worlds players make a living directly out of chess, but this is similar to other sports except the major ones like soccer,  and American Football. Many tournaments have prize money totaling over 80,000 pounds, while the World Champion can expect to be a multi million pound winner. Bobby Fischer was a millionaire in the 1970's and Garry Kasparov must have made about 120 million pounds out of prize money and endorsements etc. Prize money in weekend tournaments where club players play is usually around 400 pounds for the winner of your section, as each section is usually a similar amount.
Q:Who are the strongest players around at the moment and are any British?
A: The top ten players in order of their rating are :- (as of Jul 2015)
Rank Name Country Rating B-Year
 1  Carlsen, Magnus  NOR  2853  1990
 2  Anand, Viswanathan  IND  2816  1969
 3  Topalov, Veselin  BUL  2816  1975
 4  Nakamura, Hikaru  USA  2814  1987
 5  Caruana, Fabiano  USA  2797  1992
 6  Giri, Anish  NED  2791  1994
 7  Kramnik, Vladimir  RUS  2783  1975
 8  So, Wesley  USA  2780  1993
 9  Grischuk, Alexander  RUS  2771  1983
 10  Aronian, Levon  ARM  2765  1982

top British players are 

17 Adams, Michael ENG 2740 1971
48 Howell, David W L ENG 2698 1990
57 McShane, Luke J ENG 2685 1984
59 Short, Nigel D ENG 2683 1965
86 Sadler, Matthew D ENG 2659 1974
Q:What is the most popular series of opening moves?
The most played first move in chess is the Kings pawn moving forward 2 squares or 1.e4 in modern notation. next is 1.d4 and then 1.c4 and the only other serious opening move by white is 1.Nf3, all other opening moves give too little advantage to white and as players who play for a living in chess get asked to play in tournaments by winning, so they must avoid the draws that often occur from lesser openings. The most played series of moves is the Sicilian Defence and the Ruy Lopez Opening. A common Sicilian goes 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cd 4.Nxd4 and a common Ruy Lopez goes 1.e5 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4-note it may look like the e5 pawn is undefended after 4.Bxc6 bxc6 5.Nxe5 but after 5...Qe7!? 6 d4 d6 7 Nf3 Qxe4 Black has a good position and his pawn back.

The Ruy Lopez Opening (after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5-most common here is 3...a6 then 4 Ba4).

The Sicilian Defence (after 1 e4 c5- most common here is 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cd 4 Nxd4). 

Q:Who were the World Champions?

A:1886-1894 Wilhelm Steinitz, 

1894-1921 Emanuel Lasker, 

1921-1927 Jose Raul Capablanca, 

1927-1935 Alexander Alekhine, 

1935-1937 Max Euwe, 

1937-1946 Alexander Alekhine, 

1948-1957 Mikhail Botvinnik, 

1957-1958 Vasily Smyslov, 

1958-1960 Mikhail Botvinnik, 

1960-1961 Mikhail Tal, 

1961-1963 Mikhail Botvinnik, 

1963-1969 Tigran Petrosian, 

1969-1972 Boris Spassky, 

1972-1975 Bobby Fischer, 

1975-1985 Anatoly Karpov, 

1985-2000* Garry Kasparov, 

2000*-2007 Vladimir Kramnik, 

2007-2013 Vishy Anand, 

2013-present Magnus Carlsen

(*-the official world champion in most peoples eyes despite the splitting away from the FIDE ruling body in 1993 and there being many FIDE world Champions in the period 1993 to 2005 when the title was unified again)

Q:What does the word Gambit stand for?
A:The word Gambit refers to the deliberate giving up of a pawn (in the opening) for an advantage in development (ie getting your pieces into the center quicker or into the opposing camp). The reason this works is because a pawn is worth little in the game early on, and taking the pawn can both deflect a piece or pawn and it takes up a valuable move which can be used by the person performing the Gambit to get pieces into the game quicker than his opponent. Most Gambits (ie given the name Gambit officially in an opening reference) are sound but can either be ignored by not taking the pawn or even better the opponent can give the pawn back later on, deciding to do so only when he himself gains a favorable position. The most famous examples of Gambits are the Queens Gambit (ie 1 d4 d5 2 c4) and the Kings Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 f4)