Check and Mate: Modern Romance in an Ancient Game

A Couple Play Chess

Few people think of chess as a game of romance, except those who have experienced the game’s mysterious attraction themselves!

A Couple Play Chess

Modern Romance in the Ancient Game of Chess

A good game of chess has much in common with a good romance. They are both filled with passion and excitement, with long, furtive periods of tense wondering what your partner’s next move is going to be. It should come as no surprise, then, that chess games can lead to real life romance more often than you might think!

Historical Chess Romance

In times gone by, when men and women could not easily meet or spend time alone together, a game of chess offered the perfect excuse to do just that. At the chessboard, a man and woman could spend hours together in each other’s company, talking, playing, and getting to know one another better.

A 10th-century French poem by Bertolai makes reference of a young woman inviting a man into her chambers to play a game of chess. The servant in charge of presenting this invitation to the lucky gentleman has this to say on the subject, “My young lord, you can be proud of yourself, since the daughter of Guerri, the most noble woman from here to the south of France, asks that you join her in her apartments, to play chess. You should comply, but don’t play chess.” Sounds like an early version of Netflix and chill!
Painting of a couple kissing over a chess board

Famous Chess Couples

It’s only natural that people who share similar interests will be drawn to each other, which is one explanation for why there are so many notable chess couples. You have to admit, always having a permanent chess partner at the ready is a great benefit to this type of relationship! Here are just a few of today’s most famous chess player couples:

● GM Hikaru Nakamura and WFM Mariagrazia De Rosa
● GM Anish Giri and IM Sopiko Guramishvili
● GM Yury Shulman and WIM Viktorija Ni
● GM Susan Polgar and FM Paul Truong
● GM Peter Heine-Nielsen and GM Viktoria Cmilyte
● GM Laurent Fressinet and IM Almira Skripchenko
● GM Maxim Rodshtein and WIM Tereza Olsarova
● GM Richard Rapport and WGM Jovana Vojinovic

When you think about it, it is only natural for feelings to develop between two compatible people who share a favorite hobby. When playing a chess game against someone, you are after all trying your hardest to climb inside of their mind, to predict their thoughts, strategies and next moves, sometimes for hours at a time. It should come as no surprise if you occasionally find yourself attracted to what you find there!

Shaking hands before a chess match

It is only natural for feelings to develop between two compatible people who share a favorite hobby

Chess Dates

Once you have begun your chess romance, there are plenty of ways to incorporate chess and use it as a tool to keep your relationship interesting. There is always the option of playing a quiet game of chess together on a date night in, or you may choose to spice things up a bit by going for a stroll through the park and playing a game on a giant chess set, going on a romantic chess vacation to some of the best chess cities in the world, which also happen to be some of the most romantic, or even taking things to a whole new level with an exciting game of strip chess!

Strip Chess

Yes, it exists! The rules are simple, and essentially the same as regular chess, with one notable twist. To begin, both players should start by wearing no more than 10 articles of clothing. Two shoes, two socks, underwear, pants, bra or undershirt, top, belt, and an accessory are common. Bundling up in sweaters, winter coats, and other miscellaneous clothing items beforehand is cheating!

Play your game as normal, but be careful, because each time a Knight, Bishop, or Rook is captured, the player the captured piece belonged to must remove one article of clothing. If the piece is captured by a pawn, or if your Queen piece is captured, you have to give up two pieces of clothing!

Play a game of Strip Chess

Play a game of Strip Chess

You can earn clothing back one piece at a time by capturing pieces with your King or Queen. But hurry, because checkmate means that the loser must remove 3 pieces of clothing, if they even have that many left by the end of the game!

A game of strip chess

More than two people at a time can play a game of strip chess

There are also tournament rules, if more than two people at a time want to play a game of strip chess. You can simply play round robin, or set a maximum number of games per player. The only real difference is that players will keep track of the number of clothing items they need to take off during the game, and do so at the end of the game, rather than after each capture.

For a loss, the loser will remove two pieces of clothing. In the case of a draw, each player will remove one piece of clothing. In a stalemate situation, the person with the most pieces takes off two pieces of clothing, since he or she could have prevented the stalemate. The winner is the person who has collected the most clothes by the end of all games.

Chess Quotes About Love

There are actually many famous quotes relating the game of chess to the intricacies of love, many of them made by famous chess players – and who would know better? Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch wrote in his iconic book The Game of Chess, “I have always a slight feeling of pity for the man who has no knowledge of chess, just as I would pity the man who has remained ignorant of love. Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy.”

Vladimir Kramnik has also said, “I am convinced, the way one plays chess always reflects the player’s personality. If something defines his character, then it will also define his way of playing.” This may be why it’s so natural to get to know a potential mate over checkmate.

The game of chess provided the metaphor Ranata Suzuki used to describe the pain of lost love when he said, “Our parting was like a stalemate….Neither of us won. Yet both of us lost. And worse still … that unshakable feeling that nothing was ever really finished.”

Some have even found life wisdom in the popular chess saying, “if you lose your Queen, you’ll probably lose the game.” They interpret it to mean something like, life is better spent with love than without it, and you’ll be able to achieve more when working as a team than you could on your own.

if you lose your Queen, you’ll probably lose the game

A Different Kind of Romantic Chess

In searching for a bit of chess based romance, you may also come across a different kind of Romantic chess. This generally refers to a playstyle that values creativity, originality, and playing a beautiful game over playing the most technically correct moves and conventional positions. In Romantic chess, winning is a secondary concern to winning with style. The philosophy of the Romantic chess player is essentially, why would you want to win anything other than a beautiful game?

Chess players who embrace a Romantic playstyle may prefer to play unsound moves and make unorthodox sacrifices in order to inject a little spice into their games and keep things from getting too boring by playing what feels like the same computer generated game over and over again. They are generally against the over analysis of games by computers and other powerful engines, thinking that these things suck some of the enjoyment out of the game. Romantic chess players highly value interest and excitement in their games, a preference which earns them the name “romantic.”

In Romantic chess, winning is a secondary concern to winning with style

In Romantic chess, winning is a secondary concern to winning with style

This playstyle hit the peak of its popularity near the end of the 19th century, long before chess computers, software, and perfect analysis made it untenable. The most famous Romantic chess player was probably Adolph Anderssen, an unofficial World Champion who would routinely sacrifice his pieces for the sole reason of introducing an interesting or rarely seen tactical position to the board. Check out his Immortal Game from London, 1851 or his Evergreen Game played in Berlin in 1852 for some great examples of the Romantic playstyle.

Though most chess players who achieve any kind of success in the world of chess do at some point go through a “romantic phase” where they want to break the mold and push the boundaries of traditional chess play, most grow out of it in time. Some experts think that, in this modern age of sound defensive play and endless computer analysis, Romanticism in chess is basically suicide. Players may occasionally win a game by playing unconventional moves and surprising their opponents, but more often than not, Romantic chess games are a lost cause, doomed to fail from the start.

This is of course, only at the highest levels of play, where grandmasters have gone over and over all of chess’s most common positions and have memorized defenses against almost everything that one player could throw at another. When you’re facing that level of high caliber chess knowledge, playing off the wall moves is almost useless. However, at lower levels, where mistakes are made far more often and chess knowledge is generally less complete, Romantic chess games may still have the opportunity to thrive. Perhaps Romantic chess is something that you can only enjoy until you sadly grow out of it as a player. As your chess skills mature, you move away from romance and into the comfortable waters of companionship.

Go and Have Your Own Chess Romance

As a matter of simple statistics, the more chess games you play, the higher your chances of locking eyes with the stranger across from you at the chessboard and feeling that mysterious spark between you. If you’re looking for someone to become your chess partner in life, the best way to find them is just to meet as many people as you can, play as many games as possible with people you don’t already know, and keep yourself open to all of the new experiences that chess can offer! Before long, you may find yourself engaged in a whirlwind chess romance of your own.


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