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Conspicuously unlike football[]

Chess is a game of skill for two players, played on a board of 64 light and dark squares. Each player controls sixteen chessmen, each with their own rules of movement: eight pawns, two knights, two bishops, two rooks, a queen and a king. The game ends when one player’s king has no legal move.

This makes chess decidedly unlike football in almost every way, yet it remains a frequent point of reference for commentators whenever a match is defensive, suspiciously tactical, or simply full of passing. Chess is also invoked in discussions of the away goals rule, Plastic Pitches, the squad rotation system, and streakers. Based on the available evidence, Peter Drury would be no great shakes at chess.

Arsene Wenger is frequently likened to a chess player due to his supposed intellect, despite admitting that he knows literally nothing about things that aren’t football, including other sports, all art and literature, how to turn the washing machine on, and numbers beyond eleven.

Things that bear a closer resemblance to football than does a game of chess[]

More like football

  • the Eton Wall Game
  • Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle
  • 3 Feet High and Rising (1989) by De La Soul
  • the War of the Sicilian Vespers, 1282-1302
  • a Malayan tapir

Intermittently similar to football[]

When football is like a game of chess[]

Just six weeks after controversially defeating world champion Gary Kasparov in May 1997, computer Deep Blue took on and beat Ottmar Hitzfeld in a game of Championship Manager 97/98. Deep Blue briefly managed Venezia in 1999 under noted proponent of the New Manager Effect Maurizio Zamparini, but was fired after two wins and a draw in its five games in charge.

Against Derby County in September 2002, Sunderland took advantage of some slack marking to advance Mart Poom to the opposite end of the pitch, where he was promoted to Niall Quinn.

Leon Knight has a good leap for a small man, moves in L-shapes, and despite being a very different type of player, is considered to be worth the same as Ian Bishop.

When a game of chess is like football[]

Alexei Shirov was accused of ‘tapping up’ his opponent’s rook in a 2007 tournament match against Gata Kamsky. Following some heated quotes in the Spanish Press attributed to the two camps, the rook joined Shirov in exchange for a a bishop, two pawns and a promising kingside attack. Shirov eventually won 1-0.

Joseph Blackburne was caught offside a record 32 times during a tournament in Hastings in 1895, eleven of those in his crushing defeat to Mikhail Chigorin, 1-0.

Supporters of Tigran Petrosian and Viktor Korchnoi clashed before the final game of their 1971 candidates match, damaging local businesses and overturning cars. Several Petrosian fans were reported to have been stabbed in the buttocks by notorious “Korch Krew” ultras. FIDE ordered that the game be played behind closed doors, Petrosian winning 1-0.

The German chess league is called the Bundesliga.

Footballers who resemble chess pieces[]

Looked like a bishop

Flouncy tap-in artist Ruud Van Nistelrooy, like the knight, looks like a horse.

Diminuitive, one-paced baldymen Alan Wright and Mark Draper are ringers for pawns.

Wheezy trier Jason Lee looked a bit like a bishop, and coincidentally would often drift diagonally out of position.